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Gators defense missed great opportunity Saturday

Matt Zemek

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In discussions of politics, you will hear references to “The Two Americas” This can refer to various divides in our nation, but the most central one is the division between ideological visions which give rise to red states and blue states.

In college football, fans of the Florida Gators are confronted with a non-ideological but very real problem after Saturday’s 24-17 loss to Georgia.

Yes, Georgia had to win this game and Florida did not – at least not with the same level of urgency. Yes, Georgia had Jake Fromm and Florida had Kyle Trask. Yes, Georgia has achieved at a level in recent years which Florida has not matched.

Yet, even though Georgia has built itself into a noticeably stronger program – with Florida trying to play catch-up – it was still discouraging to see how the Gators lost on Saturday.

No, the offense’s limitations do not represent the most alarming part of this loss. They need to be addressed, but part of this offense’s low ceiling comes from Feleipe Franks not being on the field with his equation-changing speed and running ability.

On a broader level, it is beyond obvious that Mullen hasn’t yet found his ideal quarterback. He better find one soon – which is another conversation for another time – but given the talent we saw on Saturday in Jacksonville, it was never realistic to expect UF to score a lot against Kirby Smart’s defense.

Hoping UF’s offense would thrive? Great – we always should hope.

Expecting UF’s offense to flourish? Not in a reasonable universe.

The Florida path to victory always needed to run through coordinator Todd Grantham’s defense. This was true mostly because Georgia’s offense had been atrocious the previous few weeks against South Carolina and Kentucky, but partly because the Gators were getting back two outstanding defensive players, Jon Greenard and Jabari Zuniga.

Florida figured to have the pass rush it needed to keep Georgia contained… and make Jake Fromm eat dirt.

Well, we all saw how THAT turned out. Georgia was able to protect Fromm on one third down after another. Third-down conversions were the difference in the game.

Yet, as bad as the third-down pass rush was, the secondary was equally bad. Trey Dean got lost on several occasions, and his teammates either suffered coverage busts or were half a step slow, or didn’t pick up the flight of the ball in time to deflect a Fromm pass.

It wasn’t one component of secondary play which killed Florida – it was every component of secondary play.

Georgia’s slumbering defense found an awakening against Florida. The Gators did nothing to keep Georgia fast asleep. That was the missed opportunity for UF on Saturday.

So, as we look to the future – and I am thinking about 2020, not the next month – Dan Mullen has a real choice to make, a choice only he can know how to handle.

If Mullen knows he can develop a high-quality quarterback – think of Will Grier under Jim McElwain; we don’t have to expect Danny Wuerffel or Tim Tebow – he can reasonably say that his offense will eventually be able to figure out Kirby Smart, the coach Mullen has to beat if he eventually wants to win SEC East championships and go to Atlanta in December.

However, if Mullen knows he won’t have that high-end QB (which is its own problem, but can’t be wished away if events break in the wrong direction), he has to think about firing Grantham.

No, Grantham isn’t terrible. He takes advantage of bad offenses, but against moderately good or great offenses, Grantham falls short. We saw a perfect example against Georgia.

Mullen has to weigh the resources of his offense versus the capability of his defense. If the offense figures to be limited, Mullen needs to get a rock-star defensive coordinator.

Florida shouldn’t be settling for a coordinator who can’t pounce on Georgia when the Bulldogs are vulnerable. Florida needs a defensive coordinator who can throttle SEC opponents with noticeable weaknesses.

No, I wouldn’t expect Grantham or any UF defensive coordinator to stop this year’s Alabama or LSU offenses… but Todd Grantham, if he is to earn his paycheck, has to be able to handle every other 2019 SEC offense.

On that score, he has clearly fallen short.

If Mullen develops his offense to an elite level, Grantham’s defense would be perfectly fine for this program. With a high-powered offense, Florida would have a lot of leads, which would mean a lot of must-pass situations for opposing teams, which would mean Grantham could unleash his blitzes and have fun.

But… if Florida can’t play that way, there is no sense in keeping Grantham around. Find a better mastermind for a defense which needed to bring some bite, but didn’t even have any bark against the Dawgs.

These are “The Two Floridas.”

Not just offense and defense, but the Gators Dan Mullen WANTS, versus the Gators Dan Mullen HAS, and will have in 2020.

Mullen needs to be honest with himself about the team he will have next year. That calculus ought to determine whether Mullen retains Todd Grantham for next season.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

Florida Gators

Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday

Florida Football Insiders

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Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.

The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:

A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.

With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.

As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.

Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.

It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.

Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.

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Florida Gators

Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools

Jamil King

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.

The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of  former DB C.J. Henderson.

Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.

The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.

Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?

Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.

The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.

Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.

Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.

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