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Gators begin November with hope to win SEC East and more

Florida Football Insiders

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Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire

As the calendar has now flipped to November 1st, this much we know: the Gators are the only state school that controls it’s own destiny to win their division, the conference title game and potentially find themselves associated with the three letters, C-F-P.

Now before you chuckle at the last part of that lede, we at F.F.I. understand it’s a long shot. A real long shot that the young squad with a first year QB (Luke Del Rio), that has yet to win a significant true road game and that is about to play at Arkansas and now, at LSU in two more weeks, will get it done. But, as the saying goes, “that’s why you line up and play the games.”

On Monday afternoon, Florida head coach Jim McElwain addressed the media and you could tell right away how he feels about the current state of his team off the Georgia win and headed to Fayetteville, AR this Saturday. This as, the Head Gator spent the first few moments of his presser trying to joke with/determine which media members would get how much Halloween candy.

McElwain got to the Arkansas game, etc. shortly after, but it’s obvious that his mood is “chipper” with how they are playing and where they are in the standings.

And, again, the win Saturday in Jacksonville over the Bulldogs was fine, but it wasn’t the hostile enemy home turf that Florida will face against the Hogs this week, much less Baton Rouge on the 19th. Sandwich South Carolina in the middle (who just upset Tennessee Saturday) and it will be a gauntlet of games to get to 7-1.

But with the Gators defense playing with intensity and showing off it’s speed all over the field, they should, should we write, be able to hang in while in enemy environment. Then again, Joshua Dobbs and the Vols rolled them, big time, in the second half in Knoxville.

Time to find out if Florida has learned from/improved from that Saturday in Knoxville. If they have and keep winning, it all lays out for them.

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Florida Gators

Gators QB Feleipe Franks playing for his place in history

Matt Zemek

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Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Feleipe Franks is playing for history this year in Gainesville, Florida, but more than history, he is playing for a place in the hearts of Florida Gator fans. He might not characterize his journey that way, but viewed from a distance, that is the poignant center of Franks’ story as Florida’s starting quarterback.

Go through the history of Florida quarterbacks since the start of the Steve Spurrier era. The stories of these quarterbacks are very different. There is room for Feleipe Franks to fall between various extremes.

Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow are the ultimate immortals who lifted the Gators to the mountaintop. Rex Grossman deserved the Heisman Trophy in 2001 but didn’t get it. He played well against Tennessee that year, but defensive coordinator Jon Hoke coached poorly, and Alex Brown got owned by the Vols’ offensive line. Nevertheless, Grossman brought the Gators many richly satisfying moments. He isn’t in the Wuerffel-Tebow pantheon, but he was a great UF quarterback.

Shane Matthews has a special place in Gator lore. He is the man who started it all, the first special Spurrier quarterback who gave birth to the golden age of Florida football. College sports fans cherish the young athletes who built a foundation for a treasured part of their lives. Matthews was that foundational figure for Florida football fans, much as the 1994 basketball team showed Gator Nation what was possible in college hoops, catching the attention of a man named Billy Donovan, who would come to Gainesville a few years later.

Wuerffel and Tebow live eternally on Mount Olympus. Grossman and Matthews will always be treasured with great passion as all-time-great Gators.

Then the stories become a lot more complicated.

Terry Dean’s biggest sin was that he wasn’t Shane Matthews or Danny Wuerffel. Sandwiched between the two, it was hard for Steve Spurrier — trying to cement Florida’s powerhouse status in the SEC — to accept Dean’s limitations and push him to become even greater. The Spurrier-Dean relationship was memorably fractured and scarred. Since Spurrier is the most important figure in the history of Florida football, the friction which defined his relationship with Dean inevitably affected the way many (though not all) Gator fans felt about Dean.

If you were to argue that Dean was the most complicated Florida quarterback of the last 30 years, many would agree with you.

If Dean was the most complicated Gator signal-caller of the past 30 years, Doug Johnson would probably rate as No. 2.

Florida did keep winning under Johnson. It beat Florida State and knocked the Seminoles out of the national title hunt in 1997 (“BEHIND THE DEFENSE!”). It won a BCS bowl — the Orange Bowl — in the 1998 season. It won the SEC East in 1999. Yet, after the Wuerffel years, those three seasons felt like a huge letdown… and in truth, they were.

Doug Johnson, who did play with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL for a brief while, had the physical tools of a top quarterback, but he simply didn’t process the game the way great QBs do. This irritated Spurrier to no end, and it clearly wasted some of Florida’s best defenses, chiefly the 1998 group, which deserved so much better than what it got. Doug Johnson elicited the words “what might have been” in Gainesville, a frustrated litany of almosts and coulda-shoulda-wouldas.

The man who replaced Johnson in 2000 wrote a different story.

Yes, Rex Grossman played for portions of the 2000 season, but after a thoroughly ineffective first quarter in a pivotal SEC game against South Carolina, Spurrier called on Jesse Palmer — who had won in Knoxville against the Vols earlier in the year — to rescue the team. Palmer did just that, throwing for three touchdown passes and leading a 28-0 second-quarter surge which wiped away a 21-3 deficit created by two South Carolina touchdowns off blocked punt returns.

Florida won, 41-21, clinching the SEC East and setting the stage for the program’s first SEC championship since 1996 under Wuerffel.

Palmer did not have a lengthy Florida career, but in his year of truth as a Gator, the future college football commentator (whose greatest contribution to humanity was saving the life of Chris Fowler a few years ago during a Pinstripe Bowl broadcast at Yankee Stadium; Fowler had choked on a dry chicken sandwich, and Palmer successfully Heimliched the piece of poultry out of Fowler’s pipes) brought UF back to its rightful place atop the SEC.

Palmer was not an overwhelmingly great quarterback. He never dominated college football the way Grossman, his successor, did in 2001, but he stepped up when his coaches and teammates needed him most.

When considering where Feleipe Franks fits into the larger story of Florida quarterbacks, he is playing to be remembered in a vein similar to Palmer, and to avoid being remembered as a Johnson-like figure. The Johnson and Palmer comparisons aren’t exact and will never be easy fits with the example of Franks, nearly two decades later, but they represent larger portraits of careers and the paths they follow.

The mention of Doug Johnson’s name elicits a cringe or a wince in Florida football circles. His time under center was painful for Gator fans. Mentioning Palmer within a Florida football context would call forth many happy memories of a redemptive season and a year when Florida restored something which had been missing.

Isn’t this what Franks — under head coach Dan Mullen — is trying to chase down in 2019?

Franks has had his Johnsonian bad boy moments. He has lived through his own periods of considerable friction with the Florida fan base. Yet, at the end of the 2018 season — chiefly in the Peach Bowl win over Michigan — Franks showed that he was capable of evolving, that he could process the game at a higher level, the way Doug Johnson never quite achieved two decades earlier.

If Franks can turn the corner this year and give Florida an SEC East title — which would almost certainly mean a win over Georgia in Jacksonville — the way he has been thought of in Gainesville will give way to a distinctly different identity.

Yes, Feleipe Franks is playing for history, but more than that, he is playing so that he can be remembered in the right way and for the right reasons. It is a personal aspiration, but it is connected to team success.

Another powerful and complicated Florida quarterback story is about to be written in 2019.

We will see how happy the ending turns out to be.

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Florida Gators

Gators land Georgia transfer Brenton Cox

Abbey Radeka

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

UF football is finishing up Week 2 of Gator Camp with a new addition to their roster. It was confirmed Friday that former Georgia edge rusher Brenton Cox will playing in Gainesville this fall.

The transfer was confirmed on Twitter by Gator beat reporter, Thomas Goldkamp.

Earlier this month, the former 5-star recruit put his name into the NCAA transfer portal, after spending just one season with the Bulldogs. In his freshman season, Cox played in 13 games and ended the season with 20 tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack, and three pass breakups. He also got the start in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Texas where he made a career high, six stops.

Sources have informed Swamp247 that Cox visited Florida’s campus on Thursday, and enrolled at UF later that day. He reportedly began practice after officially enrolling. Cox is listed at 6-foot-4, 247-pounds, and will wear No. 6 for the Gators.

Originally from Stockbridge, GA, Cox was listed as a five-star recruit by ESPN.com, No. 11 in ESPN’s top 300, No. 5 DE nationally, No. 3 prospect in Georgia.

But, its not a done deal that he’ll be making an impact for Florida this season. Before he can officially see the field as a Gator, he’ll need to be granted an NCAA waiver, if not he will have to sit out a year at the school of his choice due to NCAA transfer rules. Unless he’s granted the waiver, he will only be able to practice with the team during fall camp and throughout the season.

With all of Florida’s transfers from the program this summer, Cox will bring some much needed support on the defensive side of the ball. After Brian Edwards announced his departure last month, Florida has had nine players now leave their program through transfer or through dismissal for disciplinary reasons this off season. It also means that the Gators currently only have one defensive back on their roster with significant playing time, previously.

Another potential addition to the Florida roster is former LSU cornerback, Kelvin Joseph. The former 4-star 2018 recruit announced his decision to enter the transfer portal last month, and visited UF shortly after.

It’s believed that Florida is likely going to be where he lands, but nothing official has been announced so far.

These additions are a bright spot in what has been a disaster of an off-season for Dan Mullen and his staff. This could be the catalyst they need as they enter into the season where they’ll face off against Miami in just over two weeks.

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