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Gators go for dozen over Tennessee

Christopher Fischer

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Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire

Good old Rocky Top, “Floppy Top” Tennessee.
It’s been 11 straight years since the Volunteers have heard their school’s song play at the end of a showdown with Florida. And this week the Gators players, (who were in elementary school when James Wilhoit kicked a last second game winner for the Vols) made sure to drive home the point, that the Gators own this “rivalry”.

Here’s some of the Gators musings from this week.

Ahmad Fullwood on what makes this a rivalry; “Them thinking they can beat us.”

Quincy Wilson made the most bulletin board material this week with quotes like; “We have a message from DBU (Defensive Backs University) for Tennessee, you ever seen a duck pull a truck? A duck don’t pull a truck.”

That has to be the biggest head scratcher quote in years, maybe since Steve Spurrier said “You can’t spell Citrus without U-T.” In an odd way it was a gutsy insinuation to make by Wilson, considering a big chunk of the Gators’ Tennessee teflon will be missing.

Quarterback Luke Del Rio will miss the game with a sprained knee, meaning Austin Appleby will make his first start. Everyone on the Gators side of the ball wants to point out Appleby and Del Rio were neck and neck in competition during fall camp. But I don’t care how good Appleby looked, there’s nothing like making your first with your new team in a hostile SEC road environment. Tennessee is salivating put Smokey’s teeth in to some gator tail for the first time since 2005.

3 Keys for the Gators at Neyland:

POUND THE ROCK: The Gator have shown they possess a 4-headed monster at running back with Jordan Scarlett, Mark Thompson, Lamical Perine and Jordan Cronkite. Each back is averaging over 4.7-yards per carry. While most of those averages were earned playing cupcakes like UMass and North Texas, Florida will have to utilize their rushing attack to take the heat off of Appleby. Holding on to the ball will be critical for the Gators. The Volunteers have been very successful this season at forcing fumbles. Tennessee enters the game leading the SEC with 5 fumble recoveries.

RUSH THE PASSER: Jabari Zuniga has been a beast for a Gators’ defense, which leads the nation with 16 sacks. Keeping Joshua Dobbs in between the tackles will be priority to allow Zuniga and Caleb Brantley time to get in to Tennessee’s backfield.

It’s no surprise really with the talented group Defensive Coordinator Geoff Collins controls, the Gators have the top rated Total Defense in the country. The Secondary with Jalen “Teez” Tabor and Wilson will get their chance to put their money with their mouth is. Tabor took shots at the Vols during SEC Media Days, now we’ll see if Dobbs will be willing to take shots at Tabor.

EYES ON APPLEBY: This won’t be Purdue, nor a half empty “Swamp.” Neyland Stadium will have 100,000 rabid fans screaming in this SEC East showdown. Vols Head Coach Butch Jones knows Applby’s capabilities all too well, recruiting the former Boilermaker turned Gators quarterback out of high school.

If you go back and watch Appleby while at Purdue, you see a signal caller who at times got his signals crossed. Over his past two seasons in West Lafayette he threw for more interceptions than touchdowns. Expect Gators Head Coach Jim McElwain to keep the reigns tight on Appleby with a sized down playbook.

Odds and Ends:
Antonio Callaway could go on Saturday after sitting out last week with a quadriceps injury. McElwain said of his star wide receiver “He’s moving around pretty good.”

Eddy Pinero will get a true SEC kicking test on the road in a loud environment. His first SEC game against Kentucky yielded unsavory results going just one of three in field goal opportunities. The JUCO transfer, who’s shown a zest for celebrating, will need to keep his cool and just do his job in a deafening Neyland.

With both the Gators (3-0) and Volunteers (3-0) undefeated, the winner will have the early advantage toward representing the SEC East division in Atlanta for the title game.

A native Floridian who graduated from Clearwater High School and the University of Florida, Chris Fischer has spent nearly 15 years in Sports Televison, including the last five as Sports Reporter and Anchor with the CBS affiliate in Tampa Bay-WTSP. He is a multi time AP Sports and Local Emmy award winner and will be seen this season as a sideline reporter on CBS-TV’s network coverage of the NFL.Chris brings enthusiasm and passion (particularly when it comes to his Gators) to College and NFL coverage to F.F.I.

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Florida Gators

Gators in the College Football Playoff this year?!

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows that the SEC is the best conference for college football and has been for the better part of 20 years.

Everyone also knows that the Florida Gators were once proud rulers of the SEC East Division, but now that has changed over the course of the last few seasons.

And now, with first-year Coach Dan Mullen, who was previously part of to Gator National Championships under Urban Meyer in 2006 and 08, ready to guide them through this 2018 season, there’s plenty of optimism in Gainesville.

Well, there’s optimism, and then there’s what SEC on CBS football analyst Brian Jones put out there on CBS Sports Network on Wednesday night.

Yes, you saw that correctly, Jones not only has the Gators winning the East, but obviously winning the SEC Championship Game, and being part of the College Football Playoff come January.

First, a little background on Jones: he’s a former all Southwest Conference linebacker at Texas in the early 1990s and has been with CBS since 2005.  And, he replaced Spencer Tillman as the longtime Studio analyst on CBS’ SEC coverage three seasons ago.

So there’s no doubt, he’s qualified to have opinions about SEC football. However, there’s going out on a limb, and then there’s walking out on a tightrope in between skyscrapers like one of the “Flying Wallendas.”

In the brief clip from the “Inside College Football” show on Wednesday night, Jones says of the Gators making the CFP,

“Florida has everyone coming back and now they have the “Quarterback Whisperer” in Dan Mullen.

The Gators do return 19 starters and that includes welcoming back running back Jordan Scarlett, who was suspended last year during the credit card fraud investigation.

Yes they have options at quarterback including last year’s most of the time starter Feleipe Franks and that is Mullen specialty.

Earlier in the episode, Jones had elaborated on Mullen and the impact he would have on Franks’ development in particular:

The Gators do you have a favorable schedule in conference play as they only travel to Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt.

This is because of the scheduling quirk from 2016 with the postponement of the LSU game due to Hurricane Matthew. LSU got to play Florida at home for a second consecutive year that season, and so now, Florida is getting to play LSU at home for a second straight year this year.

Still the neutral-site game with the Georgia Bulldogs and returning All SEC QB Jake Fromm will be a tall task. And add in that Missouri and South Carolina are both improved, even if they are playing in Gainesville, and it will be tough for the Gators to win the East.

Again, Jones has his reasons for his August outlandish prediction, but it’s much more likely that Florida has some growing pains in 2018. And, is a bigger national contender next year,

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Florida Gators

Latest Browns controversy? Antonio Callaway played too much?

Florida Football Insiders

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Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

A rookie who played too much in a preseason game? The Browns always seem to have some kind of negative or controversy going on and now, it involves rookie Antonio Callaway and the amount of playing time he had in the preseason opener.

And it’s not that the former controversial Gators WR didn’t get to play or didn’t get to play enough. Rather, the questions being thrown the way of head coach Hue Jackson have to do with: him playing too much.

Too much?

You read that correctly.

Callaway played into the fourth quarter of the Browns 20-10 preseason victory over the Giants, including a 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown from rookie #1 overall pick Baker Mayfield in the fourth quarter.

But, it’s what Jackson said after the game that is got Browns fans, Cleveland sports radio, and the internet buzzing.

When asked if Jackson had played Callaway an extended amount of time because of his off-the-field troubles, including recently being cited for marijuana possession in a Cleveland suburb, Jackson immediately agreed:

“Absolutely,” Jackson said regarding whether the extensive playing time was discipline related. “That was the plan. It was. I was trying to make him play the whole game if we could. I did not want him to come out. . . . That was part of the consequence of what he has been through, and he knows it. That is what it was. Either you sit him or make him play. I thought it was better to make him play. Make him play as long as he could. There were a couple of times he kept waving to come out, and we said, ‘No, stay in.’”

And while there are former players who are now speaking out against that kind of tactic, it is not uncommon for younger players to play most of preseason games for a variety of reasons. Most of it is related to: they haven’t been in live contact for an extended period of time in an NFL game.

Of course Callaway hadn’t been involved in any kind of an organized game dating back to his brief career at the University of Florida. After all, he was suspended for the entire 2017 season due to a credit card investigation.

That and his diluted sample drug test at the NFL scouting combine caused his stock to drop. And, he has first-round Talent ended up being still available in the fourth round for Cleveland to take him.

We wrote last week about Calloway’s traffic citation with the drugs being the latest controversy now that he’s a member of the Browns.

In the end, last Thursday night Callaway finished with five receptions, 87 yards and a touchdown and played a total of 57 snaps.

It’s also interesting that this came on the heels of new Browns free agent pro bowler Jarvis Landry lighting into his fellow wide receivers about not wanting to practice hard or when nicked up by injury. Calloway was sitting in the receivers room when HBO and NFL Films “Hard Knocks” cameras caught the tirade.

The Browns had also traded wide receiver Corey Coleman to the Buffalo Bills at the beginning of training camp, and from a football standpoint, are trying to determine, if Callaway can help them immediately.

You have to believe that all of this will be part of the latest airing of Hard Knocks Tuesday night on HBO.

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Florida Gators

Appears former Gators kicker Eddy Pineiro is leading for Raiders job

Florida Football Insiders

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We knew that the Raiders were high on former Gators kicker Eddy Pineiro when they drafted him back in April. And that became more apparent when they released their successful 2017 kicker, rookie Giorgio Tavechhio, last week.

Now, after last night’s preseason debut in Oakland, it appears it’s Pineiro’s job to lose.

First, Pineiro was perfect with 3-3 in field goals and 1-1 in extra points in the Raiders 16-10 victory over the Lions. And, that included a lengthy make of 48 yards at the end of the first half.

Second, even though Oakland has brought in 13 year veteran Mike Nugent, it appears from what they are saying and what they just demonstrated in game one, Pineiro has the bigger leg for kickoffs, etc.

As for getting rid of a left footed kicker, Tavecchio, who was reliable at 16-21 on field goals and 33-34 on point after kicks, new Raiders coach Jon Gruden explained it at the time to the media that they were simply being too hard on punter/holder Johnny Townsend. They were asking him to repeatedly switch from a left footed to a right footed “hold mechanics” and then, back, again.

Meanwhile, Nugent who has kicked previously for the Jets, Bucs, Bengals and others is right footed. So, that does make it easier on the holder throughout the work they are doing in camp.

As for Pineiro, he is a state product (Miami native), and he had a good college career at Florida. He made 17-18 FG’s during the Gators miserable season last year. And combined with his 21-25 year in 2016, he totaled an 88% field goal career mark.

We did take a humorous look at his leg strength prior to the 2017 season, when Pineiro’s practice video of him kicking an 81 yard field goal went viral on Youtube.

And, as the photo above shows, the Raiders are the last team still playing in a multi-purpose football/baseball stadium-still sharing it with the Oakland A’s.

And Gruden mentioned postgame that they wanted to get Pineiro a kick or two off the surface in a game, because the Raiders will have that infield dirt in their first couple of September early season games.

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