Thoughts of the Day/Night on Opening Week:
By FRANZ BEARD
1. Feleipe Franks will start at quarterback Saturday when the Florida Gators open their 2018 football season with Charleston Southern. That doesn’t necessarily mean the quarterback situation is 100% settled but it does give Franks the opportunity to settle it on the field against live competition made up of players who aren’t his teammates. Unless Franks stinks like week-old fish in the fridge, the Charleston Southern game won’t decide anything. Look to week two against Kentucky when we get a glimpse of Franks against an SEC defense. If Franks plays well in both these games, he will have a chance to cement himself as THE guy. If he can’t get the offense moving, then Dan Mullen and QB coach Brian Johnson will have to decide just how much longer they’ll stick with Franks before giving Kyle Trask his shot. So the best way to describe the current situation is Dan Mullen has announced that it’s Feleipe Franks’ job to lose.
2. While Franks will be the Saturday starter, Charleston Southern will be the perfect game to give Trask and true freshman Emory Jones their first shots at quarterbacking in a real college football game with nearly 90,000 onlookers in the stands. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Jones see the field in certain situations in the first half – third and two for example or first and goal from the five – where he can give the Gators a legitimate run-pass option. I think he might even get an entire first half series if the Gators have a big enough lead, but that may have to wait until the second half. I do expect Trask to get at least one series in the first half and if the Gators have a three touchdown or greater lead to start the second half, take all the third quarter snaps after Florida’s initial series.
3. Dan Mullen on why Franks got the starting job: “As [quarterbacks coach] Brian [Johnson] and I sat down, we looked at who would give us the best opportunity to win now. Not projecting where they’re going to be or how they’re going to develop or how they’ll grow throughout the years, but right now, we head out on the field, running our offense, who’s going to give us the best opportunity to win. We felt Feleipe and his ability to extend plays, some of his athleticism, right now will give us the best opportunity to win games.”
4. To answer the question where’s the beef, look no further to the D-line where Elijah Conliffe and Tedarral Slaton are listed as the starters at nose tackle and tackle. Conliffe is 6-4, 317 pounds while Slaton is 6-5, 343. If these two do nothing but hold their gaps they will shut down the middle of the line and that will force opponents to run the ball wide, which should bring Florida’s speed on the edge into play. If both of them can get any kind of penetration on a regular basis it’s going to go a long way toward shutting down the running game. Last year the Gators gave up 153.36 rushing yards per game and 4.23 yards per carry. The year before, Florida allowed 144.23 per game. It’s hard to win consistently in the SEC if you’re giving up more than 120 yards per game. Rare is the championship level team in the SEC that gives up more than 105-110 per game. In 2010, for example, Alabama gave up 110.15 yards per game, the highest total for the Crimson Tide since 2008. Alabama went 10-3 in 2010, the worst season since Nick Saban’s first year on the job in 2007. There is a reason why you’ll hear every SEC head coach and defensive coordinator say the first priority on defense is to stop the run.
5. On the injury front, junior linebacker David Reese and sophomore defensive backs Shawn Davis and C.J. McWilliams are listed as questionable for the season opener with Charleston Southern. Freshman wide receiver Jacob Copeland is listed as doubtful. No word yet on possible suspensions although it’s somewhat expected that sophomore wide receiver Kadarius Toney will miss game one.
6. Florida isn’t the only place there is quarterback news in college football. Alabama named incumbent starter Jaylen Hurts and sophomore Tua Tagovailoa as “co-starters” for the season opener with Louisville Saturday night in Orlando. Given the lack of depth (only three scholarship QBs) at the position it’s probably a good thing for Nick Saban to keep both Tua and Hurts happy. The last thing he can afford is an unhappy QB who decides he’s had it in Tuscaloosa … Clemson has named Kelly Bryant the starter ahead of true freshman Trevor Lawrence for the season opener with D1AA Furman. I can’t see that lasting more than a couple of weeks. Bryant is a game manager type. Lawrence is a playmaker with an absolute gun for an arm … Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead announced that two-year starter Nick Fitzgerald has been suspended for game one due to something he did in the spring that violated team rules. Sophomore Keyontae Thompson, who led Mississippi State to a Gator Bowl win over Louisville, will be the starter for game one against D1AA Stephen F. Austin … This is not a surprise, but Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow has been announced as the starting QB for LSU. Burrow never started a game at Ohio State in two years but in his limited action he was quite impressive. He is a graduate transfer who has two years of eligibility remaining. There is this juicy rumor floating around that Burrow chose to transfer to LSU because he was guaranteed the starting job … Jimbo Fisher has named sophomore Kellen Mond as the starting QB for the Aggies’ season opener with D1AA Northwestern State … At Florida State, Deondre Francois, who missed the rest of 2017 after an injury in the season opening loss to Alabama, has regained his starting job. James Blackmon, who started 12 games in place of Francois, is the backup … Nebraska is down to one scholarship quarterback. Just a day after new coach Scott Frost named true freshman Adrian Martinez as the starting QB, redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia skipped practice, withdrew from the university and plans to transfer out … Cole Kelley will start at QB for Arkansas Saturday when the Hogs face Eastern Illinois … Juco transfer Terry Wilson will be the starter for Kentucky against Central Michigan Saturday … Tennessee lists redshirt sophomore Jarrett Guarantano or graduate transfer Keller Chryst on the starting QB line on the depth chart.
7. Florida’s third game opponent, Colorado State, dropped its season opener to Hawaii, 43-34, Saturday night despite 537 passing yards and five touchdown passes by University of Washington graduate transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels. Colorado State was torched for 418 yards and three TDPs by Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald. Hawaii had to hang on for dear life as Colorado State rallied from a 37-7 deficit to make the final score competitive … Nico Evans, who entered Saturday’s game with 36 carries, 108 yards and one TD, ran for 206 yards on 25 carries and two TDs to help Wyoming to a 29-7 season opening win over New Mexico State … UMass scored 63 points in its season opening win over D1AA Duquesne. The dumbest move in recent years was the decision by the powers that be at UMass to play a Division I schedule. UMass was a D1AA power but is nearly everyone’s favorite Division I homecoming opponent.
8. Thursday’s SEC matchup:
Northwestern State at Texas A&M, 8:30 p.m., SEC Network
Saturday’s SEC matchups:
Charleston Southern at Florida, 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
Coastal Carolina at South Carolina, 12 noon, SEC Network
Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss, 12 noon, Houston, TX, ESPN
Austin Peay at #3 Georgia, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
#6 Washington vs. #9 Auburn, 3:30 p.m., Atlanta, GA, ABC
#17 West Virginia vs. Tennessee, 3:30 p.m., Charlotte, NC, CBS
Central Michigan at Kentucky, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
UT-Martin at Missouri, 4 p.m., SEC Network
Eastern Illinois at Arkansas, 4 p.m., SEC Network
Stephen F. Austin at #18 Mississippi State, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU
Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
Louisville vs. #1 Alabama, 8 p.m., Orlando, FL, ABC
Sunday’s SEC matchup:
#8 Miami vs. #25 LSU, 7:30 p.m., Arlington, TX, ABC
9. A few random thoughts: Former Gator Brandon Powell probably sealed his spot on the Detroit Lions opening day roster with an 80-yard punt return for a TD to go with six receptions for 45 yards … Santino Marichol, the former Texas A&M linebacker who last week accused Jimbo Fisher’s Aggie staff with some very serious allegations of cheating from his days in College Station, has been dismissed from the team at Arizona. A video surfaced where Marichol, who transferred to Arizona to play for former Aggie coach Kevin Sumlin, allegedly called his black Texas A&M teammates “monkeys” … Orlando attorney Chad Barr has purchased a banner touting UCF as 2017 national champions. The banner will be flown over Camping World Stadium Saturday night in Orlando where 2017 college football playoff champ Alabama plays Louisville … Peyton Manning made a $1 million donation to an endowment fund in the name of a professor in Tennessee’s school of communication and information studies … New York Giants’ wide receiver Odell Beckham signed a 5-year deal worth $95 million with $65 million guaranteed. That is nice work if you can get it … So you think you’ve got troubles? Since leaving Tennessee for the NFL Kansas City Chiefs, former All-American Eric Berry has had to battle back from an ACL, a torn Achilles and lymphoma. Word is that Berry hasn’t practiced since August 11 due to what is called a “sore heel.”