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Gators can’t escape “Year of Quarterbacks living dangerously”

Matt Zemek

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Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

Florida Gators

Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday

Florida Football Insiders

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Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.

The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:

A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.

With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.

As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.

Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.

It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.

Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.

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Florida Gators

Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools

Jamil King

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.

The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of  former DB C.J. Henderson.

Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.

The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.

Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?

Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.

The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.

Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.

Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.

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