Florida’s sports information department has taken a playful poke at the Gators’ in-state rivals, Florida State and Miami, in the school’s pre-game release for Saturday’s game at Mississippi State.
On a note on the Gators leading the nation with 14 takeaways is the following headline: No chain. No backpack. Just Takeaways.
Last season at Miami, of course, the coaches started giving a chain for players to wear on the sideline after coming up with a turnover. This season, the Seminoles have started recognizing turnovers by putting a backpack on a player who recovers a fumble or intercepts a pass.
UF hasn’t come up with a ritual yet. But they are coming up with turnovers. Lot’s of them.
In four games, the Gators have recovered 10 fumbles and intercepted four passes to lead the nation in takeaways. UF ranks second in the nation in turnover margin at plus-10. Rush end Jachai Polite is tied with Oregon’s Justin Hollins for the national lead in forced fumbles with three.
The Gators had only 17 takeaways all of last season, just three on fumble recoveries.
Quarterback Feleipe Franks took another step forward in his development with a three-touchdown performance in the win at Tennessee. He now has 12 touchdown passes in only four games after having just nine all of last season. He’s currently tied for seventh in the FBS with 12 TD passes and tied for first in the SEC with Alabama’s QB.
“I’ve got a long way to go,” Franks said. “I’m trying to get better every single day. Coach (Dan) Mullen and coach (Brian) Johnson do a great job of just working with me every single day. You can’t ever get complacent, you have to want to be on top, you have to want to be the best. That’s what I want to be. I want to be the best to ever do it.
“So, just keep on working. I have a long way to go — technique, all that kind of stuff. Much more stuff to work on for me.”
Credit for one of Franks’ 12 TD passes could go to running back Jordan Scarlett, whose block on a blitzing UT defender coming off the edge gave Franks the time he needed to throw a 38-yard TD pass to Tyrie Cleveland in the fourth quarter Saturday night.
“That was huge,” Franks said. “It wasn’t even his guy, him just being a football player. All of our guys, they do just so much for me, giving me time in the pocket, blocking their tails off. On that play specifically, (Scarlett) just went out of his way to get a guy that could have came easily and just hit me in the back, fumble, anything like that.
“He went out of his way to pick him up for me. That’s guys being selfless. We’ve got a bunch of selfless players on this team that are really good players and they look out for us before they look out for themselves. That’s one of the greatest things about our team.”
That’s just CJ
Franks said the players were not surprised by sophomore cornerback CJ Henderson’s hustle play that turned a possible Tennessee touchdown into a touchback.
Henderson sprinted all the way across the field to tackle tight end Austin Pope inside the 5-yard line. His hit jarred the ball loose and it rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.
“It not only has to do with his speed, but his heart,” Franks said. “He practices the same as the way he plays. He’s out there doing that on the practice field. He’s one of those guys that gives full effort every single time, Monday through Thursday. Friday he’s dialed in on the walk-throughs. Saturday he’s doing the same exact thing he does on Monday.
“He’s one of those guys, it’s like clockwork for him. He does it all the time. It just shows up on Saturdays when people see it, but he’s doing it all throughout the week. Really good player.”