Gators to Watch: Georgia vs. Florida

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Gators to Watch: Georgia vs. Florida

Florida head coach Dan Mullen
Florida head coach Dan Mullen

DAN MULLEN (Head Coach)

It didn’t take Mullen long to move the Gators back into the nation’s top football programs as, in his first season as head coach last year, Florida finished in the Top 10 in all the major polls with its final 10-3 record. This season Mullen, who was Florida’s offensive coordinator from 2005-08 and then compiled a 69-46 record in his nine years at Mississippi State, has the 6th-ranked Gators at 7-1 (4-1 SEC) entering Saturday’s crucial game with the Bulldogs. And following last season’s 36-17 loss to Georgia, Mullen will surely have Florida highly motivated to topple the Bulldogs and thus take a giant stride toward the SEC East title.

KYLE TRASK (QB, #11)

This redshirt junior took over the Gators’ QB reins when starter Feleipe Franks was lost for the season in Florida’s third game against Kentucky with a severe leg injury. And the 6-5, 239-pound Trask, a Texas native, has really jump-started the Gator offense by passing for 1,391 yards and 14 touchdowns, completing 67 percent of his pass attempts and averaging 198.7 yards per game through the air. In Florida’s 38-27 win at South Carolina two weekends ago, Trask threw for 200 yards and four touchdowns in a heavy rain. Clearly, the Georgia defense will need to bring extreme pressure on Trask Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville.

LAMICAL PERINE (RB, #2)

When Trask isn’t throwing the ball, he will be handing it off to Perine, a 5-11, 218-pound senior who was the Gators’ leading rusher last season with 826 yards and seven touchdowns. And, this season, Perine again fronts the Florida running game with 460 yards and four touchdowns entering Saturday’s date with the Bulldogs at TIAA Bank Field. Perine averages 4.6 yards per carry and 57.5 yards per game and Georgia simply can’t allow the Gator tailback to break off sizable runs in this game.

DAVID REESE (ILB, #4)

And when the Gators go on defense, the Bulldogs’ offensive front will have to account for this 6-0, 220-pound middle linebacker. Although just a redshirt freshman, Reese is far and away Florida’s leading tackler this season with 66 total stops … 27 solo tackles and 39 assists. Seemingly always around the ball, Reese shows two tackles-for-loss and one sack. The Bulldogs’ offense will need to get a lot of hats on the Gators’ No. 4 Saturday afternoon.

PHOTO: Jonathan Greenard (58), University of Florida Athletics
PHOTO: Jonathan Greenard (58), University of Florida Athletics

JONATHAN GREENARD (OLB, #58)

While Florida returned such defensive stalwarts as DE Jabari Zuniga and cornerback CJ Henderson this season, both of those Gators have missed a number of games due to lingering injuries. That’s why Louisville graduate transfer Greenard has played such a key role for Mullen’s defense this fall. The 6-3, 263-pound Hiram, Ga. native, in being named to the Bednarik Award Watch List, has notched 6.5 tackles-for-loss, four QB sacks and one interception in sparking the Florida stop-em gang. In other words, he is a disruptor of opposing offenses and it’s imperative that the UGA offense keeps Mr. Greenard under control in this showdown for SEC East superiority.

CJ HENDERSON (CB, #1)

Rated one of the top cornerbacks in college football — as evidenced by Henderson being one of 14 semifinalists for the coveted Paycom Jim Thorpe Award — this 6-1, 202-pound junior has played in only five of the Gators’ eight games this season due to injury. But he was back in action in the win over South Carolina and is capable of a big play on the ball anytime it is put in the air. Also a sure tackler, Henderson recorded 38 stops last season including five tackles-for-loss and three sacks … to go with his two pass interceptions. The Bulldog receivers have struggled to get open in recent games and they’ll surely be under tight coverage from CJ Henderson on Saturday.

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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.