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Fischer: Kiffin & Strong hires make Florida #1 in coaching names

Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire
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Welcome to the “Hunger Games!”

With the latest news of Lane Kiffin taking over at Florida Atlantic, it turns the recruiting battle in the state of Florida in to an all out war.

No state in the country features as many big name head coaches as the “Sunshine State.”

Florida high school sidelines have always been a battle ground, but don’t be surprised if you see a WWE chair and ladder match breakout from now on.

Especially if Kiffin reverts back to his Tennessee trash talking ways. We’ve seen UCF’s Scott Frost isn’t afraid to mix it up with a little trash talk and Jim McElwain likes to sneak in a jab once in a while.

While Jimbo Fisher is the current king of the recruiting mountain, his days could be numbered.

Don’t expect Kiffin, or newly hired Butch Davis at Florida International to challenge traditional powers FSU, Florida and Miami for the same type of 5-star recruits. But the 3-star athletes that comprise the “Power 3” rosters will now be prey for the lower level in state programs.

Which ultimately could mean the separation amongst the Florida schools will shrink.

It can’t be understated how in one week, the recruiting landscape shifted so dramatically. The biggest tilt came from USF hiring Charlie Strong as their new head coach.

While Strong underperformed in turning around Texas, don’t forget how successful he was as a recruiter as a defensive coordinator in Gainesville. Strong is known for being a players’ coach, and is revered by high school coaches across the state. He utilized those relationships in transforming Louisville in to a BCS contender.

Davis is another intriguing hire by FIU. It may have been two decades since he began bringing the Hurricanes out of the darkness of NCAA sanctions. But don’t expect Davis to stray away from the winning formula of recruiting hard in South Florida.

Gone are the days of drawing a line across the I-4 corridor and declaring the “State of Miami.” These latest additions to the states’ college head coaching ranks have turned the most fertile football territory in the country in to the “State of Chaos.”

Oh, and if you think Satellite Campus recruiting will continue, I’d think again. I don’t see Urban Meyer or Jim Harbuagh getting invites to come in and poach athletes from Florida any time soon. And if they try it, this group of coaches may send them limping back to Big Ten country.
Check out some of the head coaching resume highlights amongst the coaches who now are vying for talent and wins in Florida:

FSU – Jimbo Fisher: National Championship, 3 ACC titles, 3 BCS appearances, 77-17 record

Florida- Jim McElwain: 2 SEC East titles, 40-24 record, 4 straight bowl game appearances

Miami- Mark Richt: 2 SEC titles, 5 SEC East titles, 2x SEC Coach of the Year, 153-55 record, 16 straight bowl game appearances

USF- Charlie Strong: 2 conference titles, BCS appearance, 53-37 record

UCF- Scott Frost: Turned around winless Knights to 6-6 record and bowl game appearance in first season

FAU – Lane Kiffin: Former NFL head coach, bowl game appearance with USC, 35-21 record

FIU- Butch Davis: Guided Hurricanes out of NCAA turmoil, Former NFL Head Coach, 7 bowl game appearances between Miami and UNC, 79-43 record

A native Floridian who graduated from Clearwater High School and the University of Florida, Chris Fischer has spent nearly 15 years in Sports Televison, including the last five as Sports Reporter and Anchor with the CBS affiliate in Tampa Bay-WTSP. He is a multi time AP Sports and Local Emmy award winner and will be seen this season as a sideline reporter on CBS-TV’s network coverage of the NFL.Chris brings enthusiasm and passion (particularly when it comes to his Gators) to College and NFL coverage to F.F.I.

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Florida Gators

Gators coach Mullen likely to use two QBs against Tennessee

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After losing starting QB Feleipe Franks to an ankle injury on Saturday night against SEC rival Kentucky, the Gators have now found themselves with an unexpected decision as to who will be starting QB?

Franks was replaced by redshirt junior Kyle Trask, who was seeing his first significant action of his Florida career, especially trailing by double figures in a hostile SEC road environment. However, it’s likely that RS Freshman Emory Jones will also take some snaps at quarterback this season.

Mullens decision to potentially go with both QBs could be not only to determine which guy will be his offensive leader for the rest of the season, but to also give their next opponent, Tennessee, more to prepare for as the head into their next conference rivalry game.

The Gators second year coach announced on Monday that Franks is officially done for the season.

On a fourth-and-one scramble with 3:21 remaining, Franks was sandwiched between multiple Wildcat defenders and bent backwards. Even though replays weren’t shown, it was clear he had suffered a dislocated right ankle injury.

So bad was the injury, that trainers who came to assist Franks on the turf at Commonwealth Stadium immediately put an air cast on his right leg. Then he was eventually carted off to the locker room after nearly the entire Gator team had surrounded him and wished him well.

Frank’s has been a “lightning rod of criticism” throughout his Florida career, but did silence a lot of those critics with his play down the stretch last season. That included a late season comeback win over South Carolina, playing well in the rivalry victory over Florida State, and then, following that up with a good performance in the easy victory in the Peach Bowl over Michigan.

However, Franks and the offense struggled much of the first three quarters of Saturday night’s SEC opener at Kentucky. At the time he left with an injury he was an efficient 12-17 for 174 yards with a TD pass and 1 INT. Still, they had only put one touchdown on the board while trailing 21 – 10.

Trask went in for Franks and went on to pull out a come from behind win for the Gators, completing 9 for 13 passes, with 126 passing yards. He’ll be competing for playing time with Jones, the No. 85 overall prospect in the Class of 2018 and four-star dual-threat quarterback.

Jones saw limited action last season to maintain redshirt status, but completed 12-16 passes for 125 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the four games he play in. Jones is also more of a dual threat to run and that will give Mullen and staff more options on play calls, if/when he’s on the field.

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Florida Gators

Gators dramatic comeback Saturday at Kentucky was “mixed bag”

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Life is complicated. College football is part of life. A very complicated reality greets the Florida Gators, as they head home to Gainesville.

They won a game. They lost their starting quarterback.

They showed they could fight when everything was going against them. They did not show that they are anywhere close to the Georgia Bulldogs, or that they are ready to be a nasty, imposing, overwhelmingly strong team which can go 11-1 in a regular season and feel it left something on the table.

There is a lot to like, and a lot to hate, about the Gators’ situation.

Let’s start with the quarterback situation. Feleipe Franks suffered an ugly leg injury on Saturday night. I won’t play a doctor on Twitter or here in print, so instead of making a guess about his situation, I will simply tell you to stay tuned to Florida Football Insiders for more on his situation as fresh information becomes available.

Franks was supposed to be the guy who led Florida to a higher plateau in 2019, but if he is out, the Gators have to start fresh.

The really good news is that Kyle Trask came off the bench in the fourth quarter and directed two terrific drives as the Gators’ backup quarterback. Trask could not have handled his situation any better.

Backups are told to be ready. Trask was supremely ready. He seized his opportunity. He immediately won over the locker room and his teammates. The offense flowed rhythmically when Trask was in the game. Dan Mullen found plays Trask could execute.

Trask will obviously need to develop if he is to meet the challenges which face him in the weeks ahead. That said, if he could perform under pressure against Kentucky – on the road, at night, trailing in the fourth quarter – it becomes possible to envision a world in which he handles other high-stress situations with poise and composure.

Is Trask ready for the entirely different challenge of being the starter for the rest of the season? Is he talented enough to handle 60-minute wars against Auburn and Georgia and others? We will have to wait to find out, and yes, skepticism is merited before improving the Gators’ odds of challenging Georgia for the SEC East title

I wouldn’t count on Trask being the answer to Florida’s problems – most Gator fans can acknowledge that. Yet, there’s a difference between an unlikely scenario and an absurd one. Trask flourishing for the rest of the season is unlikely… but against Kentucky, he refuted the notion that such a scenario would be absurd. Florida might have gained more than it honestly expected from Trask.

Beyond the quarterback situation, Florida’s mixed bag against Kentucky was manifested in the fact that the Gators continued to make a lot of inexcusable mistakes… and yet won an SEC road game.

The secondary remains inconsistent. The defense did not impose its will on the opposition, on a night when Kentucky played a backup quarterback, Sawyer Smith. Too many untimely penalties are still part of this team’s identity.

This is frustrating… but it also shows that if the Gators can eve clean up their act, their ceiling could be higher than it currently is. No, this does not look like a team which will ever be dominant, but with a 3-0 record in a weak SEC East, the Gators are still in very good position for a New Year’s Six bowl. They might not blow people out, but they could win a bunch of hard-fought slugfests akin to this one.

Fans rightly want Florida to challenge Georgia. That’s where this season seems likely to fall short of its highest aspirations. Yet, the Gators’ win over Kentucky gives them reason to think that they can return to a high-profile bowl game.

This program is not ready to take the next step up the ladder, to the Georgia-LSU tier just below Alabama in the SEC. It also does not appear ready to stumble and lose ground relative to 2018.

Florida could be in a much better situation right now. It could also be in a far worse situation.

That is what a mixed bag looks like.

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