Spelling correction from last week: Jordan T'a'amu
Record: 4-1, 2-1 in SEC
The Florida Gators have not done exceedingly well this season, except win most of their games. In days of old, a visit to the Swamp tended to make opponents very apprehensive. In the present, a trip to Gator land may command respect, but not necessarily fear. It is unclear, at present, what the Gators are capable of doing.
It all starts at the quarterback position. Sophomore Feleipe Franks is the starter. Franks has been erratic this season. He has had trouble with accuracy, not being able to complete passes to open receivers, and not picking up open receivers. In the Florida loss to Kentucky, Franks was 17 of 38 passing attempts. He threw two touchdowns and was intercepted once. Franks was the leading rusher for the Gators in the game with 44 yards. The leading receiver for Florida in the contest was sophomore Kadarius Toney, who had 35 yards in receptions. Then, in the next two games against Colorado State and Tennessee, Franks threw the ball a combined 33 times, completing 50 percent of his passes. In the Colorado State game when Franks threw less, 15 times, the Gators scored 48 points. In the Tennessee game, when Franks threw 18 times, Florida scored 47 points. Last week, against Mississippi State when Franks threw more, 22 of 31, the Gators scored less, but won 13-6 on the road. When Franks throws less, the Gators score more, at least up until now. He did not throw a touchdown against Mississippi State. These figures exclude Florida’s crushing of FCS opponent Charleston Southern at the beginning of the season. The Gators have only one other quarterback listed on their depth chart this week, and he is sophomore Kyle Trask.
Florida, like the Purple and Gold, are a runningback by committee team. Like the Purple and Gold, they do it very well. Freshman Dameon Pierce leads the Gators with 255 yards for the season, averaging 10.2 yards per rush. Junior Jordan Scarlett has 203 yards rushing for the campaign, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Junior Lamical Perine has 170 yards rushing on the season, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Pierce and Scarlett have rushed for two scores each this season. It would not be a surprise, at times, to see Florida use a running back to carry the ball from the quarterback position.
One thing to note: Despite Franks’ inconsistencies, the Gators have 13 touchdowns through the air, with six scores on the ground this year.
The Gators pass for 200.3 yards per contest, and the two primary receivers are juniors Freddie Swain and Vann Jefferson. Each player has caught three touchdowns. Swain averages 43 yards per contest in receptions and Jefferson averages 31 yards receiving per game.
The Gator offensive line has five starters back from the 2017 season. The best two linemen are the tackles. They are senior left tackle Martez Ivey and junior right tackle Jawaan Taylor. They have done a good job protecting the Florida quarterback this year.
Like the Florida offense, the defense has been solid but not spectacular. The Gators have allowed 4.0 yards per rush and 5.7 yards per pass this season. The Gators give up 4.6 yards per play on defense. They play defense better than Old Miss, but anybody plays better defense than Old Miss. They are good at sacking the quarterback. Florida has 15 sacks this season, good for a tie for second place in league play. They sacked the Mississippi State quarterback six times last week.
Junior defensive linemen Jachai Polite and Jabari Zuniga have four and 3.5 sacks respectively. Defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, a junior, has two sacks, and leads the team in tackles with 30, 14 solos. Junior linebackers Vosean Joseph and Rayshad Jackson are tied for second on the team in tackles with 28 stops. Joseph has 13 solo stops and Jackson has 10 unassisted tackles.
Defensive end CeCe Jefferson is a good defensive lineman who does not start.
First year Florida coach Dan Mullen is doing a week by week job of trying to restore the winning ways of the Florida football team. An important part of the restoration program is the quarterbacking position, a position which has been a missing piece of the puzzle for the Gators the past three seasons. Mullen has a reputation of working well with quarterbacks. However, as long as the puzzle remains unsolved, the better the chances are for the Purple and Gold.