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Senior Bowl player to watch- DB Duke Dawson of Gators

Olivia Stacey

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Duke Dawson had big shoes to fill while at Florida. His predecessors included the likes of Keanu Neal, Vernon Hargreaves III, Marcus Maye, Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor, just to name a few. A group touted as “DBU,” who later became NFL defensive backs.

With the departure of both Tabor and Wilson last year, Dawson moved to corner this year — which showed his versatility as a defensive back. He started 18 games at nickel and cornerback over his last two years in Gainesville.

Although Dawson has played his last game in the Swamp, he’s following in the footsteps of former Florida cornerbacks.

Dawson will be taking the field in Saturday’s Senior Bowl to try to set himself apart from the rest of the cornerback field in the NFL draft. The last three days of workouts have also provided valuable evaluation time.

Most draft analysts have pegged him as a nickel defender. Despite being undersized at 5-foot-10, he’s shown he has solid instincts, speed and awareness as a zone defender.

Some of his weaknesses were exposed when playing man coverage — the ball often went over his head in the red zone when matched up against bigger receivers. The main criticism is that Dawson needs to time attack, jump, and turn better when playing man coverage.

Dawson said his experience playing with a strong core of defensive backs at Florida helped him prepare for the next level.

“We always competed with each other, no matter what we did — 5-yard sprints, shuffle drills,” Dawson told SEC Country. “We were always competing with each other. That was the love we had for one another. We were there to work. Those guys ahead of me, if I needed anything, they were always there for me on and off the field.”

Now, Dawson hopes to either be reunited with them or compete against them in the NFL.

Olivia is a multi-faceted sports reporter based in Tampa Bay where she has covered events from the College Football National Championship to the Stanley Cup Final. A native Floridian, she grew up rooting for Tampa’s sports teams, and graduated from East Lake High in Tarpon Springs. Olivia continued her education at the University of Florida where she received her broadcast journalism degree.

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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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Florida Gators

Gators can’t escape “Year of Quarterbacks living dangerously”

Matt Zemek

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Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

As Election Night once again showed, Florida has a hard time making up its mind. One of the most split states in the nation, yet again, delivered a very close set of elections which entered the national spotlight. Broward and Dade Counties made the national news. We know the drill by now.

We also know that in 2018, Florida-based college football programs in Power 5 conferences have caused similar levels of angst and division. Unimpressive performances rile up constituents at a level matched by politics.

In the Sunshine state this year, those performances — while hardly limited to one position — have all involved profound struggles at quarterback.

The Florida Gators were not exempt from this dynamic earlier in the year, but their quarterback woes had not been fully exposed.

Now, they have been.

The quarterback problems which were apparent at Miami in September, and which have lingered over Florida State for much of the season, have now hit Gainesville at full force. Florida coach Dan Mullen — immediately after this past Saturday’s blowout loss to Missouri, and then in the early parts of this week at subsequent sessions with the press — danced around the quarterback question after starter Feleipe Franks struggled once again, and backup Kyle Trask won loud cheers at The Swamp when replacing Franks in Week 10.

Mullen is caught in the middle of several crosscurrents, all carrying their own legitimate arguments in support of a particular approach to this situation:

Thought Process No. 1: Stick with Franks because his upside (arm strength and mobility) offers Florida the best chance to win, even with all of Franks’ limitations, chiefly his inaccuracy and his struggles in reading defenses The Gators can still get a January bowl. They still need to beat South Carolina and Florida State. They still need to finish this season well to generate momentum heading into the offseason.

Thought Process No. 2: Start Trask. No, finishing 9-3 doesn’t mean a whole lot in college football these days — at least not at a program such as Florida. Ask Mark Richt how valuable or beneficial it was to finish 9-3 at Georgia. Dawg fans got tired of 9-3 seasons, and UGA administration wanted him gone… and then upgraded the program by hiring Kirby Smart. A 9-3 season is not worth pursuing at all costs.

A Citrus Bowl bid is not worth keeping Franks on the field all the time Give Trask meaningful snaps. Give him the experience of preparing for a game knowing he will be the starter entrusted with, at the very least, the first quarter of the game. Explore how the offense can work differently with Trask so that one knows what Trask can bring to the table. Finding out what you have with Trask is the most important task for Mullen in November and the bowl game.

Thought Process No. 3: Stick with Franks not out of a desire to maximize chances of winning, but to express faith in a starting quarterback and thereby boost his confidence, which sends a message to other players that they won’t have to live in constant fear of a quick hook if they struggle. Franks always was a limited quarterback. He came up with a clutch fourth-quarter drive to beat LSU, but he threw a critical interception in that game and did not exhibit considerable efficiency.

He was a bystander in the win over Mississippi State simply hasn’t done much this season as a downfield passer. Those limitations were always there, but against Georgia and Missouri, they were exposed to a noticeable degree.

Interestingly enough, the very fact that Florida was 6-1 and owned a higher national profile before the Georgia game is precisely why the blowback against Franks — much like the pressure to have to do something about the Gators’ quarterback situation — is especially intense right now. This was never a crisis for Mullen.

Moreover, it still isn’t. This is what Mullen is inheriting, not what he recruited. Nevertheless, it FEELS more like a crisis because Florida had a 6-1 record and is now 6-3, its season standing on shaky ground.

Mullen has compelling reasons for standing his ground… and shifting his view of this situation.

It isn’t easy… but it is very much in line with Miami and Florida State, which have also been hounded by instability at football’s most important position.

Quarterbacks are leaders defined by the quality of their performances. In football as in politics, the state of Florida’s leaders elicit sharply divided and profoundly passionate reactions in 2018.

The University of Florida could not escape what befell Miami and FSU earlier in the season. Dan Mullen is left to handle a mess for a few more weeks. The one thing he knows, deep down: He has to recruit The Next Great Florida Quarterback, the field general he can trust, if his Florida tenure is to get off the ground in the next two years.

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