Having had a bounce-back 2018 season under coach Dan Mullen, there’s a lot of optimism for the future of Florida football. And on Wednesday, there was the latest example of what kind of talent the Gators seemingly have on their roster in year in and year out.
That’s when Florida held their 2019 Pro Day for their NFL draft prospects. And, it is believed that the Gators may have as many as five players taken in the first two rounds of the upcoming late April NFL draft.
The Gators have a litany of pro prospects led by defensive linemen CeCe Jefferson and Jachai Polite, plus linebacker Vosean Joseph and defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
Plus on the offensive side of the ball they may have the best offensive tackle in the draft in Jawaan Taylor.
We have written previously about Taylor stock being on the rise in and around the NFL Combine, and it’s no secret that on Wednesday most of the NFL teams front office personnel and scouts were there to see one more time, if he is really top 10 material.
— Matt Baker (@MBakerTBTimes) March 27, 2019
As it currently stands now, the Buccaneers (5th pick) are in front of the Jaguars (7th), who also have a need a tackle and likewise, the Dolphins (13th) who could also use a young tackle opposite Laremy Tunsil. And, Tampa Bay has already bolstered their offensive line earlier in free agency by re-signing tackle Donovan Smith to a huge deal, but they need a right tackle for their future, too.
It’s not believed that Taylor will last much beyond the top 10 or the top 15 at the latest in the draft.
Back to the defensive side of the ball, we also wrote that teams would be wrong to judge Polite by what he did or didn’t accomplish at the NFL Combine or how he interviewed. Instead, we believe they should emphasize the game film of the Gators pass rusher.
And, out of the same mold of numerous Gator defensive backs, who have been drafted highly in recent year is Gardner-Johnson. His stock rose greatly at the end of last year, including him being the Peach Bowl defensive MVP with a pick six TD in the win over Michigan New Year’s Day.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 27, 2019
Bill Belichick has been coming to eyeball Gators for the past 15 years and has taken numerous Florida players in the draft in the 2000s. And he and others have known that no matter the overall record, there has always been talent.
Talent that worked out again, Wednesday.
Gators still hold strong in our weekly power rankings
This past week was another one of disappointing football for fans of Florida Football. In the NFL, all three teams lost. While the only winners of the week were Miami, Florida Atlantic, and USF. Two of these teams will crack my top 5, with one being left out.
Let’s see how the rest of the top 5 breaks down:
Florida Gators- The Gators hold onto the top spot, despite dropping last week’s game to LSU. The game was much closer than the scoreboard reads off. The Gators were in it until late into the fourth quarter before a Kyle Trask pick would result in the Tigers going up two scores.
Florida played one of their better games of the season in a hostile environment. They still have a lot in front of them and control their own destiny in the SEC East race.
UCF Knights- UCF got a much-needed BYE after dropping 2 of their last 3 games. The Knights are still the second-best team, as of right now because no one else has stepped up to take it from them. They will look to bounce back with an easy opponent at home against East Carolina. Then, they will hope for some upsets within the conference to get them back to the AAC Title game.
Miami Hurricanes- The got a big ACC win last Friday night. They were able to win at home and against a ranked Virginia team in a sloppy affair.
The Canes will have another winnable game this week against Georgia Tech. The question for this team still remains: can they get consistent offense?
Jarren Williams could be back at QB, despite N’Kosi Perry winning last week and almost completing a comeback against Virginia Tech. If the Canes can prevail against the Yellow Jackets then again at Pitt, they will head into the Florida State game with a lot more on the line.
Florida Atlantic- The Owls continued their winning streak last week, pushing it to four in a row. Since losing against a pair of top 20 teams, including a top 5, they have been playing some of the most consistent ball in the state. They have a huge game this week home against Marshall.
Catch us back at 🏠this Friday night‼️
— FAU Football (@FAU_Football) October 15, 2019
A win here puts the Owls in an excellent position in the Conference USA standings and sets up a big game in two weeks against Western Kentucky.
Jacksonville Jaguars- The only NFL team to appear are the Jags. Despite losing to the Saints for their second loss in a row, they make the list.
The Jags have lost both games by a touchdown, each showcasing they are in each game. And, QB Gardner Minshew is giving fans in North Florida something to get excited about this year.
With college teams like FSU getting blown out and USF at an ugly 3-3, the Jags are the right call.
They should bounce back against the winless Bengals. Jacksonville is still hanging around at 2-4 in the division, if they can win against the Bengals and Jets, they will play the Texans in London for a potential swing game in the division.
Confidence gained in Gators wild loss Saturday night
Losing stings, especially in a sport with only 12 precious regular-season games, 12 unique opportunities to prove one’s worth and make a statement of significance. The Florida Gators’ 42-28 loss to the LSU Tigers on Saturday night surely contained its frustrating components for Dan Mullen and his team.
This game didn’t have to end the way it did.
Without a pivotal holding penalty in a 28-28 tie in the third quarter, Florida might have remained in the hunt to the very end, possibly with an outright advantage. The Gators played the Tigers dead-even up to that point, matching LSU’s loaded offense every step of the way.
After roughly 40 minutes of thrillingly close combat, Florida finally made the mistakes which had been commonplace through the previous six weeks of the season, the mistakes which figured to be more prevalent on Saturday night, but had been pushed to the side by an improved Gator offense.
Where was THIS, many Gator fans surely wondered over those first 40 minutes Where was the Kyle Trask who got rid of the ball quickly and yet still managed to throw deep-intermediate passes for surgical 20-yard gains? That guy wasn’t on the field against Auburn, but he was against LSU.
Where were the wide receivers and tight ends before Saturday night in Baton Rouge? They also played their best game of the season on Saturday, finding seams in the LSU back seven and offering yet more evidence of Dan Mullen’s marvelous ability to scheme players open in the structure of his offense.
This offense was so good through two and a half quarters that the Gators began to offer legitimate reason that they could actually win outright as a double-digit underdog in Death Valley. It didn’t seem like wishful thinking. The offense kept proving itself with long touchdown marches. LSU’s defense remained toothless.
The holding penalty which changed the game was so influential because it wiped out a gain of nearly 30 yards by Florida. The UF offense was on the rampage yet again before the music finally stopped and the visitors’ momentum abruptly left Tiger Stadium, a hasty exit which ought to be a source of agony.
Florida didn’t play a complete 60-minute game. Only LSU did. Everyone in the Florida locker room will carry that wound, that failure, into the rest of the season.
Losing is not without consequence or pain. We can acknowledge this.
We can also acknowledge that some losses carry a pain which is more permanent than others. This loss won’t leave a permanent mark on the Gators. It sets the stage for next week’s important test at South Carolina, which upset Georgia on the road. It also leads to the biggest game the Gators will play this year, the Cocktail Party against Georgia in three weeks.
If part of the story of this LSU loss was that the Gators didn’t finish the game, the other part is that Florida gained a lot of belief that it can beat the Dawgs in Jacksonville when that moment arrives.
One day did a lot to change the way the SEC East is viewed.
Sure, it could be the case that Georgia was just “off” against South Carolina, but the Dawgs were 20-point favorites. South Carolina was playing with a quarterback who was No. 2 on the depth chart on opening day, and HE – Ryan Hilinski – got injured. The Gamecocks ultimately beat Georgia in Athens with their third-stringer relative to the start of the season.
Under no circumstances should Georgia lose that game. Given that the Bulldogs failed to trounce Notre Dame (a team which struggled to put away USC on Saturday), and played a sloppy first half at Tennessee a week ago, maybe Kirby Smart’s team isn’t as formidable as many people thought before the season, or even two weeks ago.
Maybe Georgia is not the colossus who towers over the rest of the SEC East.
Florida’s ability to not merely compete with LSU on the road (better than Georgia did at LSU last year, it should be noted), but to display a high-level offensive performance, offers proof that the Gators can truly play with Georgia on even terms.
This hardly guarantees that they will, but one has to admit that if Georgia seemed several tiers above Florida heading into Week 7, these teams seem to be on much more even footing heading into Week 8.
Yes, Florida lost, and the outcome is not free of consequence. The loss shrinks UF’s margins and forces the Gators to take care of business against South Carolina and Missouri. Yet, the quality of the offense and the performance of Kyle Trask in particular give Dan Mullen legitimate reason for optimism when the Gators meet Georgia.
The SEC East title seems more attainable, not less. If a loss can do that, it is clear that as long as the Gators keep improving, this season could still be as successful as the Gator Nation hoped back in late August.
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