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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.

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Florida Gators

College programs continue November domination of our power rankings

Jamil King

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Another week has come and gone in the football world. Already in November, the season is flying by. Some teams are hitting stride, others are falling flat, and some are treading water. With that let’s get right into the rankings:

5. Jacksonville Jaguars- The 5th spot might as well be cursed. Almost every time I put a team here they lose. So, sorry Jacksonville. Out of all the teams to lose they showed the most upside. The Jags came into the season with championship hopes. What they are now looking at is a team that is trying to make a late-season push for the playoffs. They finally got Lenard Fournette back in the lineup, and he showed that he is the centerpiece to the offense. He had 30 total touches for 109 yards and two touchdowns. The Jags are two games out of the second wildcard, and if they have any playoff aspirations, they need to start a win streak immediately.

4. FAU Owls-  The Owls were not flying last Saturday- they were running, running, and running. Devin Singletary became the first running back in school history to top over 4,000 yards career yards. He also had a modest 148 yards rushing and two touchdowns and his running mate Kerrith Whyte, Jr. had 163 yards rushing and two touchdowns of his own. The Owls would handle Western Kentucky 34-15. Owls are picking up steam in C-USA.

3. Florida Gators- Felipe Franks was able to quiet the crowd and lead the Gators to gritty come from behind win Saturday. One thing though this was a home game. Franks gave the crowd “the shhh motion,” with his finger over his lips not once, but twice. The Gators put up 21 unanswered second-half points leading them to a win over former coach Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks. The Gators finished 5-3 in the SEC and will hope for an easier time with Idaho this week and a lot more cheering than boos and quiet gestures.

2. FIU Panthers- The Panthers pounced all over Texas-San Antonio last week by the score of 45-7. QB James Morgan broke the schools single-season touchdown record with his 22nd of the season. Morgan would add two more along with 291 yards. The Panther defense forced four turnovers in the win. A road date with Charlotte is on the schedule for next week before ending with Marshall as the Panthers look to win the C-USA East division and potentially host the Title Game.

1. UCF Knights- The Knights won yet again, and at this point, it feels like clockwork. McKenzie Milton tossed a pair of touchdowns and ran for one. Greg McCrae topped 100 yards rushing with Adrian Killins adding 83 yards rushing. The Knights have gathered more national attention with College game day making the trip to Orlando over the Notre Dame Syracuse contest. The Knights will have their toughest test of the season under the bright lights against Cincinnati, who just took out USF. UCF wanted attention. They now have it.

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Florida Gators

Gators have lots to smile about after late comeback

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Through a lot of reasons that Gator fans should be smiling on Saturday night after Florida roared back to defeat South Carolina 35 – 31 at the Swamp.

They should be smiling because, when it appeared all was lost when South Carolina took a 31-14 late in the third quarter, the Gators showed guts and heart that makes the difference in battles like these. Honestly, it’s the type of deficit that the Gators would have thrown in the towel on in the last few years.

Further, smiling because it came at the expense of Will Muschamp, their former coach, who was his usual animated-maniac self as South Carolina unraveled in the 4th quarter.

Smiling because Felipe Franks, for all the criticism of the last couple of weeks and talk of him being benched, played one of his best games of his Florida career. Frank’s completed 15 of 21 passes for 161 yards with a TD pass  and ran for two critical scores, including the game-winner on a fourth-and-goal (above) with four minutes remaining.

Yes, there is some controversy over him putting up the finger to his lips to “shush the Swamp,” as it was cheering him. This was as if to say: stop criticizing me, yet cheering me. Now, in fairness, a lot of those people that were cheering that 4th and goal touchdown had been the same ones calling for Frank’s to be benched. They’re happy and Franks is now happy with the comeback.

Smiling because the Gators put two running backs, Jordan Scarlett and LaMichael Perine, both went of 100 yards and Florida put together three long scoring drives late in the game, when they had to have them.

Smiling because For the first time in three games, the Gators defense finally came up with a takeaway and it was huge, as CJ Henderson’s pick in the fourth all but iced the game.

Smiling because Dan Mullen, his staff and their players demonstrated there was no quit in them, yet again. It was the second time in a month that Florida was down by at least 17 points, Vandy was the other, yet, they rallied to win. And you can tell his players love playing hard for him:

Smiling, because the win has the Gators at 5 and 3 in the SEC and in Prime position to have a New Year’s Day bowl game in Florida, probably at either the Outback Bowl in Tampa or the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville.

No. It wasn’t easy, but it was memorable Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

And the smiles will last for at least while.

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Florida Gators

Gators backup QB Trask apparently suffered serious knee injury Wednesday

Florida Football Insiders

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Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Well, if the Gators were in fact looking at another quarterback to possibly replace starter Feleipe Franks, they were dealt a bad injury break Wednesday afternoon.

That’s when reserve quarterback Kyle Trask was injured in a non-contact situation during the Gators practice. He was carted off the field and there has been no official update given.

Thomas Goldkamp, Gators beat reporter with 24/7 Sports, was the first to report the injury Wednesday evening:

The Gators had another struggling Saturday offensively at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, when they were beaten decisively 38-17 by Missouri for a second straight loss. Trask actually replaced Franks the second half of the game, and he threw a fourth-quarter touchdown. That gave some Gator fans hope that coach Dan Mullen might be contemplating a switch for this week’s match-up with South Carolina.

Trask, who is a redshirt sophomore, was a high school star in Texas, who redshirted in 2016. However, he also had an injury last year and never played.

With Mullen and his new staff taking over, their was an off season competition for who would start this season. Franks eventually won that competition and has been the Gators starter the entire year.

As of Wednesday night, Florida had not confirmed Trask injury or the severity of it.

Our Matt Zemek had written earlier Wednesday about the “pros and cons” of remaining with Franks or going to another QB.

The Gators also have dual-threat quarterback freshman Emory Jones, who they could turn to, should they still want to bench Frank’s for this game or later in the year.

Jones has played sparingly this season, including two weeks ago during the loss to Georgia. He only carried the ball out of the “Wildcat formation” four times for 12 yards in the game with the Dawgs. It’s also believed that Jones has struggled to pick up Mullen’s offense in his first season, and was not ready to be the guy to replace Franks, unless it’s an emergency.

Now, if Trask is done for the year, Jones may be that guy right behind Franks.

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