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Vols to Face Florida’s Backup Quarterback on Saturday

(Photo via Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

No. 9 Florida trailed by two scores in the second half against Kentucky on Saturday, but they rallied and used a missed field goal late in the fourth quarter by the Wildcats to prevail 29-21. But the Gators lost their starting quarterback for the season in the process.

In the third quarter, starting quarterback Feleipe Franks was brought backwards on a tackle behind the line of scrimmage and suffered a gruesome leg injury in the process. Franks dislocated his right ankle on the play, and Florida head coach Dan Mullen said after the game that Franks’ 2019 season is done.

“I think they feel pretty certain there was a break and some dislocations, so he’ll be out for the year,” Mullen said after Florida’s victory. “Obviously a huge loss for us.”

With Franks gone, that means Tennessee will be facing Florida’s backup quarterback when the two teams face-off this upcoming weekend.

Franks was 12-of-17 for 174 yards, a touchdown, and an interception against Kentucky before suffering the brutal, season-ending injury. He finished his redshirt junior campaign with 698 passing yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions while completing 76.1 percent of his 71 pass attempts.

After Franks went down, Dan Mullen turned to redshirt junior Kyle Trask to lead the team. And he helped bring the Gators back.

Trask completed his first four passes of the game and ended his first drive with a pitch on an option play to running back Lamical Perine that was run in for an eight-yard touchdown. Trask would later score a four-yard rushing touchdown for the go-ahead score for the Gators, giving them a 22-21 lead with 4:11 remaining in the game. Trask finished the game 9-of-13 for 126 yards and a rushing touchdown.

When the Vols travel to Gainesville next weekend, Trask will likely be the main man at quarterback.

Trask hasn’t played a great deal in his collegiate career thus far. The bulk of his experience came against Missouri last season. Dan Mullen benched Feleipe Franks in the third quarter after a rough start to the game, and Trask immediately led the Gators on a 75-yard touchdown drive that made the score 35-17 Missouri.

That would be all the damage he and the Gator offense could muster, however, as the Tigers won 38-17. Trask finished the game 10-of-18 for 126 yards and a touchdown. Franks would take over the starting quarterback position the following week.

Assuming Trask is the starter for the Gators, Saturday’s contest against Tennessee will be his first carer start at quarterback for Florida. In five career appearance — including Saturday’s win over Kentucky — Trask is 27-of-40 for 328 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Against Tennessee last year, Trask completed his only pass attempt for 14 yards in the Gators’ blowout victory over the Vols.

The Gators also have redshirt freshman Emory Jones at quarterback, and according to Dan Mullen, he plans to play both Trask and Jones at QB moving forward.

Jones joined the Gators as a highly-rated quarterback in their 2018 signing class. The four-star was in the Elite 11 Finals and was selected to the 2018 Under Armour All-America Game. But at Florida, he hasn’t had a chance to show what he can do yet.

Last season, Jones appeared in four games and used the new redshirt rules to keep his four years of eligibility intact. Jones completed 12 of his 16 pass attempts for 125 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran the ball 18 times for 41 yards. All of his passing came against Idaho, but he appeared in Florida’s games against Charleston Southern, Georgia, and Michigan as well, running the ball in each of those contests.

In 2019, Jones has appeared in just one game so far, and that was last week’s contest against UT-Martin. Jones completed one of his four pass attempts for two yards and ran four times for 31 yards and a touchdown.

But quarterback won’t be the only spot Florida has to worry about against the Vols.

Florida defensive back Donovan Stiner was ejected for targeting in the second half of Saturday’s game against Kentucky, which means he’ll be out for the first half against Tennessee this upcoming weekend. Stiner will be eligible to return at halftime, however. Stiner started 12 of Florida’s 13 games last season at safety, but he’s been more of a backup for the Gators this season. In three games, he’s totaled seven tackles after totaling 49 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, two interceptions, and three passes defended in 2018. Stiner totaled six tackles against the Vols in Knoxville last season.

Starting cornerback CJ Henderson could also be out for the Gators when the Vols come to town. Henderson sat out against Kentucky with an ankle injury, and it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to play against Tennessee. Henderson was an All-SEC corner in 2018 and has been effective in 2019 thus far, totaling three tackles and two pass breakups. Last season, Henderson notched five tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions, nine passes defended, and two forced fumbles. Henderson picked off a pass and returned it for a score against Tennessee in 2017.

Offensive weapon Kadarius Toney suffered a wrist injury in Florida’s win over UT-Martin and won’t be on the field for several more weeks. Toney is a bit of a do-it-all athlete for the Gators on offense, showing off play-making ability as a pass catcher and runner. Toney had a 66-yard touchdown reception against Miami in Florida’s season-opening win over the Hurricanes, but he only totaled two catches for six yards against UT-Martin before suffering the injury. He also has four carries for three yards on the year.

Toney has caught 43 passes for 484 yards and two touchdowns in his Florida career. He also has 39 carries for 363 yards and a score, and he’s even thrown for a touchdown, tossing a 20-yard score against Mississippi State last season.

Against Tennessee, Toney caught a seven-yard pass and ripped off a 34-yard run last season. In 2017, he pulled down four receptions for 40 yards and had a five-yard run.

Tennessee and Florida will kick off at noon Eastern down in Gainesville on Saturday, September 21st.

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