What UVA Football fans need to know about the Florida Gators
The Meyer era ended with a thud, then came, and went, Will Muschamp (28-21 in four seasons), Jim McElwain (10-4 in his first season, 2015, but fired midway through the 2017 season).
Which gets us to Dan Mullen, who came to Gainesville after a nice run at Mississippi State (69-46 in nine seasons, including a trip to the Orange Bowl in 2014).
Florida won 10 games in his first season at Florida, in 2018, and led the Gators to the Peach Bowl, and avoided the sophomore slump in 2019, going 10-2 and landing in a New Year’s Six Bowl.
The two losses: to CFP #1 LSU, 42-28, back on Oct. 12, in what was a one-score game into the fourth quarter, and to CFP #5 Georgia, 24-17.
Mullen had to do this with his #2 quarterback coming out of camp, after losing starter Feleipe Franks in the 29-21 Week 3 win at Kentucky.
Enter Kyle Trask, who hadn’t started a game since his freshman year in high school, but at 6’5”, 239 pounds, with a cannon of an arm, has the size and skills.
Trask threw for 298 yards and two TDs in a 34-3 win over Tennessee in his first start, on Sept. 21, and has been solid since, with a 159.3 passer rating, fourth in the SEC (two of the guys ahead of him: 2019 Heisman winner Joe Burrow, 2018 Heisman runner-up Tua Tagovailoa), 24 TDs, 6 INTs, 2,636 yards, 67.6 percent completion rate.
The pass game has a wide array of weapons for Trask to throw to, with no less than eight guys registering at least 20 catches on the season.
The top target is sophomore tight end Kyle Pitts, a 6’6”, 239-pounder and first-team All-SEC selection who is a big, physical, matchup nightmare (2019: 51 catches, 610 yards, 12.0 yards per catch, 5 TDs).
The wideouts include 6’2” redshirt senior Van Jefferson (43 catches, 528 yards, 12.3 yards per catch, 6 TDs), 6’0” senior Freddie Swain (35 catches, 496 yards, 14.2 yards per catch, 7 TDs) and 6’5” junior Trevon Grimes (32 catches, 484 yards, 15.1 yards per catch, 3 TDs).
The Gators have had troubles getting the ground game going, averaging just 120.3 yards per game, last in the SEC in 2019. The featured back is 5’11” senior Lamical Perine, who ran for 538 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry this season.
The issue with the run game is not a factor of poor play from the O-line, though. Props to the big uglies for getting through an SEC schedule having given up just 24 sacks.
The defense: stout, second in the SEC in total defense (299.0 yards per game), rushing defense (107.0 yards per game) and scoring defense (14.4 points per game).
It starts up front with first-team All-SEC defensive end Jonathan Greenard, who is actually listed on the depth chart at linebacker, at a freakish 6’3”, 263 pounds.
The Louisville grad transfer was second on the Florida team this season with 51 tackles, and led the D with 14.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.
Showing his versatility, Greenard also recorded eight quarterback hurries, again, a team-best total, and had three pass breakups, two forced fumbles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
The other Gator to watch out for on D is junior cornerback C.J. Henderson (33 tackles, 11 passes defensed, 3 TFLs, 1 sack, 1 QBH), who will remind UVA fans of preseason All-America corner Bryce Hall, because of his size (6’1”, 202 pounds) at the corner, and also because like Hall, Henderson won’t be playing. Hall is out due to injury; Henderson because he’s trying to avoid it, in advance of entering the 2020 NFL Draft.
Story by Chris Graham