On Sunday, Trey Burton will become a member of a select group of former Gators who’ve played on the largest stage in football — the Super Bowl.
In recent history, the Gators have been well-represented. Former Gators Keanu Neal and Brian Poole started for the Atlanta Falcons in last year’s Super Bowl. The year prior, former UF stars Andre Caldwell, Max Garcia, and Lerentee McCray took the field for the Broncos in their 24-10 win over Carolina. The Eagles’ Burton is continuing the tradition, as it’s the 16th consecutive year Florida has had a former player in the Super Bowl.
Many Gators’ fans remember Burton as the “Wildcat” quarterback who once scored six touchdowns in a win against Kentucky — an impressive Florida record that may never be broken. During his days in Gainesville, Burton played a lot of roles, including running back, wide receiver, fullback and tight end. Although his priorities on the field shifted, his determination never wavered. His dedication and willingness to change positions earned Burton a first-round selection in the NFL Draft.
In four years with the Eagles, he has continued to show his versatility. Last April, the Eagles signed the restricted free agent to a one-year contract for $2.81 million. Turned out to be a great decision for both.
Playing tight end, Burton caught a career-high 37 passes in 2016. The 26-year-old continued to prove his value when replacing injured starter Zach Ertz in Week 14 against the Rams. Burton finished the game with five passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns. His five receiving touchdowns this season were a career best and most by an undrafted Eagle since 2002.
Burton notched his first career postseason reception in the Eagles’ dominant win over the Vikings in the NFC Championship.
“Those thoughts of how long it takes to get here or how hard it is or the road, all that is for after the Super Bowl,” he told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “Until you get to the NFL, (the Super Bowl) is always a dream. Getting to the NFL really gives you the opportunity to fulfill that dream. You got to get to the league first.”
Gators have lots to smile about after late comeback
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:
1. Sound on 🔊🔊
2. 🔁🔁🔁 pic.twitter.com/MSQV6v5tCB
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) November 10, 2018
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.
Gators backup QB Trask apparently suffered serious knee injury Wednesday
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.
BREAKING: A #Gators quarterback was carted off the field with an injury in Wednesday's practice. Could affect starting decision for Dan Mullen – https://t.co/Yt6NA5Kf8C (VIP) pic.twitter.com/wGGrN697tf
— Thomas Goldkamp (@ThomasGoldkamp) November 7, 2018
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.
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.
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.
Gators can’t escape “Year of Quarterbacks living dangerously”
As Election Night once again showed, Florida has a hard time making up its mind. One of the most split states in the nation, yet again, delivered a very close set of elections which entered the national spotlight. Broward and Dade Counties made the national news. We know the drill by now.
We also know that in 2018, Florida-based college football programs in Power 5 conferences have caused similar levels of angst and division. Unimpressive performances rile up constituents at a level matched by politics.
In the Sunshine state this year, those performances — while hardly limited to one position — have all involved profound struggles at quarterback.
The Florida Gators were not exempt from this dynamic earlier in the year, but their quarterback woes had not been fully exposed.
Now, they have been.
The quarterback problems which were apparent at Miami in September, and which have lingered over Florida State for much of the season, have now hit Gainesville at full force. Florida coach Dan Mullen — immediately after this past Saturday’s blowout loss to Missouri, and then in the early parts of this week at subsequent sessions with the press — danced around the quarterback question after starter Feleipe Franks struggled once again, and backup Kyle Trask won loud cheers at The Swamp when replacing Franks in Week 10.
Mullen is caught in the middle of several crosscurrents, all carrying their own legitimate arguments in support of a particular approach to this situation:
Thought Process No. 1: Stick with Franks because his upside (arm strength and mobility) offers Florida the best chance to win, even with all of Franks’ limitations, chiefly his inaccuracy and his struggles in reading defenses The Gators can still get a January bowl. They still need to beat South Carolina and Florida State. They still need to finish this season well to generate momentum heading into the offseason.
Thought Process No. 2: Start Trask. No, finishing 9-3 doesn’t mean a whole lot in college football these days — at least not at a program such as Florida. Ask Mark Richt how valuable or beneficial it was to finish 9-3 at Georgia. Dawg fans got tired of 9-3 seasons, and UGA administration wanted him gone… and then upgraded the program by hiring Kirby Smart. A 9-3 season is not worth pursuing at all costs.
A Citrus Bowl bid is not worth keeping Franks on the field all the time Give Trask meaningful snaps. Give him the experience of preparing for a game knowing he will be the starter entrusted with, at the very least, the first quarter of the game. Explore how the offense can work differently with Trask so that one knows what Trask can bring to the table. Finding out what you have with Trask is the most important task for Mullen in November and the bowl game.
Thought Process No. 3: Stick with Franks not out of a desire to maximize chances of winning, but to express faith in a starting quarterback and thereby boost his confidence, which sends a message to other players that they won’t have to live in constant fear of a quick hook if they struggle. Franks always was a limited quarterback. He came up with a clutch fourth-quarter drive to beat LSU, but he threw a critical interception in that game and did not exhibit considerable efficiency.
He was a bystander in the win over Mississippi State simply hasn’t done much this season as a downfield passer. Those limitations were always there, but against Georgia and Missouri, they were exposed to a noticeable degree.
Interestingly enough, the very fact that Florida was 6-1 and owned a higher national profile before the Georgia game is precisely why the blowback against Franks — much like the pressure to have to do something about the Gators’ quarterback situation — is especially intense right now. This was never a crisis for Mullen.
Moreover, it still isn’t. This is what Mullen is inheriting, not what he recruited. Nevertheless, it FEELS more like a crisis because Florida had a 6-1 record and is now 6-3, its season standing on shaky ground.
Mullen has compelling reasons for standing his ground… and shifting his view of this situation.
It isn’t easy… but it is very much in line with Miami and Florida State, which have also been hounded by instability at football’s most important position.
Quarterbacks are leaders defined by the quality of their performances. In football as in politics, the state of Florida’s leaders elicit sharply divided and profoundly passionate reactions in 2018.
The University of Florida could not escape what befell Miami and FSU earlier in the season. Dan Mullen is left to handle a mess for a few more weeks. The one thing he knows, deep down: He has to recruit The Next Great Florida Quarterback, the field general he can trust, if his Florida tenure is to get off the ground in the next two years.
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