FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
- Former Florida players soundoff on UF-FSU game I & II
- (Free) Notebook: Cleveland's career coming to a close
- Recruiting Insider Notebook
- (Free) WCC: Running list of UF-FSU visitors
- Florida Great 8 Recruiting Targets
- Florida commit Manuel rehabbing image
- Behind-the-Scenes: In-depth look at Florida’s Game Week
- 20 Game Report Card: Mullen more like SOS & Meyer than Muschamp or McElwain
- Former Player Feedback: Church’s 10 Observations
- Pocket Presence: Learned skill or innate ability
- Parental Perspective: Greenard has come full circle
Happy Thanksgiving, Gator Nation! We hope you have a fun and relaxing day surrounded by food, family and, of course, football.
Gator Nation has earned a bit of a reputation for not always seeing the bright side of every situation. As with all fanbases, it appears that the one or two negative things tend to receive more attention than the hundred good things at times.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’re here to change that. There are many things that everyone associated with the football program has to be thankful for this year. This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, but here are 10 things you should be thankful for as a Gator fan on this Thanksgiving Day.
1. Dan Mullen
If you need evidence of why you should be grateful to have Dan Mullen as your coach, all you have to do is look at the state of football around the rest of the state. Florida State fired Willie Taggart a few weeks ago following a second straight clunker of a season and will enter the Swamp on Saturday with an interim coach. Some Miami fans probably wish they had an interim coach following their humiliating loss to Florida International last Saturday. Charlie Strong and USF will miss a bowl game for the first time since 2014. Even UCF, which went undefeated during the 2017 and 2018 regular seasons, has lost three games this year. The Gators are the only program in the state trending up right now. Barring a major upset on Saturday, Mullen will become the first coach in school history to win 10 games in each of his first two seasons. Remember when some of you wanted Chip Kelly or Scott Frost this time two years ago? Kelly is 7-16 at UCLA, and Frost is 9-14 at Nebraska. Be thankful that UF athletic director Scott Stricklin saw things differently.
2. Kyle Trask
Most of the time when a team loses its starting quarterback, its season is effectively over. The backup is less experienced and less talented, causing a massive drop-off in offensive production. Not only has that not happened since Kyle Trask replaced Feleipe Franks, but the offense has actually improved in some ways under his command. The lightly recruited high school backup from Texas didn’t take a single snap in a game during his first two years on campus. The staff that took a chance on him was fired. Just when it looked like he had an opportunity to grab the starting role in 2018, he broke his foot. He graduated this past summer. He had every reason in the world to transfer to a smaller school where playing time would be almost guaranteed. Instead, he stuck it out. This likely 10-win season and New Year’s Six bowl berth are due in large part to him.
3. Jonathan Greenard
Without doing any research, Jonathan Greenard has to be on the short list for best transfers in UF history. He cherry-picked the Gators as his destination because of his prior relationship with Todd Grantham, who recruited him to Louisville and coached him for two years. Despite a nagging ankle injury that hindered him for about a month, he leads the team with six sacks and 12 tackles-for-loss. He has a chance to earn himself a brick outside the stadium by being named a First Team All-American. You only get to watch him two more times, so make sure to appreciate every second of it.
4. The senior class
Every senior class has a reason to be celebrated, but the 2019 class is extra special. This is the most talented and deepest class since Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes and friends left after the 2009 season. Most were brought here by former coach Jim McElwain to help restore this downtrodden program to glory. While it never materialized under McElwain, they’ve played a huge role in changing the culture and leading the team to back-to-back highly successful seasons under Mullen. They didn’t check-out when the old coaching staff got fired or show any resentment to the younger players that Mullen and his staff are grooming to replace them. Their selflessness and commitment to their team is exemplary. The four senior receivers don’t care which one of them has a big game; they execute their blocking assignments and patiently wait their turn. Lamical Perine didn’t get frustrated by the offensive line’s struggles with run-blocking; he remained focused and found ways to contribute in other areas. David Reese is the glue that holds the defense together. It’s been a lot of fun to watch these guys grow over the past two seasons, and they deserve a tremendous sendoff by their fans on Saturday.
5. The throwback uniforms
Yes, beating Auburn in a top-10 matchup in front of a sellout crowd with College GameDay in attendance was fun, but the throwback uniforms made the day that much more special. There’s something about seeing a quarterback wearing a No. 11 1960s-style uniform and throwing two touchdowns that fills the air with nostalgia and good feelings even for fans that never saw Steve Spurrier play. It was the first time UF broke out the uniforms since 2006. Hopefully, they’ll become a Homecoming staple from now on.
6. Nick Savage
He’s been praised pretty much nonstop since the day he was hired, and he deserves every bit of it. In his latest and most impressive reclamation project yet, he turned freshman offensive lineman Ethan White from a 400-pound behemoth into a well-built 330-340-pounder in a span of eight months. White seemed like a questionable take for the Gators in the 2019 recruiting class because of the amount of time it would take to get him in game shape. As it turns out, he looks like a serviceable SEC guard by the end of his true freshman season. Savage’s miraculous work in the weight room not only gets the current Gators into peak shape, but it allows Mullen and his staff to take more chances on recruits with weight problems. They know Savage will have them looking good in no time.
7. Kyle Pitts
Kyle Pitts has transformed from an athletic freak with a ton of untapped potential into a star in 2019. He’s tied for fifth among tight ends nationally with 46 catches and is seventh with 566 yards. His blocking, while still not great, has improved since the beginning of the season. Enjoy him now because he’s going to make a lot of money playing football after next season.
8. Meaningful games in November
Just two years ago, the Gators entered November already out of the running for pretty much all of their goals and crawled to the finish line and a 4-7 finish. That seems like forever ago, doesn’t it? For the second season in a row, Florida is playing games in the final month of the season with the SEC East title and a New Year’s Six bowl still up for grabs. Sure, it would be nice to break through with a win in Jacksonville, but that game even meaning anything is an accomplishment that Gator fans shouldn’t take for granted.
9. The Miami game
What a cool way to open the season. Two of the most storied programs in the country going at in in the dead center of the state with a split crowd and a standalone television window. It likely won’t happen because of financial reasons and wanting to have opportunities to play home-and-homes with other Power Five schools, but this should be an annual series. Kudos to the two schools for agreeing to a home-and-home series in 2024-25. It’s a start.
10. Marco Wilson
He received some criticism from fans earlier in the season, but UF’s defense wouldn’t be anywhere near as good without him. How many players can change positions in the middle of the season and not skip a beat? He’s a valuable member of the Gators’ secondary, and he’ll face a big decision at the end of the season. If this is the end, it’s been a good ride, and Gator fans should be thankful for his contributions.
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