Florida Football Three Keys: South Carolina

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The Florida Gators, when they stumbled in the years following Steve Spurrier’s departure to the NFL’s Washington Redskins, were immersed in what then-coach Ron Zook called “the noise in the system.” That noise went away under Urban Meyer, but throughout this decade – save for the 2012 run to the Sugar Bowl – the noise has returned to Gainesville.

By Matt Zemek

Rumbles of discontent and displeasure have flowed through the Florida fan base. Morale has declined. The wins haven’t been as plentiful, and even when the Gators won a pair of SEC East titles under Jim McElwain, they didn’t look good. They didn’t perform in an artful way. That’s almost as big a sin as failing to dominate. Being moderately good and attractive is a lot more tolerable than being moderately good and ugly. “Moderately good and ugly” has been UF’s best-case scenario for every non-2012 season this decade.

That reality continues to exist for the Gators under Dan Mullen.

The new plot twist: Feleipe Franks won’t have to worry about his starting job.

Wednesday, backup Kyle Trask – who received hearty applause when he replaced Franks this past Saturday against Missouri – suffered an injury. This makes Mullen’s decision easier in terms of selecting a starter, but it can very easily complicate the task for Florida against South Carolina. The Gators are confronting the fact that, as has been the case for nearly all of the decade, their offense isn’t very good and doesn’t have a signal-caller who is playing with confidence and relaxation. Will Grier in the early part of 2015 was the conspicuous exception.

Let’s see what this team can do to halt its two-game losing skid on Saturday against South Carolina:

1 – PUNCH ‘EM IN THE MOUTH

The Gamecocks’ run defense was gashed by Missouri last month and has been vulnerable to a powerful rushing attack, executed well. That’s exactly what Florida needs against South Carolina. The Gators need to protect Franks from third and longs. They need to avoid scenarios in which Franks thinks he has to be a star, a hero, and overcompensate for recent shortcomings. Would it be great if Franks played like a dynamic quarterback? Of course… but Mullen and his staff can’t think that way. The offensive line has to roar off the ball and thump South Carolina’s defensive front, setting the tone for the rest of the day and minimizing Franks’ workload. The quarterback spot is a long-term project at Florida. The direct and most immediate route to victory against South Carolina is for the offensive line to blow up the Gamecocks and serve up a bunch of pancake blocks.

2 – GAP INTEGRITY

The Gators did not display this against Missouri’s run game this past Saturday. A defense which has to lead this team, and has to contain opposing offenses so that Franks doesn’t have to throw passes in catch-up situations, dropped the ball against Mizzou. The margin for error was slim, and so as soon as the Gator defense faltered, Florida was toast. That defense has to snap back into focus against South Carolina.

3 – DINK AND DASH

Feleipe Franks has to combine short passes with well-timed runs to simultaneously give Florida’s offense a measure of diversity yet move the ball with relatively simple plays.

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