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State schools see Injury adversity strike already

(Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire)
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We are only two weeks into the college football season and schools from Tallahassee to Miami and from Tampa to Gainesville there are questions about prominent players health.

For Florida State, head coach Jimbo Fisher confirmed to the media Tuesday that the Noles will be without star Safety Derwin James for several weeks. He injured his knee in the 3rd quarter of the blow out win over Charleston Southern. In addition to being a starter he brings play maker mentality to the FSU D. But for now, he’s in the rest and rehab mode.

In Miami, the Canes have had two easy wins at home and may have a trap waiting in Carolina Mountains, as they take on Appalachian State Saturday. Miami is already without starting DT Courtel Jenkins sidelined with a meniscus injury in his knee, but now they add arguably there most aggressive defender in the back seven of the defense with fifth year-senior Adrian Colbert nursing the same meniscus injury. New Head Coach Mark Richt will have his hands full on several fronts this Saturday.

At USF, the Bulls venture on the road for the first time when they hit the Carrier Dome for Syracuse. And the midweek good news is that all world running back Marlon Mack appears that he will be back at least to carry some in Western New York. Mack, who gained 1,400 yards a year ago, returned to practice after clearing concussion protocol. The USF junior was crunched by a Towson defender in the first half of game one and suffered not only the blow to the head but an upper chest injury. With FSU looming in two weeks at home, the Bulls need Mack healthy and carving up defenses again.

Finally in Gator country, it doesn’t look like star WR Antonio Callaway will be able to play or at least be effective, in the game Saturday with North Texas. The sophomore, who is the top Florida return threat as well,  injured his quad in the Kentucky game last week and was limping in practice Tuesday afternoon. Those are typically 2-4 week injuries depending on the severity, which means he should be better for the early showdown in Knoxville, but more importantly for the full slate of the SEC. For now, though, it’s hope and wait.

You can scheme, prepare, dial up the best stuff, but you have to have the best players to succeed and while none of the above seem to be season threatening injuries, they are a reminder of the ultimate unknown: who’s hurt?

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Florida Gators

Gators dramatic comeback Saturday at Kentucky was “mixed bag”

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Life is complicated. College football is part of life. A very complicated reality greets the Florida Gators, as they head home to Gainesville.

They won a game. They lost their starting quarterback.

They showed they could fight when everything was going against them. They did not show that they are anywhere close to the Georgia Bulldogs, or that they are ready to be a nasty, imposing, overwhelmingly strong team which can go 11-1 in a regular season and feel it left something on the table.

There is a lot to like, and a lot to hate, about the Gators’ situation.

Let’s start with the quarterback situation. Feleipe Franks suffered an ugly leg injury on Saturday night. I won’t play a doctor on Twitter or here in print, so instead of making a guess about his situation, I will simply tell you to stay tuned to Florida Football Insiders for more on his situation as fresh information becomes available.

Franks was supposed to be the guy who led Florida to a higher plateau in 2019, but if he is out, the Gators have to start fresh.

The really good news is that Kyle Trask came off the bench in the fourth quarter and directed two terrific drives as the Gators’ backup quarterback. Trask could not have handled his situation any better.

Backups are told to be ready. Trask was supremely ready. He seized his opportunity. He immediately won over the locker room and his teammates. The offense flowed rhythmically when Trask was in the game. Dan Mullen found plays Trask could execute.

Trask will obviously need to develop if he is to meet the challenges which face him in the weeks ahead. That said, if he could perform under pressure against Kentucky – on the road, at night, trailing in the fourth quarter – it becomes possible to envision a world in which he handles other high-stress situations with poise and composure.

Is Trask ready for the entirely different challenge of being the starter for the rest of the season? Is he talented enough to handle 60-minute wars against Auburn and Georgia and others? We will have to wait to find out, and yes, skepticism is merited before improving the Gators’ odds of challenging Georgia for the SEC East title

I wouldn’t count on Trask being the answer to Florida’s problems – most Gator fans can acknowledge that. Yet, there’s a difference between an unlikely scenario and an absurd one. Trask flourishing for the rest of the season is unlikely… but against Kentucky, he refuted the notion that such a scenario would be absurd. Florida might have gained more than it honestly expected from Trask.

Beyond the quarterback situation, Florida’s mixed bag against Kentucky was manifested in the fact that the Gators continued to make a lot of inexcusable mistakes… and yet won an SEC road game.

The secondary remains inconsistent. The defense did not impose its will on the opposition, on a night when Kentucky played a backup quarterback, Sawyer Smith. Too many untimely penalties are still part of this team’s identity.

This is frustrating… but it also shows that if the Gators can eve clean up their act, their ceiling could be higher than it currently is. No, this does not look like a team which will ever be dominant, but with a 3-0 record in a weak SEC East, the Gators are still in very good position for a New Year’s Six bowl. They might not blow people out, but they could win a bunch of hard-fought slugfests akin to this one.

Fans rightly want Florida to challenge Georgia. That’s where this season seems likely to fall short of its highest aspirations. Yet, the Gators’ win over Kentucky gives them reason to think that they can return to a high-profile bowl game.

This program is not ready to take the next step up the ladder, to the Georgia-LSU tier just below Alabama in the SEC. It also does not appear ready to stumble and lose ground relative to 2018.

Florida could be in a much better situation right now. It could also be in a far worse situation.

That is what a mixed bag looks like.

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Florida Gators

Gators lose QB Feleipe Franks to horrific leg injury

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On a night in Lexington, Kentucky, when the Gators top 10 hopes were coming unraveled, their starting quarterback and leader of their offense went down with a horrible leg injury in a third quarter. And, Feleipe Franks is likely done for the season.

On a fourth-and-one scramble with 3:21 remaining, Franks was sandwiched between multiple Wildcat defenders and being bent backwards. Even though replays weren’t shown, it was clear he had suffered a dislocated right ankle injury.

So bad was the injury, that trainers who came to assist Franks on the turf at Commonwealth Stadium immediately put an air cast on his right leg. Then he was eventually carted off to the locker room after nearly the entire Gator team had surrounded him and wished him well.

All signs pointing to the magnitude of the injury to being severe.

Frank’s has been a “lightning rod of criticism” throughout his Florida career, but did silence a lot of those critics with his play down the stretch of last season. That included a late season comeback win over South Carolina, playing well in the rivalry victory over Florida State, and then, following that up with a good performance in the easy victory in the Peach Bowl over Michigan.

Still coach Dan Mullen has stuck by he junior signal-caller.

We wrote about Franks and the Gators being sloppy in the opening game of the year with Miami. However, some of that could be chalked up to Miami’s aggressive defense and it being a first game.

However, Franks and the offense struggled much of the first three quarters of Saturday night’s SEC opener at Kentucky. At the time he left with an injury he was an efficient 12-17 for 174 yards with a TD pass and 1 INT. Still, they had only put one touchdown on the board while trailing 21 – 10.

Frank’s was replaced by redshirt junior Kyle Trask, who was seeing his first significant action of his Florida career, especially trailing by double figures in a hostile SEC road environment.

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