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Florida Gators

Florida survives with some good and some not

(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)
Christopher Fischer

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Florida’s season opener started out with jubilation, and then was mired in frustration. On a night where “The Head Ball Coach” was honored with the renaming of the Swamp to Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. It was hardly an effort Spurrier would’ve been proud of.

The Good:

Steve Spurrier was the best honorary Mr. Two Bits since George Edmondson hung up his orange and blue tie. Spurrier gave an invigorating speech prior to the game, exclaiming “Only the Gators get alive.” Spurrier’s Usain Bolt impression is a moment that will live forever in the minds of the Gator Nation.

Luke Del Rio showed poise in the pocket in his first collegiate start going 29/44 for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was able to pick up secondary receivers, yet at times tried to force throws in to double coverage. The big thing is, he didn’t turn the ball over. Del Rio will need to improve his accuracy going in to SEC play.

Eddy Pineiro was worth the hype. It may be the first game of the season, but the JUCO transfer was a perfect 3/3 with field goals from 40,49,48 yards. Pineiro showed leg strength by booting kickoffs to the back of the end zone. Pineiro’s energy is a secondary attribute which should bring a big boost to the Gators and the fan base. Head Coach Jim McElwain and the program has finally found that elusive kicker

Brandon Powell’s 7 receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown proved to be big. Powell took advantage of being the secondary receiver to Antonio Callaway. The touchdown came in crunch time in the fourth quarter. Del Rio hit him on a pass in the flat, and a pretty spin move later, Powell took it to the end zone.

The Gators defense against the run was impressive, surrendering 1.3 yards per carry. Alex Anzalone (R-Jr) was able to time out snaps to get in to the backfield. Jabari Zuniga (R-Fr) gave a big push up the middle to get to the quarterback for 2 sacks. The Minutemen were held 1 for 11 on 3rd down.
The Bad:

The Gators paid UMass $1.2 million to put a scare in to them. Florida were 35-point favorites on Steve Spurrier’s night and they didn’t play up to their capability. Or maybe they did and that is a scary outlook for the season.

McElwain will need to solve the penalty problem. 8 penalties for 80 yards allowed UMass to move the ball easily down the field. Two 3rd down penalties proved costly.

The right side of the offensive line struggled. Tyler Jordan and Fred Johnson allowed UMass to get too much pressure on Del Rio in the pocket.

Outside of Scarlett, the rushing attack was unimpressive averaging 3.7 yards per carry against lesser talented UMass.

Overall
The Gators survived and advance, keeping all championship possibilities alive. In the eyes of the Gators faithful, that is all that really matters.

Del Rio looked like he can run the offense efficiently. His weapons of Callaway, Powell and Scarlett flashed their big play ability. Yet, the 363 total yards of offense is nearly fifty-percent of what Florida tallied in last years’ opener.

Florida improved the nations longest winning streak in season openers to 27-0. Now the Gators will look to extend the SEC longest winning streak over anyone opponent to 30 straight over Kentucky next week.

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 in the College Football Playoff this year?!

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows that the SEC is the best conference for college football and has been for the better part of 20 years.

Everyone also knows that the Florida Gators were once proud rulers of the SEC East Division, but now that has changed over the course of the last few seasons.

And now, with first-year Coach Dan Mullen, who was previously part of to Gator National Championships under Urban Meyer in 2006 and 08, ready to guide them through this 2018 season, there’s plenty of optimism in Gainesville.

Well, there’s optimism, and then there’s what SEC on CBS football analyst Brian Jones put out there on CBS Sports Network on Wednesday night.

Yes, you saw that correctly, Jones not only has the Gators winning the East, but obviously winning the SEC Championship Game, and being part of the College Football Playoff come January.

First, a little background on Jones: he’s a former all Southwest Conference linebacker at Texas in the early 1990s and has been with CBS since 2005.  And, he replaced Spencer Tillman as the longtime Studio analyst on CBS’ SEC coverage three seasons ago.

So there’s no doubt, he’s qualified to have opinions about SEC football. However, there’s going out on a limb, and then there’s walking out on a tightrope in between skyscrapers like one of the “Flying Wallendas.”

In the brief clip from the “Inside College Football” show on Wednesday night, Jones says of the Gators making the CFP,

“Florida has everyone coming back and now they have the “Quarterback Whisperer” in Dan Mullen.

The Gators do return 19 starters and that includes welcoming back running back Jordan Scarlett, who was suspended last year during the credit card fraud investigation.

Yes they have options at quarterback including last year’s most of the time starter Feleipe Franks and that is Mullen specialty.

Earlier in the episode, Jones had elaborated on Mullen and the impact he would have on Franks’ development in particular:

The Gators do you have a favorable schedule in conference play as they only travel to Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt.

This is because of the scheduling quirk from 2016 with the postponement of the LSU game due to Hurricane Matthew. LSU got to play Florida at home for a second consecutive year that season, and so now, Florida is getting to play LSU at home for a second straight year this year.

Still the neutral-site game with the Georgia Bulldogs and returning All SEC QB Jake Fromm will be a tall task. And add in that Missouri and South Carolina are both improved, even if they are playing in Gainesville, and it will be tough for the Gators to win the East.

Again, Jones has his reasons for his August outlandish prediction, but it’s much more likely that Florida has some growing pains in 2018. And, is a bigger national contender next year,

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Florida Gators

Latest Browns controversy? Antonio Callaway played too much?

Florida Football Insiders

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Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

A rookie who played too much in a preseason game? The Browns always seem to have some kind of negative or controversy going on and now, it involves rookie Antonio Callaway and the amount of playing time he had in the preseason opener.

And it’s not that the former controversial Gators WR didn’t get to play or didn’t get to play enough. Rather, the questions being thrown the way of head coach Hue Jackson have to do with: him playing too much.

Too much?

You read that correctly.

Callaway played into the fourth quarter of the Browns 20-10 preseason victory over the Giants, including a 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown from rookie #1 overall pick Baker Mayfield in the fourth quarter.

But, it’s what Jackson said after the game that is got Browns fans, Cleveland sports radio, and the internet buzzing.

When asked if Jackson had played Callaway an extended amount of time because of his off-the-field troubles, including recently being cited for marijuana possession in a Cleveland suburb, Jackson immediately agreed:

“Absolutely,” Jackson said regarding whether the extensive playing time was discipline related. “That was the plan. It was. I was trying to make him play the whole game if we could. I did not want him to come out. . . . That was part of the consequence of what he has been through, and he knows it. That is what it was. Either you sit him or make him play. I thought it was better to make him play. Make him play as long as he could. There were a couple of times he kept waving to come out, and we said, ‘No, stay in.’”

And while there are former players who are now speaking out against that kind of tactic, it is not uncommon for younger players to play most of preseason games for a variety of reasons. Most of it is related to: they haven’t been in live contact for an extended period of time in an NFL game.

Of course Callaway hadn’t been involved in any kind of an organized game dating back to his brief career at the University of Florida. After all, he was suspended for the entire 2017 season due to a credit card investigation.

That and his diluted sample drug test at the NFL scouting combine caused his stock to drop. And, he has first-round Talent ended up being still available in the fourth round for Cleveland to take him.

We wrote last week about Calloway’s traffic citation with the drugs being the latest controversy now that he’s a member of the Browns.

In the end, last Thursday night Callaway finished with five receptions, 87 yards and a touchdown and played a total of 57 snaps.

It’s also interesting that this came on the heels of new Browns free agent pro bowler Jarvis Landry lighting into his fellow wide receivers about not wanting to practice hard or when nicked up by injury. Calloway was sitting in the receivers room when HBO and NFL Films “Hard Knocks” cameras caught the tirade.

The Browns had also traded wide receiver Corey Coleman to the Buffalo Bills at the beginning of training camp, and from a football standpoint, are trying to determine, if Callaway can help them immediately.

You have to believe that all of this will be part of the latest airing of Hard Knocks Tuesday night on HBO.

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Florida Gators

Appears former Gators kicker Eddy Pineiro is leading for Raiders job

Florida Football Insiders

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We knew that the Raiders were high on former Gators kicker Eddy Pineiro when they drafted him back in April. And that became more apparent when they released their successful 2017 kicker, rookie Giorgio Tavechhio, last week.

Now, after last night’s preseason debut in Oakland, it appears it’s Pineiro’s job to lose.

First, Pineiro was perfect with 3-3 in field goals and 1-1 in extra points in the Raiders 16-10 victory over the Lions. And, that included a lengthy make of 48 yards at the end of the first half.

Second, even though Oakland has brought in 13 year veteran Mike Nugent, it appears from what they are saying and what they just demonstrated in game one, Pineiro has the bigger leg for kickoffs, etc.

As for getting rid of a left footed kicker, Tavecchio, who was reliable at 16-21 on field goals and 33-34 on point after kicks, new Raiders coach Jon Gruden explained it at the time to the media that they were simply being too hard on punter/holder Johnny Townsend. They were asking him to repeatedly switch from a left footed to a right footed “hold mechanics” and then, back, again.

Meanwhile, Nugent who has kicked previously for the Jets, Bucs, Bengals and others is right footed. So, that does make it easier on the holder throughout the work they are doing in camp.

As for Pineiro, he is a state product (Miami native), and he had a good college career at Florida. He made 17-18 FG’s during the Gators miserable season last year. And combined with his 21-25 year in 2016, he totaled an 88% field goal career mark.

We did take a humorous look at his leg strength prior to the 2017 season, when Pineiro’s practice video of him kicking an 81 yard field goal went viral on Youtube.

And, as the photo above shows, the Raiders are the last team still playing in a multi-purpose football/baseball stadium-still sharing it with the Oakland A’s.

And Gruden mentioned postgame that they wanted to get Pineiro a kick or two off the surface in a game, because the Raiders will have that infield dirt in their first couple of September early season games.

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