Q&A with Florida student newspaper sports editor, Matthew Brannon

Feleipe Franks passes the ball during the Gators’ game against the Michigan Wolverines in the AdvoCare Classic on Saturday, September 2, 2017 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas / UAA Communications photo by Andrew Weber

As the UK Football team returns home from their trip to South Carolina, they will start preparing for one of their toughest opponents of the 2017 season, the Florida Gators.

The Kentucky Kernel sports staff spoke to Matthew Brannon, the Sports Editor for The Independent Florida Alligator, about the game before the anticipated matchup at Kroger Field. Here is what Brannon had to say.

Q: Florida has a lot of question marks surrounding their quarterback situation. By the time the Gators travel to Lexington, do you think they’ll have a No. 1 quarterback picked out? If so, who do you see filling the role?

A: Not having a game this week (due to Hurricane Irma) certainly doesn’t help Florida separate Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire. But, I think Jim McElwain has all but decided to make Franks the starter. I think he threw Zaire in against Michigan just to see if he was missing out on anything. McElwain said this week that Franks would start against Northern Colorado and that Zaire would play, as well. But if UF went through all the trouble of getting the SEC to change the transfer rules for Zaire and he still hasn’t won the job by now, that’s a pretty good indicator that the starting QB job is Franks’ to lose at the moment.

Q: Florida’s defense has a difficult task of replacing seven starters from 2016 and Marcell Harris due to the summer injury. How do you feel the Gators have done replacing all that production and who has stood out on the defense so far?

A: Florida did a pretty bad job on defense against Michigan. A few of the freshmen defensive backs (Marco Wilson, Shawn Davis) got burned on deep balls. UF’s run defense was a shell of what it was last year. UF gave up 215 rushing yards to Michigan, including six or seven runs of more than 12 yards. Whenever Michigan’s backs got outside the hashmarks, UF’s linebackers were out of position and couldn’t catch up. It’s mostly veterans who were serviceable in that first game like Jordan Sherit and Nick Washington. Freshman CJ Henderson and senior Duke Dawson deserve credit for their pick-sixes against Michigan, but they were both pretty lucky plays.

Q: Since there are so many roles to fill, who have been some impressive freshmen or new players that have stood out in practice so far this season?

A: Not too many freshmen have stood out on offense. Kadarius Toney can play a lot of positions and make tacklers miss, but UF didn’t feed him much against Michigan. There are a few freshmen running backs like Malik Davis and Adarius Lemons who look good. That depth at RB will be essential without Jordan Scarlett, who is in limbo with his suspension right now. WR James Robinson has looked good and was supposed to play his first game this weekend after a one-game suspension, but had a heart issue that McElwain seemed to consider fairly serious like it could keep him out for a while. On defense, DBs Henderson, Wilson, Donovan Stiner and Quincy Lenton will probably play a lot against Tennessee, along with LB Lacedrick Brunson depending on what Florida’s depth looks like next week.

Q: Florida’s 30-game win streak over Kentucky is often thought of when Florida football is mentioned on campus. How often do you think the football players, and the students at UF think about the streak?

A: It usually only gets mentioned when Florida fans feel like it’s in danger. It’s certainly not out of the question for UK to win this year based on how Florida’s offense looked in the season opener. I don’t think the football players use it as any sort of motivation because we ask them about stuff like that all the time and they insist that they don’t think about it.

Q: Predications for the game, including final score?

A: If there was a year Kentucky could win, it’d be this year. But I don’t think Florida’s defense will let Kentucky run all over them like Michigan did. I see it being a close, low-scoring game with the Gators barely pulling it out, something like Florida 13, Kentucky 10.