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Gators announce players who’ll join coach Mullen at SEC Media Days

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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As the SEC media gets ready to descend on suburban Birmingham, Alabama, next week, the Florida Gators have announced which players will be joining coach Dan Mullen at this year’s festivities.

The Gators made it official through their website on Wednesday morning the quarterback Feleipe Franks running back Lamical Perine and defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga will be the players that will accompany the Gators second-year coach:

Most eyes and interest will be on Franks, the redshirt junior quarterback, who played progressively better as 2018 wore on. Franks finished with just under 2,500 yards passing, 24 touchdowns and just six interceptions, while he ran for another 350 yards with seven more touchdowns on the ground.

More importantly, he led Florida to key wins at the end of the year in comeback fashion over South Carolina, beating rival Florida State in Tallahassee and then, helping the Gators win their Peach Bowl matchup with the Big Ten’s Michigan Wolverines.

As for Perine, he is the leading returning rusher with 826 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago on the ground. The senior will be counted on to help balance the offense, as the best experienced back out of the backfield.

This is the first time in five years that the Gators are bringing a QB and/or a RB to the event. Mullen brought offensive lineman Martez Ivey and defenders, CeCe Jefferson and David Reese last year.

Finally, Zuniga will represent the Florida D, as he started all 13 games a year ago and was second with 11 tackles for loss plus 6.5 sacks. The red shirt senior is expected to help fill the shoes of Jachai Polite who entered the NFL draft after last season, as Florida’s best pass rushing weapon.

For the first time since the 2016 media days days, the Gators will be made available on the opening Monday of the four-day event joining LSU and Missouri on Day one.

ESPN and the SEC network will have extensive coverage of Mullen and the players press conferences and interviews

Florida Gators

Vols Coach Pruitt- “Yes I hate Florida”

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee series with Florida has not been too kind to them as of late, but even as a heavy underdogs at the Swamp Saturday, they believe that they could change that. Oh, and then there’s your second year head coach wanting to make it clear he definitely dislikes the Gators.

Jeremy Pruitt, whose team suffered a humiliating opening-week loss at home to Georgia State and then followed that with another loss in heartbreaking fashion to BYU in overtime in week two, took to the radio airwaves Wednesday to answer questions from Volunteers fans. And, one wanted to make sure how much he despised Florida:

The caller asked a question about whether the Vols might be able to pull a shocker, like they did over Auburn in Pruitt’s inaugural season of 2018, but also very plainly put it to the former Alabama and Florida State defensive coordinator,  “do you hate Florida?”

Pruitt answered the question about the mentality going into Gainesville, as a 14-point underdog in their SEC opener. Then threw in the line,

“And yes, I hate Florida.”

And, while Gators fans might take that insult, as perfect “bulletin board material” to motivate their team, the dislike has been there from both sides for 25 years or more.

Encouraging for the Vols, and even though it was under previous coach Butch Jones, Tennessee should have a mentality should be that they can hang with Florida. As each of the last two meetings in Gainesville under Jones, Tennessee had the lead in the final minute of the game, only to let Florida dramatically score the game-winning touchdown on a huge pass play.

A year ago in Knoxville, the Gators used six turnovers and two defensive touchdowns to wipe out Tennessee 47-21 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final.

Meanwhile, instead of the “level of hatred, or not” Gators coach Dan Mullen has bigger concerns about using dual quarterbacks in Kyle Trask and Emory Jones. And, he must deal with the expectations that the Gators should, once again, wipe out “The Big Orange.”

Then, let the media and fans talk about insults, afterwards.

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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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