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Gators open Dan Mullen era at Swamp Saturday night

Josh Ciganek

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, the time has come for the return of college football at the University of Florida and the Gators have many expectations for this upcoming season. As everyone knows, Dan Mullen has returned to the Gators as the new head coach after finding great success in his tenure at Mississippi State. Florida plays host to Charleston Southern Saturday night in a game that is sure to provide fans with a bit more hope for the rest of the season.

Before the Buccaneers enter Ben Hill Griffin stadium, there are a few things that many fans should keep their eye on Saturday.

Feleipe, Feleipe, Feleipe

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Feleipe Franks comes into Saturday night’s game with a target on his back. Franks earned the starting job this offseason after making quite the impression on Mullen with ”his ability to extend plays and his athleticism,” plenty of which was seen in the Orange and Blue Spring Game. After splitting time with Luke Del Rio and Malik Zaire in 2017, Franks takes over as the main starter in this new look Gators offense.

He has competition in redshirt sophomore Kyle Trask and highly-touted incoming freshman Emory Jones, two players that could potentially earn playing time this weekend. Learning from Coach Mullen, who produced Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and Dak Prescott at Mississippi State, this could be a more improved Feleipe Franks than fans have seen before. Expect Franks to lead this Gators offense in more ways than one this season.

Familiar Faces All Around

The Gators are returning 20 of their starters from last season with 10 on offense and 9 on defense. Of those returning, the most notable name that will be taking the field for Florida is unior running back Jordan Scarlett. The last time Gator fans saw Scarlett on in action, he ran for 889 yards and six touchdowns in 2016 as a true freshman. Martez Ivey returns for his senior year as he leads the offensive line into action and was voted to the preseason All-SEC first team list. In addition, junior wide receivers Freddie Swain and Tyrie Cleveland will be key weapons for Franks downfield. The addition of Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson will add to the outside threat in the Gators’ offense.

The defense has multiple notable names returning this season. Sophomore cornerbacks CJ Henderson and Marco Wilson lead the secondary into the 2018 season. As freshmen, Henderson led the Gators with four interceptions (two of which were returned for touchdowns) and Wilson led all corners with 10 pass breakups. Junior linebacker David Reese returns after a monster sophomore campaign in he led all Gators in tackles in 2017 with 102, one of eight SEC players to log a 100-tackle season. The only other Gator to receive preseason All-SEC first team honors is defensive lineman Cece Jefferson. Jefferson logged 47 total tackles in 2017 while also leading the defense with 4.5 sacks.

With so many starters returning for the 2018 season, watch for there to be strong chemistry on both sides of the ball.

High Standards, High Rewards

Mullen has been very adamant throughout this offseason in rebuilding the Florida Gators into a championship caliber team. He spoke at the SEC Media Days about getting the winning culture back to the University of Florida as well as keeping up with the traditions of the University. As many recall, Mullen was part of the coaching staff during both the 2006 and 2008 National Championship winning teams. Add in the success of Coach Mullen plus returning 20 starters from last year and this Gators team has the ability to give Georgia a run for their money in the SEC East.

While there may be a learning curve throughout the season, the Gators will look to come out of the gate running, both literally and figuratively. As the action gets underway in The Swamp, a new season of Gator football kicks off at 7:30pm.

Josh Ciganek is a young draft pick working his way up the depth chart on the F.F.I. roster, who enjoys watching and writing about all of Florida’s football teams.

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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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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