Is it good to be a Florida Gator?
Dan Mullen made his coaching debut hosting Charleston Southern.
Mullen also made his first coaching decision, Florida has suspended seven players, including star defensive end CeCe Jefferson and offensive playmaker Kadarius Toney, from its season opener against Charleston Southern on Saturday.
ESPN reported that the suspensions are due to failure to “live up to the Gator standard.”
The seven-player suspension represents the first significant discipline from the first year coach, who came to Florida this offseason after nine seasons as head coach at Mississippi State.
The Gators dismantled Charleston Southern 53-6, allowing the fill-in players to fill in just fine.
The season is long. Previewing the work, Mullen has ahead in a very talented conference can’t go unnoticed. Especially, since the identity of the University is the football team.
The Gators have gone 60-41 over the last eight years, that is not okay for a program of its rich history. Mullen will have to change that culture immediately.
But first, Mullen and co-offensive coordinators John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales have to make a definitive call on a quarterback.
Feleipe Franks is the best talent with the size, the arm, the tools and the upside to grow into the job if allowed more time – and with the better coaching. Franks proved that in the opening win, he is the first Gators QB with five passing TDs in a game since Chris Leak in 2004.
The Gators offensive line that struggled in pass protection and wasn’t as robust or as physical as it needed to be last year, but the quarterback play has to step up and shine, and the rest of the skill players need to play up to their talent.
Fortunately, enough talent is back to run defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme and do far more. The secondary is worth the ticket for the Gators.
It’s still a young group, but there’s a whole lot of talent and a whole slew of options around leading pickoff man CJ Henderson – who came up with four interceptions – at one side, and the terrific Marco Wilson on the other.
Jeawon Taylor is a solid-hitter at one safety spot, and second-leading tackler Chauncey Gardner will be a bigger playmaker in a hybrid safety/linebacker position.
Jefferson who was suspended is their best defensive player. Part defensive end, part linebacker, now he’s in the right position for him working as a Rush End in the new defensive system.
At 6-1 and 242 pounds, he’s not quite big enough to be a true lineman, but he’s got the upside to blow up as a top pass rusher once he gets past his offseason shoulder surgery. Fourth on the team with 47 tackles, he led the way with 4.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He might double his sack total when he’s right.
Franks is the key to a successful season for the Gators. Fans have reason to be excited. But Little Haiti was not built overnight. Gators are not good enough to win the SEC East.
The real difference will be a veteran defense that will immediately take to the switch to the 3-4 alignment. The secondary will be terrific, the pass rush will be strong, and the production will come after a down year. Courtesy of the SEC, the Gators, will be part of a roller coaster ride. 8-4 and going bowling is fair.