Florida Gators

Tennessee: A Chance at Redemption

Nine first downs.

Three turnovers.

Seventeen points.

And perhaps the most telling statistic, eleven rushing yards.

Yes. You read that right. The Gators only had eleven rushing yards total against Michigan.

I’ve refrained from blogging about Florida’s opening game until now because quite frankly, I’d rather pretend it never happened.

We heard from Coach McElwain all offseason long that the offensive line was the strength of the team. More than once, he said the “Florida speed” was back. I have one question: Where was it?

Because from what I saw, our offensive line is far from the strongest unit on our team. Who knows? Maybe that Florida speed is back, but our running backs never had a chance to do anything because Michigan’s defense was right there as soon as they got the ball.

I know I’m being really critical and slightly harsh here. If you’re a frequent reader, you know I love my Gators to death. I feel terrible for writing about Florida this way. But… this is getting ridiculous. We haven’t had a solid offense in about eight years, and McElwain was hired because he’s an offensive guy. He was supposed to be able to come in and fix this mess. I understand it’s going to take some time, and we’ve been dealt a tough hand with the injuries and suspensions we’ve had since he began his tenure. But it’s been three years, and we still have a less than stellar offense. Something’s wrong, and I have a feeling if McElwain doesn’t fix it and fix it fast, his time in Gainesville may come to an end sooner than he would like to think.

Okay. Now that I’ve gotten that out, let’s get to some positives, shall we?

Here’s What We Know.

  1. Felipe Franks has potential. He went five of nine for seventy five yards, including a thirty-four yard bomb to Josh Hammond on the opening drive. Could he have been better? Of course. But it was his first collegiate start. I chalked things like the fumble where he dropped the ball up to that, and honestly, I don’t think it would have mattered if Tim Tebow was under center with the way our offensive line played. From what I’ve seen of Kyle Trask and Malik Ziare, I think Franks is our best option moving forward, and I think as he plays more and gains more experience, he’ll become a lot better.
  2. Our defense is the backbone of the team. They carried us through that game. No, they weren’t perfect. Yes, they have work to do, but let’s be real here: if Duke Dawson and CJ Henderson hadn’t snagged a pair of pick sixes, the score would have been a lot more lop-sided and a lot uglier. They played pretty well, especially when you consider how young of a unit they are. And they’re only going to get better.
  3. We have the entire season ahead of us. That game was far from pretty, but I think we all need to keep in mind that it was only the first time those guys have played together. Like Franks, they’ll get better as they play together and gain experience. One game does not make our season, and I think we’ll see improvement with each passing week.

That being said…

We have questions to answer if we want to beat Tennessee tomorrow and go on to win the SEC East for a third year in a row.

How can we protect Franks and give him an opportunity to throw?

What can we do to get the ground game going?

What would our offense look like if Doug Nussmier opened it up and play-called more aggressively?

How can the defense continue to grow?

What can we do to begin righting the ship and take home a win tomorrow?

And perhaps the thing every Florida fan wants to know: What will we look like when we get the nine suspended players back?

We can beat Tennessee tomorrow. I truly believe that. We just have to come together, eliminate as many mistakes as possible, play smart, and be aggressive. We have the talent and makings of a successful season, and that success starts at 3:30 tomorrow afternoon. We need to take home a win, get a little confidence back, redeem ourselves, and maybe, gain a little respect.

That’s what tomorrow is: a chance for redemption.

All stats taken from floridagators.com and Scott Carter’s Twitter.

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Florida Gators

#EverythingSchool

I recently got a Twitter account (my handle is @Robyn_1513, in case you were wondering 😉) and one of the reasons I got it was so that I could better keep up with Florida sports. To be honest, I’m on there entirely too much, but one of the things I’ve noticed is that a common hashtag in Tweets about UF is #EverythingSchool, because of our success in multiple sports. This past weekend reaffirmed that.

The weekend kicked off-literally-with our women’s soccer team defeating top ranked Stanford 3-2. Minutes after the match ended, Florida’s volleyball team began a set with Texas, who was also ranked number one. While I wasn’t able to catch the soccer game, I did watch the volleyball match, and let me tell you, those girls looked fantastic.

They didn’t play as if it was the second game in the season at all. They moved about the court with confidence and trust in one another, and they fed off the electric energy from the 7,523 people packed in the newly-renovated O’Dome. The bond between the girls was evident from the beginning, and it didn’t take long to see that the 2017 Florida volleyball team is a force to be reckoned with.

We took the first set 25-16, going on a 10-3 score run towards the end to secure the victory. The second set was a little closer- the final score was 25-23. By the end of the second set, Rhamat Alhassan had racked up six kills, while Rachael Kramer was responsible for five. One of the things I was most amazed and impressed by was how high they could jump- Alhassan’s highest vertical at the time was 30.5 inches. Much higher than I could ever jump.

We headed into a fourth set after dropping the third 25-18, and while it too was tight, there was no way our girls were going home with a loss. Somehow, despite the fact that they’d been playing for over an hour, they came onto the court with the same fire they’d started the night out with. Carli Snyder also played a key role in the win- not only was her hitting solid, but by the time the match ended, she’d served a team-high six aces. She’s developed so much since she was a freshman, and I’ve enjoyed watching her grow into being not only an incredible player, but into a leader, too.

One of my favorite things that night was seeing the pure joy and excitement on the girls’ faces after we won. They’ve worked so hard practicing and preparing for the season, and to see them overflowing with happiness made my night. I’ve met a few of the girls and one of our assistant coaches, and I can tell you that they’re even better people than they are athletes. They made me feel welcome and showed me so much kindness, and I can’t wait to go down to Gainesville in October and cheer them on in person.

Florida Gators

Callaway Out for Season Opener

Late in the afternoon on August 13th, Florida head coach Jim McElwain announced that seven Gators will be sidelined for Florida's season opener against Michigan, most notably junior wide receiver Antonio Callaway.

Last season, he started eleven games for the Gators and became the first Florida player since 1996 to score a rushing, receiving, punt return, passing, and kick off return touchdown. He's obviously talented, but lately it seems more talk has been about his life off the field than on, most recently his involvement with credit card fraud. Perhaps it was this latest incident, the news of which broke yesterday, that led McElwain to suspend him.

What It Means
A daunting task just became a little more daunting. However, on a more positive note, it gives other guys a chance to step up and shine. With Callaway out, another wide receiver has the chance to gain valuable experience, show Coach Mac-and all of Gator Nation-what he's made of and how he can play, something that will only make him-and the entire team-better in the long run.

My Thoughts
I think this was the right decision. This suspension shows Callaway that there are consequences to your actions, an important and invaluable lesson. Obviously, we want to leave Arlington with a win under our belt, but what's more important is helping him learn from his mistakes and grow as an individual. Winning is important, but it isn't everything. I think we also need to remember that Antonio Callaway is one guy, and one guy does not make a team. Yes, losing him hurts, but we have other playmakers and other stars who will carry his weight and (hopefully) lead us to a win.

What are your thoughts on Callaway's suspension? How do you think this will affect us?

Note- The six other players suspended are James Houston, Kadeem Telfort, Keivonnis Davis, Jourdan Smith, Ventrell Miller, and Richard Desir-Jones.

All stats taken from FloridaGators.com

Faith · Florida Gators · thoughts

Blind Faith

Since I was six years old, it's been my dream to go to the University of Florida. I've always wanted to live in Gainesville-my favorite place on this planet- and truly be able to say, "I'm a Gator." But now that the time has come to start applying to schools, I'm not sure if I even want to submit an application.

You see, despite the fact that I've taken the ACT twice and the SAT once, my score isn't that great. It's not terrible, but it's not amazing, either. And since I made my first B last semester, my unweighted GPA is no longer a 4.0. Knowing that the chances of my getting into UF are slim, I haven't looked up when their application is due or what all they want in it. I don't want to get my hopes up just to have them shot down.

I want to make something clear: I'm not afraid to fail. That's not it at all. I don't want to set myself up for heartbreak. Because if I apply and then I find a letter in my mailbox that says, "Thank you for applying. However, we unfortunately cannot accept you at this time" my heart will shatter. I'll be crushed. If that happens, that means I'll have to sit there and watch my dream slip from my fingertips.

Yet I can't help but think God's put passion for the Gators in my heart for a reason. I can't help but think there's a reason I love Florida the way I do and Gainesville feels like home. There are no accidents. He does what He does for a reason, and He's got a plan that is good and perfect. There's a reason applying to UF has come up twice in as many days. There's a reason a little voice in the back of my head keeps whispering, "What if? What if it works?" In the words of one of my favorite Rascal Flatts songs, "I've seen You make miracles, and hopeless dreams come true/ You made the heavens and the stars/Everything/Come on, how hard would it be…" If He created this beautiful Earth, He can help me get into a college… Right?

Somehow, just writing this has helped calm the tumultuous wave of emotion I've been feeling. I'm not sure if I'll get in, but there's only one thing for me to do: Try. Take a breath and trust God. Sometimes, you have to take a leap of blind faith.

Florida Gators

My Take on Florida’s QB Battle

It's an annual storyline: Florida searching for quarterback as they prepare for upcoming season. It's been that way ever since Jim McElwain took over, and quite frankly, I'd say since Tim Tebow left after the 2009 season. Since his departure, we've been looking for another playmaker who can take the Gators to the heights he did.

Hopefully, this year will end our search. With six quarterbacks on the roster, you'd think we'd be able to find someone who can make plays down the field, move the chains when we need to, and be successful in the red zone. We've got the talent to bring home that elusive SEC title- now we need someone to spearhead the offense and lead the charge.

Malik Zaire is a senior who recently transferred from Notre Dame. Prior to his injury, he threw for 428 yards and four TDs in 2015. * He brings maturity and leadership to the table, and he's already known for his positivity and leadership in the locker room. Those qualities could be key to starting our season with a win against Michigan on September 2nd.

Luke del Rio led the Gators to a 5-1 start last season before being sidelined due to injury. While I was impressed with his playmaking abilities at times, he didn't have that it factor to me-the thing that sets him above the rest and will push Florida to greatness. This fantastic article changed my perspective on him a little, but not enough that I foresee him being our starter.

Felipe Franks is a redshirt freshman who watched from the sidelines last year as Luke del Rio and Austin Appleby led the offense last year. I was impressed by his arm in the spring game and the way he quickly released the ball. Florida has not been known for its passing game as of late, and Franks could change that. Plus, there's no doubt he soaked in valuable knowledge during his time on the sidelines.

Like Franks, Kyle Trask is a redshirt freshman who also watched from the bench last season. If I'm being completely honest, I don't see him as our answer. He didn't look as comfortable under center during the spring game as Franks did, and there are passes he couldn't complete that have to be caught if we want to compete with a Tennessee or a Georgia or even an Alabama. That being said, he could have drastically improved since that Friday night in the Swamp. Who knows?

Freshman Jake Allen, while not a contender to be this year's starter, has the potential to be something special, if you ask me. I've watched highlights from his days at Saint Thomas Aquinas, and I was thoroughly impressed by his accuracy and strength as a passer. (I'm ready to see some passing, if you can't tell.) He's not afraid or intimidated by the competition, and I love how much he loves Florida. You can hear his passion for UF and Gainesville in his words, and that passion could turn into something on the field. Obviously, you can't foresee someone's ability by the way he talks, but I've got a good feeling about him.

Did Kadarius Toney remind anyone else of Tim Tebow? Because when I watched him scramble and rush in the spring game, I was having flashbacks of those four years when he was our signal caller. I also got a Jalen Hurts vibe from him. He's practicing as a wide receiver now, but I could see him being used in a Wildcat package.

My Overall Thoughts
To me, Franks and Zaire are our front runners right now, and I'd give Zaire the edge, simply because of his experience. But, if Zaire and Franks truly are as even as McElwain says they are, I say play then both, at least for a couple drives until you see who is gelling better with the offense. Obviously, Michigan is not a team you can play around with. But there's a benefit to playing two for a while, if only because it makes Michigan prepare for two quarterbacks.

What about you? Who do you think will be starting for the Gators come September 2nd?

*Statistics for Malik Zaire taken from Fox Sports.

Florida Gators

2017 Will Be Different

We won the SEC East, but we were creamed by Alabama in the title game.

We were demolished by Florida State.

We have a stellar defense, but our offense is less than amazing.

That’s what Florida has been known for the past two years. We win the East, but can’t take home the title. We end the regular season with a loss. Our offense isn’t the most efficient. We don’t have the respect that we had in 2007,2008, 2009. We’re not regarded as one of the powerhouses of the country.

This is the season all of that changes.

We open our season with Michigan. It’s a big game, which means it has the potential to give us the respect we’ve lacked for so many years, if we can win. If. That’s the key word in that sentence. I think we can, though. For one thing, Jim Harbaugh doesn’t have a returning quarterback, either, and he also lost star tight end Jake Butt. But here’s the more important factor: motivation. We have a motivation they don’t. We were the ones on the receiving end of that embarrassing loss to end our 2015 season. We were the ones who had to stand there and watch their team celebrate in the middle of the field. We went through all of that. They didn’t.

And you know what? The boys are confident. Not just about game one, but about this season and about who we are as a team. In every article I read on floridagators.com and every interview I watched at Media Days, I hear a desire to be better. To be successful. To beat Florida State. To bring home that elusive SEC title. It’s not a “new season new start” fire, it’s a “new season let’s prove something” fire. They’re  hungry for victory. They’re hungry for respect. They’re hungry for success.

Why shouldn’t they be? We’re more talented offensively than we have been in years, we still have a playmaker-loaded (albeit unexperienced) defense, and we’ve got a kicker who can hit field goals from just about anywhere. And we have seven home games this season, one more thing that will work in our favor. 

We have the makings of success. Now we just have to play.

Florida Gators

My Thoughts on Florida’s Time at SEC Media Days

Florida head coach Jim McElwain and players Martez Ivey, Marcell Harris, and Duke Dawson took the stage yesterday at the SEC’s annual Media Days, and were asked about anything and everything (literally- Mac had to talk about the infamous shark photo and Marcell Harris and Paul Finebaum had a lengthy conversation about his hair). While we were given no information on the status of star wide receiver Antonio Callaway, there were a few things that give me even more confidence about Florida’s 2017 season.

1. The team has a chip on its shoulder.

This was evident by Coach McElwain’s body language and tone as he spoke at the podium. He said the team understands why we haven’t been successful at times, and when the SEC Network crew asked him about offensive production, it seemed he took it personally. Florida fans want more, and he wants to bring Florida back to national prominence.

2.  The boys seem confident.

It was quiet, but it was there. They carry that chip too, and I sensed a hunger for success in their voices. Duke Dawson said the defensive leaders are teaching the younger guys and helping them as much as possible, and I got the sense from the way he and the other players spoke that this team is working together and has a chemistry that the previous two teams haven’t. Only time will tell, but I think there’s something special brewing in Gainesville.
3. Leaders are starting to arise.

Not only are the more experienced guys on defense helping the freshmen, but Marcell Harris said he could “already tell” transfer quarterback Malik Zaire is a leader. I may be wrong, but I think leadership like that has been a missing piece for the last few years. If we can get a few guys to step up and be strong leaders, guys who can rally the team before an important drive and keep them motivated during practices and workouts, that could be a key ingredient to a successful season.

More Notables

  • SEC analysts Greg McElroy and Jordan Roberts picked Florida to win the East.
  • Paul Finebaum picked Florida to defeat Michigan on opening day.
  • “I just really felt going through spring practice- that Florida speed is back.” -Head Coach Jim McElwain to local Hoover media

What did you think of Florida’s time at Media Days?

Also, speaking of Michigan, here’s a fantastic article from In All Kinds of Weather’s Ty Butler on the importance of a win at Michigan.