The Miami Hurricanes aren’t the only team in the state of Florida that’s going through a fierce battle for the starting QB position. There’s an open competition in Gainesville as well with no real front runner at this point. The battle for the Gators gig is between Luke Del Rio, Feleipe Franks and transfer Malike Zaire
This battle actually may be more intriguing than the one that’s taking place in Coral Gables. You have Luke Del Rio, who’s coming off two shoulder surgeries and only played in six games last season. You have Feleipe Franks who looked really sharp in the Spring. Then you have Malike Zaire, who’s a grad transfer from Notre Dame, who many thought would easily win the job, when he decided to transfer to Florida. However a funny thing happened on the way to swamp. The other two QBs decided to make the competition interesting.
For Del Rio, it’s an added wrinkle. This would have been his job if he didn’t suffer the injuries last year. Now with the emergence of Franks and Zaire, he’s just in the mix and is by no ways a front runner to win the job. That said, Del Rio seems confident now that he’s healthy according to Gator Country:
“My arm is 100 percent healthy,” he said. “And I found it pretty ridiculous that fans are saying I had a noodle arm when I was throwing the ball 80 yards in the first game. So, they have the memory of a goldfish I guess. I’ve never had like a ridiculous arm, like Feleipe has a ridiculous arm, but I’ve always had a pretty adequate arm. I’ve been able to make every throw on time. It’s the first time in my life I’ve heard ‘you don’t have a strong arm’. So, whatever.”
Clearly Del Rio is passionate about his health and abilities. He goes further to explain how the process in camp is working out:
“When I was younger, when I was a freshman or sophomore, I would think like that and it’s kind of a negative mindset,” said Del Rio. “You get so caught up in, ‘OK, I got six reps with the ones. He got five. So, does that mean I’m a little bit ahead?’ It’s just incidental. They really take the reps from all 18, 19 practices and whoever is the best, most consistent, performs, made the offense a well-oiled machine, that’s who’s going to start.”
“I think I had a very consistent camp,” he said. “I mean, we are still in camp for one more day, but last year I would have an off day here, an off day there. I thought I have been very consistent throughout camp. People know what to expect when I’m in. Really, consistency.”
You have to give Del Rio credit for being confident at this point after shoulder surgeries derailed his season. Can he win the starting job for the Gators? Clearly he thinks so and there’s only two weeks left until we find out who wins the job, if not earlier.
Vols Coach Pruitt- “Yes I hate Florida”
The Tennessee series with Florida has not been too kind to them as of late, but even as a heavy underdogs at the Swamp Saturday, they believe that they could change that. Oh, and then there’s your second year head coach wanting to make it clear he definitely dislikes the Gators.
Jeremy Pruitt, whose team suffered a humiliating opening-week loss at home to Georgia State and then followed that with another loss in heartbreaking fashion to BYU in overtime in week two, took to the radio airwaves Wednesday to answer questions from Volunteers fans. And, one wanted to make sure how much he despised Florida:
Jeremy Pruitt didn't mince his words when asked if he does, in fact, hate the Gators.
"Yes, I hate Florida."https://t.co/4Ux0DzPwYl
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) September 19, 2019
The caller asked a question about whether the Vols might be able to pull a shocker, like they did over Auburn in Pruitt’s inaugural season of 2018, but also very plainly put it to the former Alabama and Florida State defensive coordinator, “do you hate Florida?”
Pruitt answered the question about the mentality going into Gainesville, as a 14-point underdog in their SEC opener. Then threw in the line,
“And yes, I hate Florida.”
And, while Gators fans might take that insult, as perfect “bulletin board material” to motivate their team, the dislike has been there from both sides for 25 years or more.
Encouraging for the Vols, and even though it was under previous coach Butch Jones, Tennessee should have a mentality should be that they can hang with Florida. As each of the last two meetings in Gainesville under Jones, Tennessee had the lead in the final minute of the game, only to let Florida dramatically score the game-winning touchdown on a huge pass play.
A year ago in Knoxville, the Gators used six turnovers and two defensive touchdowns to wipe out Tennessee 47-21 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final.
Meanwhile, instead of the “level of hatred, or not” Gators coach Dan Mullen has bigger concerns about using dual quarterbacks in Kyle Trask and Emory Jones. And, he must deal with the expectations that the Gators should, once again, wipe out “The Big Orange.”
Then, let the media and fans talk about insults, afterwards.
Gators coach Mullen likely to use two QBs against Tennessee
After losing starting QB Feleipe Franks to an ankle injury on Saturday night against SEC rival Kentucky, the Gators have now found themselves with an unexpected decision as to who will be starting QB?
Franks 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. However, it’s likely that RS Freshman Emory Jones will also take some snaps at quarterback this season.
Mullen sat down with Emory Jones and Kyle Trask this morning and told them they're ready for this moment because of all the reps they've gotten in practice.
— Robbie Andreu (@RobbieAndreu) September 16, 2019
Mullens decision to potentially go with both QBs could be not only to determine which guy will be his offensive leader for the rest of the season, but to also give their next opponent, Tennessee, more to prepare for as the head into their next conference rivalry game.
The Gators second year coach announced on Monday that Franks is officially done for the season.
On a fourth-and-one scramble with 3:21 remaining, Franks was sandwiched between multiple Wildcat defenders and 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.
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 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.
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.
Trask went in for Franks and went on to pull out a come from behind win for the Gators, completing 9 for 13 passes, with 126 passing yards. He’ll be competing for playing time with Jones, the No. 85 overall prospect in the Class of 2018 and four-star dual-threat quarterback.
Jones saw limited action last season to maintain redshirt status, but completed 12-16 passes for 125 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the four games he play in. Jones is also more of a dual threat to run and that will give Mullen and staff more options on play calls, if/when he’s on the field.
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