FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
- Defensive tackle commits to Florida
- Mullen Monday: Gators got better last week
- Former Player Feedback: Church’s 10 Observations
- 10 Takeaways: Two programs going in opposite directions
- There's no question, this is Trask's team now
- Recruit Reaction: The atmosphere was amazing
With the regular season a third of the way over, it seems like a good time to reflect on what we learned in the Gators’ first four games, what questions still remain and what might happen the rest of the season.
Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction as the Gators prepare to host Towson on Saturday.
1) Despite losing quarterback Feleipe Franks to a season-ending dislocated ankle, coach Dan Mullen has opened up his offense more than ever. In Franks’ nearly three quarters against Kentucky, he threw 17 passes. Kyle Trask threw 13 in one quarter of action. In his first career start against Tennessee, Trask threw 14 passes in each half and threw for the most yards by a Gator (293) since 2016. It felt like a lot of the passes Mullen called when Franks was his quarterback were shorter, higher percentage throws. They’ve thrown the ball down the field a lot with Trask at quarterback, which feels a bit odd given that he doesn’t have as strong of an arm as Franks. Some fans have said Mullen trusts Trask more than he did Franks, but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If he trusted Trask more, why wouldn’t he have started him all along? Most likely, Mullen realized that his running game is nowhere near where it needs to be and decided to get more aggressive in the passing game. This decision just so happened to coincide with Trask’s ascension into the starting role.
2) The defense has a completely different dynamic to it when Amari Burney is healthy and on the field. After missing the UT Martin and Kentucky games due to injury, Burney tied for the team lead with five tackles, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble against the Volunteers. A converted safety, he’s the Gators’ fastest linebacker and one of the defense’s best all-around athletes. He has the speed to cover running backs and tight ends and the physicality to stuff runs. He was targeted just once by the Vols, a check-down for two yards early in the game. His continued emergence should allow defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to take David Reese out of the game in obvious passing situations and get his best 11 pass defenders on the field. Mullen said on Monday that one of Burney’s greatest assets is his versatility. He can bounce between linebacker and star to create the most favorable matchups for UF.
3) He’s not a finished product yet, but Kyle Pitts is Florida’s best receiving threat at tight end since Jordan Reed. After catching just five passes in the first two games, Pitts has started tapping into his enormous potential over the past two games. He caught a career-high four passes for a career-high 63 yards against Kentucky and followed it up with four more receptions for 62 yards and score against Tennessee. He seems to always be open over the middle of the field, and he and Trask have built a good rapport in their short time playing together. He’s also coming off perhaps the finest game of his career as a blocker.
1) How long will they wait to insert redshirt freshman Richard Gouraige into the starting lineup, and where will they start him? It seems inevitable that he’s going to be in the lineup at some point. The Gators rank just 12th in the league in rushing, and right tackle Jean Delance has struggled in pass protection as well. They inserted Gouraige at left tackle and moved Stone Forsythe to right tackle for a couple of series against UK. In the Tennessee game, they plugged him in at left guard and flipped Brett Heggie to right guard, replacing Christopher Bleich, who has seemed lost at times throughout the season. Gouraige seemed to hold his own in both games, with no glaring mistakes. The question becomes who do they take out of the starting unit: Delance or Bleich? This should be something to watch over the next few weeks.
2) How will Mullen manage giving Emory Jones valuable experience while also doing what’s best for the team? Midway through the second quarter against the Vols, Mullen brought in Jones and essentially wasted a possession. Mullen ran it twice and threw a screen pass on third-and-11, clearly not trusting Jones to throw downfield. The three-and-out killed UF’s momentum and let the Vols hang around longer than they should’ve. Of Jones’ six passes in the game, only two of them were thrown more than five yards downfield, and they came on their final series while leading by 31 points. This offense needs Trask to be their full-time quarterback, but Jones might be the future at the position. How Mullen balances this will be interesting to watch.
1) Defensive end Jonathan Greenard will be named First Team All-SEC after this season, or at least he should. Greenard has dominated the first four games in a way no Gator defensive lineman has since at least Dante Fowler Jr. and maybe even longer ago than that. He’s second in the SEC with 3.5 sacks and tied for first with 5.5 tackles-for-loss. Those statistics don’t even take into account all of the times his pressure has led to someone else getting a sack or the quarterback making an errant throw. Florida will play three marquee opponents in the next five weeks in Auburn, LSU and Georgia. If he continues to produce against those opponents, it will be very tough for anyone to leave him off of their ballots. He’s one of the best defensive linemen in the league and maybe the country.