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3 things to watch as Dan Mullen era begins with Gators Spring game

Josh Ciganek

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday marks the first look of 2018 at the new Dan Mullen-led Florida Gators team. Mullen returns as the head coach of the Gators after a nine-year stint as the head coach of SEC opponent Mississippi State. This isn’t Mullen’s first appearance on the UF coaching staff, as he previously held the Quarterbacks Coach and Offensive Coordinator positions at Florida.

Dubbed the “Orange and Blue Debut,” Mullen pushed for the spring game to be moved back to a Saturday afternoon so fans could experience a real Gators gameday. The University announced prior to the game that there will be two celebrity head coaches from the Gator Boosters board of directors.

Gary Condron and Bill Heavener will get the chance to say a play type, such as run-pass, blitz, play-action, etc., and then specific plays will be called by the coordinators of the teams. However, this spring game comes with multiple questions and plenty of stories to watch for as fans get a glimpse of what is to come this fall.

First Impressions: Mullen’s Staff

Seven coaches on coach Mullen’s Florida staff followed him from Mississippi State, including co-offensive coordinators Billy Gonzales and John Hevesy as well as defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Each of the coaches will be split between the Orange and Blue teams for the game with coach Mullen overseeing everything.

Fans will get their first look at the new offensive scheme that Mullen’s staff brings to Florida. Many speculations have come up that the offensive plan will be similar to the scheme Mullen ran while he was the offensive coordinator at Utah and Florida under head coach Urban Meyer. In addition, the defense should see improvements under coach Grantham as he looks to get this Gators defense moving in the right direction under his 3-4 scheme. Mississippi State ranked 10th in the nation in total defense under Grantham in 2017.

Quarterback Battle: Round 1

This will be the second season for redshirt-sophomore Feleipe Franks fight for the starting position at quarterback. He does have competition, though, with fellow redshirt-sophomore Kyle Trask and incoming freshman Emory Jones. When fans last saw Franks in action, he was looked quite lost against the Florida State defense while completing less than half of his passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. He also committed four turnovers, throwing three interceptions and losing one fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

With a bigger target on his back and new competition by his side, Franks will have to impress coaches and fans Saturday in order to continue his push for the quarterback starring role. Trask and Jones will each get their opportunities to show fans what they’ve got, as the quarterback competition in Gainesville heats up this spring.

Exposure: Offensive Talents

As the new season nears, there will be plenty of opportunity for new players to emerge as key components to the Florida offense. Running back Jordan Scarlett will be returning from his year-long suspension and will potentially have to fight for playing time with standout Lamical Perine who led the team in rushing last season. Malik Davis and Adarius Lemons round out a crowded backfield that will surely have their hands full in an attempt to shine.

With the departure of Antonio Callaway, 2017 leading receiver Tyrie Cleveland and athlete Kadarius Toney will lead a new group receivers into the 2018 campaign. Fans will get a look at two new transfers in Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes, as well. There has yet to be a decision on whether the pair will be granted eligibility waivers from the NCAA.

The last main piece that will be intriguing to watch is how the offensive lines play during the spring game. With three seniors, including left tackle Martez Ivey, returning for the offensive line and a potential position battle at center, Florida has the opportunity to shine Saturday night. They will face a strong edge rush and new defensive scheme that coach Mullen brings back to Gainesville.

The Orange and Blue Debut will begin at 1pm with the Gator Walk at The Swamp as the teams arrive. Kickoff is set for 3pm.

Josh Ciganek is a young draft pick working his way up the depth chart on the F.F.I. roster, who enjoys watching and writing about all of Florida’s football teams.

Florida Gators

Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday

Florida Football Insiders

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Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.

The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:

A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.

With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.

As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.

Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.

It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.

Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.

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Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools

Jamil King

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.

The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of  former DB C.J. Henderson.

Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.

The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.

Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?

Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.

The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.

Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.

Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.

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