Life is complicated. College football is part of life. A very complicated reality greets the Florida Gators, as they head home to Gainesville.
They won a game. They lost their starting quarterback.
They showed they could fight when everything was going against them. They did not show that they are anywhere close to the Georgia Bulldogs, or that they are ready to be a nasty, imposing, overwhelmingly strong team which can go 11-1 in a regular season and feel it left something on the table.
There is a lot to like, and a lot to hate, about the Gators’ situation.
Let’s start with the quarterback situation. Feleipe Franks suffered an ugly leg injury on Saturday night. I won’t play a doctor on Twitter or here in print, so instead of making a guess about his situation, I will simply tell you to stay tuned to Florida Football Insiders for more on his situation as fresh information becomes available.
Franks was supposed to be the guy who led Florida to a higher plateau in 2019, but if he is out, the Gators have to start fresh.
The really good news is that Kyle Trask came off the bench in the fourth quarter and directed two terrific drives as the Gators’ backup quarterback. Trask could not have handled his situation any better.
Backups are told to be ready. Trask was supremely ready. He seized his opportunity. He immediately won over the locker room and his teammates. The offense flowed rhythmically when Trask was in the game. Dan Mullen found plays Trask could execute.
Trask will obviously need to develop if he is to meet the challenges which face him in the weeks ahead. That said, if he could perform under pressure against Kentucky – on the road, at night, trailing in the fourth quarter – it becomes possible to envision a world in which he handles other high-stress situations with poise and composure.
Is Trask ready for the entirely different challenge of being the starter for the rest of the season? Is he talented enough to handle 60-minute wars against Auburn and Georgia and others? We will have to wait to find out, and yes, skepticism is merited before improving the Gators’ odds of challenging Georgia for the SEC East title
I wouldn’t count on Trask being the answer to Florida’s problems – most Gator fans can acknowledge that. Yet, there’s a difference between an unlikely scenario and an absurd one. Trask flourishing for the rest of the season is unlikely… but against Kentucky, he refuted the notion that such a scenario would be absurd. Florida might have gained more than it honestly expected from Trask.
Beyond the quarterback situation, Florida’s mixed bag against Kentucky was manifested in the fact that the Gators continued to make a lot of inexcusable mistakes… and yet won an SEC road game.
The secondary remains inconsistent. The defense did not impose its will on the opposition, on a night when Kentucky played a backup quarterback, Sawyer Smith. Too many untimely penalties are still part of this team’s identity.
This is frustrating… but it also shows that if the Gators can eve clean up their act, their ceiling could be higher than it currently is. No, this does not look like a team which will ever be dominant, but with a 3-0 record in a weak SEC East, the Gators are still in very good position for a New Year’s Six bowl. They might not blow people out, but they could win a bunch of hard-fought slugfests akin to this one.
Fans rightly want Florida to challenge Georgia. That’s where this season seems likely to fall short of its highest aspirations. Yet, the Gators’ win over Kentucky gives them reason to think that they can return to a high-profile bowl game.
This program is not ready to take the next step up the ladder, to the Georgia-LSU tier just below Alabama in the SEC. It also does not appear ready to stumble and lose ground relative to 2018.
Florida could be in a much better situation right now. It could also be in a far worse situation.
That is what a mixed bag looks like.
Gators land Penn State transfer WR Shorter
Good news for the Gators receiving corps on a Sunday afternoon in January, as they have landed a former high school five-star pospect transfer from Penn State.
Nittany Lions sophomore Justin Shorter had announced in November that he was transferring from Happy Valley, PA, and on Sunday afternoon after visiting the Gators a week ago, he’s made his decision publicly known on social media:
Officially Committed🐊🐊‼️ pic.twitter.com/LmExRIf4GW
— Justin Shorter (@JustinShorter15) January 26, 2020
Shorter played sparingly for the Nittany Lions in 2019 appearing in seven games and catching only 12 passes. He caught three balls for 28 yards in the Nittany Lions lost to Ohio State. He announced the following week that he would be entering the NCAA transfer portal.
The Gators are in need of wide receiving help after losing Freddie Swain, Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland to graduation this past season.
Coach Dan Mullen and offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales always seem to be able to reload. And, Florida has an incoming receiving class with Ocala four star high school prospect Jaquavion Frazairs and Texas transfer Jordan Pouncey already, as both having signed in the December in early signing period.
Back to Shorter. He was regarded as the #1 high school receiving prospect in the Northeast two years ago coming out of South Brunswick, New Jersey. And, at 6’4 with large “catch radius,” he had been viewed as a potential replacement for former Penn State, now Buccaneers, Pro Bowler, Chris Godwin.
He is a sophomore and it’s unclear if he will already be eligible for 2020 or will have to put in for a waiver with the NCAA?
Shorter and his father reportedly visited the Gainesville campus during the December “dead period” just after Christmas and while the Gators were in Miami preparing for their eventual Orange Bowl win over Virginia.
Florida has committed to QB Kyle Trask for 2020 after his success in replacing Feleipe Franks who fractured his leg in the September game in Kentucky. Franks announced last week that he was electing to transfer to Arkansas, as a graduate whom can immediately play this fall.
Three state receivers look to make Senior Bowl impression
A trio of Florida collegiate pass catchers will look to make an impact at Saturday’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, and it’s very possible that one will be selected the opening night the NFL Draft in April.
First, the Gators have a duo of receivers working out for the South team in this week. As wideouts, Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland have been going through practices and getting attention this week. Obviously, their experience against SEC competition is a key to helping them prepare to take on the North squad Saturday afternoon on the NFL Network.
Cleveland was a late add to the South roster only being notified on late Monday afternoon about the prospect of joining the senior All-Stars in Mobile.
And, as SI.com profiled earlier this week, both Florida guys are anxious to demonstrate what they can do and are grateful that they have each other in Alabama for the experience.
“I’ve seen Mr. Nagy (director of the Senior Bowl), and I heard him say something about Tyrie, so I was like, I was trying to creep in to see what he was talking about,” Jefferson admitted to the site.
“Then he looked at me and said ‘I invited your boy!’, and I asked who and he said ‘Tyrie!’, and so I went and called Tyrie, I’m like ‘Tyrie, where you at?’, and Tyrie’s already in Mobile, so my man, my dawg is here, so it’s just got the week much better, I’m excited to go out there and practice with him for the last time, play in a game with him for the last time, it’s exciting.”
Jefferson, who’s the son of former NFL receiver Shawn Jefferson, had two solid but not spectacular seasons in Gainesville after transferring from Ole Miss catching for just over 1,100 yards and 12 TDs in 23 games.
Likewise, Cleveland does not have fantastic numbers and some of that had to do with the shaky quarterback play at times during his career at Florida.
Still, they are both large bodied and Cleveland ran a sub 4.4 (unofficial), 40 yard dash this week, too.
Now, the probable first round pick from the state as a receiver is FAU tight end, Harrison Bryant. While he’s not a household name on the national scale, Bryant has outstanding hands and put up monster numbers for a tight end in 2019.
Flourishing and former coach Lane Kiffin’s system Bryant (above) led all tight ends in FBS with 65 catches, 1,004 yards and 7 TDs, as the FAU owls rolled to a second Conference USA championship in 3 years.
Bryant also has some raving about his route running, hands and his blocking from the practices this week in Mobile, too:
I watched this kid, Harrison Bryant that plays Tight End for FAU all day yesterday! He is very very good! I like everything about this kid from his route running, his catching ability and his physicality. Gotta be the 1st Tight End off the board. https://t.co/HwOzymrcMK
— Footwork_King 🤴🏾 (@footwork_king1) January 23, 2020
Sure, there will be a lot more time for scrutiny of these guys after the Senior Bowl is played from the scouting combine to their individual workouts and team interviews. Still, they are three names to keep an eye on Saturday and beyond, as the draft process continues.
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