The Florida-Tennessee rivalry is the stuff of legends. Well, at least to its fans it is.
Quarterback Feleipe Franks said when he took an official visit to Gainesville, he expected people to be talking about UF-FSU. Instead, they were talking about the Gators against the Volunteers.
Fast forward three years, and Franks will be starting in his second game against Tennessee, the first occuring in the Swamp last year. A lot has changed since then.
Both programs have a new head coach, which means new programs, new teams and a whole lot of questions.
Here are some you’ll want to pay attention to during Saturday’s game:
Will anything change in Florida’s offense?
Something will surely need to now that running back Malik Davis is out for an extended period of time with a broken foot.
The offense was not all that impressive during the Colorado State game. Franks only completed eight passes for 119 yards, boosted by a 38-yard touchdown to receiver Van Jefferson in the fourth quarter. In the first quarter, Franks didn’t even have a completion.
“I think Feleipe settled down,” coach Dan Mullen said after the game. “Did some good things. Had some missed decisions.”
Franks threw the “Heave to Cleve” last year, a long pass to receiver Tyrie Cleveland in last season’s rendition of Florida-Tennessee to win the game as time expired.
It was a pass that utilized both Franks and Cleveland’s talents: Franks as a pocket passer with a great arm and Cleveland as a fast wideout who can create seperation for spectacular grabs.
It’s also a connection the Gators haven’t really seen much of this season.
Expect Florida to change some things up during the game, using more of running backs Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine and Dameon Pierce in the back field. Franks should look to get the ball in the hands of receivers Kadarius Toney, Jefferson and Cleveland.
How will the pass rush fare against a different-styled SEC quarterback?
The biggest issue during Florida’s loss to Kentucky on Sept. 8 was the missed tackles. All the missed tackles. Mullen stated after the loss he counted 20 misses, which allowed the Wildcats to run for roughly 168 additional yards.
The pass-rushing unit didn’t play much better against Colorado State.
Mullen had a challenge for his players heading into Tennessee. He wanted them to be the Hulk this week. Bruce Banner off the field, and his alter ego on it.
Defensive end Elijah Conliffe said the Gators have been living up to this standard during practice.
“Through a week’s worth of hard practice, hitting the sled harder and just getting a better look from the scout team,” Conliffe said. “We gonna go hard against them; it all added up so we could be better on Saturday.”
Will Brett Heggie make a significant impact?
Part of the reason Franks struggled against Kentucky and early against Colorado State was the missed blocks from the offensive line.
Franks was left scrambling after defenders broke through the line. He ran with the ball seven times against the Rams, five of which came in the first quarter. He was also sacked once.
One noticeable omission from the line this season has been redshirt sophomore Brett Heggie, who has seen limited time this year while recovering from a knee injury and turf toe.
He is slowly earning more and more playing time, and it’s only a matter of time before he cracks the starting lineup.
“He’s a tough, physical player,” center Nick Buchanan said. “That’s what we’re looking for on this offensive line. He can come in and give us good reps, and we love it.”
Whenever Brett Heggie does return full-time, he will boost an offensive line that could use the help.
But for right now, Heggie says he’s ready to come back and produce.
“I’m back,” Heggie said. “I’m back to 100 percent as of probably, like, a week ago.”
You can follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.