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Gators face annual challenge of who’s leaving?

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Gators end to the season was just as predicted, and now, so too is the leaving of significant players for the NFL, etc.

Florida ended up getting the Virginia Cavaliers in the Orange Bowl and the second-best team in the weakest conference in Power 5 football was no match for the strong talented Gators.

Just before the conference championship games, it was predicted almost everywehre that Virginia would get trounced by the Clemson Tigers, but still be the most likely candidate to face the Gators in a “New Year’s Six Bowl”.

Once the game was confirmed and the lines came out, the Gators were listed as massive 16 point favorites at the best Sportsbooks around the nation.

And, when it came time to tee it up? Florida delivered a win.

The final score was 36-28, as Virginia hung tough by scoring 14 in the 4th quarter and got the backdoor cover on the point spread. Still, the Gators finished sandwiched between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Oregon Ducks at No.6 in the AP Top 25. But, will the Gators still be as good next season?

Will they be better? And who might they be missing?

That brings us to a few key players that have declared for the 2020 NFL Draft. Letโ€™s start by taking a look at them.

It seems that as receivers get bigger, corners have been getting smaller. So, C.J. Henderson (above) at 6โ€™1โ€ and 191 pounds is almost an oddity nowadays. He is long, athletic and extremely fast. In short, he was one of the best corners in college football. Heโ€™s declared for the 2020 draft and could go in the first round.

But with so much talent at QB, we could see Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Tua Tagavoilva all go in the Top-10. Then, when you factor in team needs and a few other great corners from Alabama, LSU, and Clemson in Treveon Diggs, Kristian Fulton, and A.J. Terrell, Henderson could fall into the second round. And, it could end up being a steal for some lucky team if that happened.

That said, the Broncos, Seahawks, Vikings, 49ers, and Dolphins all need help at corner. And the Seahawks would be a great landing spot, as they may favor him over some of the other top contenders for his excellent ability in man coverage. That is, if they donโ€™t fill another position need such as DE or OLB โ€“ which would make sense as well since they had the leagues lowest number of sacks during the regular season.

Seniors who will go on are Van Jefferson, Josh Grimes, Freddie Swain, and Tyrie Cleveland. And the Gators will lose some talent in their TE depth with Lucas Krull hitting the bricks. He was usurped by Kyle Pitts but still caught nine balls for nearly 110 yards.

It isnโ€™t a huge loss, as Pitts is one of the best TE in the SEC. But not having that extra option with experience at TE will hurt a bit. A handful of QBs will also be leaving. For starters Nick Sproles, a walk-on back-up out of Winter Park has been sitting behind both Franks and Trask. So, he elected to hit the transfer portal and take off.

QB Feleipe Franks will also step through the transfer portal to another school. His horrible ankle injury opened the door for Kyle Trask to take over. Now, we very well could see Franks move over to Kansas, as he had originally committed to former LSU coach, Les Miles, who’s now there.

Although Trask is on the rise, this does hurt the depth chart. Emory Jones is reliable, but heโ€™s no Franks โ€ฆ at least not yet.

On top of this, Chris Bleich and Umstead Sanders both hit the transfer list. But, the Gators actually are not hurt by this, as they picked up Brenton Cox at OLB which is probably a big part of why Umstead elected to transfer.

Cox has solid experience at Georgia and will likely earn a starting spot with the Gators. He tallied 20 tackles, a sack, a pair for loss, and six tackles in the Sugar Bowl alone! Then, he also racked up three pass deflections on top of all that.

The Gators lost a lot of depth at receiver, but they pick up one with Jordan Pouncy. Heโ€™s big at 6โ€™2โ€ and 205 and has decent speed.

All in all, the Gators wonโ€™t be too much worse for the wear. And, with the shift in emphasis to the SEC West, they have great shot at winning the East and to play for the SEC title next season.

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Florida Gators

Three state receivers look to make Senior Bowl impression

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Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

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.”ย 

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:

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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Florida Gators

Former Gators QB Franks transfers to Arkansas

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Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks has decided on a new spot for his final year of eligibility and he won’t even leave the SEC. The Gators starting quarterback on and off for the last three years announced on Monday night that he will be transferring to the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Frank’s ended several weeks of speculation as to where he might land by announcing his plans on social media:

Franks help lead the Gators resurgence two years ago under first-year coach Dan Mullen, including a Peach Bowl New Year’s Six game victory over the Michigan Wolverines. Florida finished 10-3 with momentum headed into this season.

However, with sky high expectations for Franks, Mullen and the Gators this past season (they were a preseason top 10 team)ย  Franks played inconsistently for a lot of the early part of the season. Then, things ended horrifically as Franks suffered a nasty fractured leg at Kentucky ending his season.

The 6’6 Franks finished his Gator career with 28 starts 4,500+ yards passing and 28 TDs. However, his at times poor play, including crucial interceptions enraged Gator fans. Next, he announced December 1st that he would be transferring for one more season, as a graduate to be eligible immediately.

Arkansas is in desperation to rebuild after having fired coach Chad Morris after two horrible seasons. They hired Georgia former offensive line coach Sam Pittman at their head coach and Franks will be playing for new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who spent last season with FSU.

Arkansas is in desperate need of a quality proven quarterback, as they had just three scholarship signal caller options in senior Jack Lindsey, redshirt-sophomore John Stephen Jones and redshirt-freshman K.J. Jefferson. Jones, who is the grandson of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is considered the most experienced of the group. But to show how bad it is, he’s thrown for just 106 yards and 2 touchdowns with 2 interceptions in six career games.

So, clearly Franks, if/when fully healed from the ankle fracture will be heavily counted on for 2020.

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