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Florida Gators

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

Three state receivers look to make Senior Bowl impression

Florida Football Insiders

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Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

A trio of Florida collegiate pass catchers will look to make an impact at Saturday’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, and it’s very possible that one will be selected the opening night the NFL Draft in April.

First, the Gators have a duo of receivers working out for the South team in this week. As wideouts, Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland have been going through practices and getting attention this week. Obviously, their experience against SEC competition is a key to helping them prepare to take on the North squad Saturday afternoon on the NFL Network.

Cleveland was a late add to the South roster only being notified on late Monday afternoon about the prospect of joining the senior All-Stars in Mobile.

And, as SI.com profiled earlier this week, both Florida guys are anxious to demonstrate what they can do and are grateful that they have each other in Alabama for the experience.

“I’ve seen Mr. Nagy (director of the Senior Bowl), and I heard him say something about Tyrie, so I was like, I was trying to creep in to see what he was talking about,” Jefferson admitted to the site.

“Then he looked at me and said ‘I invited your boy!’, and I asked who and he said ‘Tyrie!’, and so I went and called Tyrie, I’m like ‘Tyrie, where you at?’, and Tyrie’s already in Mobile, so my man, my dawg is here, so it’s just got the week much better, I’m excited to go out there and practice with him for the last time, play in a game with him for the last time, it’s exciting.” 

Jefferson, who’s the son of former NFL receiver Shawn Jefferson, had two solid but not spectacular seasons in Gainesville after transferring from Ole Miss catching for just over 1,100 yards and 12 TDs in 23 games.

Likewise, Cleveland does not have fantastic numbers and some of that had to do with the shaky quarterback play at times during his career at Florida.

Still, they are both large bodied and Cleveland ran a sub 4.4 (unofficial), 40 yard dash this week, too.

Now, the probable first round pick from the state as a receiver is FAU tight end, Harrison Bryant. While he’s not a household name on the national scale, Bryant has outstanding hands and put up monster numbers for a tight end in 2019.

Flourishing and former coach Lane Kiffin’s system Bryant (above) led all tight ends in FBS with 65 catches, 1,004 yards and 7 TDs, as the FAU owls rolled to a second Conference USA championship in 3 years.

Bryant also has some raving about his route running, hands and his blocking from the practices this week in Mobile, too:

Sure, there will be a lot more time for scrutiny of these guys after the Senior Bowl is played from the scouting combine to their individual workouts and team interviews. Still, they are three names to keep an eye on Saturday and beyond, as the draft process continues.

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Florida Gators

Former Gators QB Franks transfers to Arkansas

Florida Football Insiders

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Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks has decided on a new spot for his final year of eligibility and he won’t even leave the SEC. The Gators starting quarterback on and off for the last three years announced on Monday night that he will be transferring to the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Frank’s ended several weeks of speculation as to where he might land by announcing his plans on social media:

Franks help lead the Gators resurgence two years ago under first-year coach Dan Mullen, including a Peach Bowl New Year’s Six game victory over the Michigan Wolverines. Florida finished 10-3 with momentum headed into this season.

However, with sky high expectations for Franks, Mullen and the Gators this past season (they were a preseason top 10 team)  Franks played inconsistently for a lot of the early part of the season. Then, things ended horrifically as Franks suffered a nasty fractured leg at Kentucky ending his season.

The 6’6 Franks finished his Gator career with 28 starts 4,500+ yards passing and 28 TDs. However, his at times poor play, including crucial interceptions enraged Gator fans. Next, he announced December 1st that he would be transferring for one more season, as a graduate to be eligible immediately.

Arkansas is in desperation to rebuild after having fired coach Chad Morris after two horrible seasons. They hired Georgia former offensive line coach Sam Pittman at their head coach and Franks will be playing for new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who spent last season with FSU.

Arkansas is in desperate need of a quality proven quarterback, as they had just three scholarship signal caller options in senior Jack Lindsey, redshirt-sophomore John Stephen Jones and redshirt-freshman K.J. Jefferson. Jones, who is the grandson of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is considered the most experienced of the group. But to show how bad it is, he’s thrown for just 106 yards and 2 touchdowns with 2 interceptions in six career games.

So, clearly Franks, if/when fully healed from the ankle fracture will be heavily counted on for 2020.

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