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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.

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Florida Gators

College programs continue November domination of our power rankings

Jamil King

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Another week has come and gone in the football world. Already in November, the season is flying by. Some teams are hitting stride, others are falling flat, and some are treading water. With that let’s get right into the rankings:

5. Jacksonville Jaguars- The 5th spot might as well be cursed. Almost every time I put a team here they lose. So, sorry Jacksonville. Out of all the teams to lose they showed the most upside. The Jags came into the season with championship hopes. What they are now looking at is a team that is trying to make a late-season push for the playoffs. They finally got Lenard Fournette back in the lineup, and he showed that he is the centerpiece to the offense. He had 30 total touches for 109 yards and two touchdowns. The Jags are two games out of the second wildcard, and if they have any playoff aspirations, they need to start a win streak immediately.

4. FAU Owls-  The Owls were not flying last Saturday- they were running, running, and running. Devin Singletary became the first running back in school history to top over 4,000 yards career yards. He also had a modest 148 yards rushing and two touchdowns and his running mate Kerrith Whyte, Jr. had 163 yards rushing and two touchdowns of his own. The Owls would handle Western Kentucky 34-15. Owls are picking up steam in C-USA.

3. Florida Gators- Felipe Franks was able to quiet the crowd and lead the Gators to gritty come from behind win Saturday. One thing though this was a home game. Franks gave the crowd “the shhh motion,” with his finger over his lips not once, but twice. The Gators put up 21 unanswered second-half points leading them to a win over former coach Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks. The Gators finished 5-3 in the SEC and will hope for an easier time with Idaho this week and a lot more cheering than boos and quiet gestures.

2. FIU Panthers- The Panthers pounced all over Texas-San Antonio last week by the score of 45-7. QB James Morgan broke the schools single-season touchdown record with his 22nd of the season. Morgan would add two more along with 291 yards. The Panther defense forced four turnovers in the win. A road date with Charlotte is on the schedule for next week before ending with Marshall as the Panthers look to win the C-USA East division and potentially host the Title Game.

1. UCF Knights- The Knights won yet again, and at this point, it feels like clockwork. McKenzie Milton tossed a pair of touchdowns and ran for one. Greg McCrae topped 100 yards rushing with Adrian Killins adding 83 yards rushing. The Knights have gathered more national attention with College game day making the trip to Orlando over the Notre Dame Syracuse contest. The Knights will have their toughest test of the season under the bright lights against Cincinnati, who just took out USF. UCF wanted attention. They now have it.

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Florida Gators

Gators have lots to smile about after late comeback

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Through a lot of reasons that Gator fans should be smiling on Saturday night after Florida roared back to defeat South Carolina 35 – 31 at the Swamp.

They should be smiling because, when it appeared all was lost when South Carolina took a 31-14 late in the third quarter, the Gators showed guts and heart that makes the difference in battles like these. Honestly, it’s the type of deficit that the Gators would have thrown in the towel on in the last few years.

Further, smiling because it came at the expense of Will Muschamp, their former coach, who was his usual animated-maniac self as South Carolina unraveled in the 4th quarter.

Smiling because Felipe Franks, for all the criticism of the last couple of weeks and talk of him being benched, played one of his best games of his Florida career. Frank’s completed 15 of 21 passes for 161 yards with a TD pass  and ran for two critical scores, including the game-winner on a fourth-and-goal (above) with four minutes remaining.

Yes, there is some controversy over him putting up the finger to his lips to “shush the Swamp,” as it was cheering him. This was as if to say: stop criticizing me, yet cheering me. Now, in fairness, a lot of those people that were cheering that 4th and goal touchdown had been the same ones calling for Frank’s to be benched. They’re happy and Franks is now happy with the comeback.

Smiling because the Gators put two running backs, Jordan Scarlett and LaMichael Perine, both went of 100 yards and Florida put together three long scoring drives late in the game, when they had to have them.

Smiling because For the first time in three games, the Gators defense finally came up with a takeaway and it was huge, as CJ Henderson’s pick in the fourth all but iced the game.

Smiling because Dan Mullen, his staff and their players demonstrated there was no quit in them, yet again. It was the second time in a month that Florida was down by at least 17 points, Vandy was the other, yet, they rallied to win. And you can tell his players love playing hard for him:

Smiling, because the win has the Gators at 5 and 3 in the SEC and in Prime position to have a New Year’s Day bowl game in Florida, probably at either the Outback Bowl in Tampa or the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville.

No. It wasn’t easy, but it was memorable Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

And the smiles will last for at least while.

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Florida Gators

Gators backup QB Trask apparently suffered serious knee injury Wednesday

Florida Football Insiders

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Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Well, if the Gators were in fact looking at another quarterback to possibly replace starter Feleipe Franks, they were dealt a bad injury break Wednesday afternoon.

That’s when reserve quarterback Kyle Trask was injured in a non-contact situation during the Gators practice. He was carted off the field and there has been no official update given.

Thomas Goldkamp, Gators beat reporter with 24/7 Sports, was the first to report the injury Wednesday evening:

The Gators had another struggling Saturday offensively at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, when they were beaten decisively 38-17 by Missouri for a second straight loss. Trask actually replaced Franks the second half of the game, and he threw a fourth-quarter touchdown. That gave some Gator fans hope that coach Dan Mullen might be contemplating a switch for this week’s match-up with South Carolina.

Trask, who is a redshirt sophomore, was a high school star in Texas, who redshirted in 2016. However, he also had an injury last year and never played.

With Mullen and his new staff taking over, their was an off season competition for who would start this season. Franks eventually won that competition and has been the Gators starter the entire year.

As of Wednesday night, Florida had not confirmed Trask injury or the severity of it.

Our Matt Zemek had written earlier Wednesday about the “pros and cons” of remaining with Franks or going to another QB.

The Gators also have dual-threat quarterback freshman Emory Jones, who they could turn to, should they still want to bench Frank’s for this game or later in the year.

Jones has played sparingly this season, including two weeks ago during the loss to Georgia. He only carried the ball out of the “Wildcat formation” four times for 12 yards in the game with the Dawgs. It’s also believed that Jones has struggled to pick up Mullen’s offense in his first season, and was not ready to be the guy to replace Franks, unless it’s an emergency.

Now, if Trask is done for the year, Jones may be that guy right behind Franks.

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