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5 Questions: Florida beat writer Nick de la Torre





Nick (@NickdelaTorreGC) covers the Gators for GatorCountry and is a good follow for this week (and beyond). 


1) Florida's coaches know the animosity that waits for them in Starkville. Are players prepared for this? 


I don't know if Florida can really prepare for what they'll experience on Saturday in Starkville. I think a big portion of the fan base feels jilted by one of its own (Scott Stricklin) and Dan Mullen as well. This is a game that Mississippi State and its fans have had circled since Mullen got off the jet at Gainesville Regional Airport. Florida did just silence 100,000 Tennessee fans in Knoxville, so playing in a hostile environment isn't foreign to them but I think Davis Wade and its cowbells are an entirely different animal. Florida won't really know what their in for until they get to Starkville. 




2) What am I supposed to think of Feleipe Franks? 


He's a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. He's actually growing some in Mullen's offense. A lot of Florida fans wrote him off after last season and he did not look particularly good in a loss to Kentucky or a win over Colorado State but I think Mullen and Brian Johnson are figuring out how to use him now. He already has more touchdown passes this season (12) than he did in all of 2017 (9) and only has two turnovers. That's all Florida wants to ask of him: manage the game, make the throws we ask you to make and protect the football. When Florida gets into situations where they ask him to win the game he will get them in trouble. 




3) How have the offensive line and wide receiving corps lived up to the higher hopes? 


They really haven't. The offensive line is getting incrementally better after a very rough start to the season. We haven't been able to wrap our minds around the wide receiver usage. Florida has weapons in Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes but they've only touched the ball a combined 14 times in four games. They finally trimmed the list of guys touching the ball in a game down against Tennessee but the way that game played out didn't allow for the offense to really open up. 




4) It's probably a product of the small sample, but the statistical profile of this defense is kind of confusing. What is that unit bringing to Starkville, in terms of strengths and weaknesses? 


The short answer here is Florida was really missing CeCe Jefferson (suspension) and David Reese (ankle). Jefferson missed the first two games and Florida struggled to set the edge. Terry Wilson made them pay for that. Reese played his first game and had 11 tackles. Florida is missing its best cornerback Marco Wilson (ACL) and his true freshman replacement, Trey Dean, is getting picked on. Their strength was depth but injuries took that away in the secondary. The defensive line can really get after the quarterback but their speed and aggressiveness can become a disadvantage with a mobile quarterback. 




5) Why are punters God's gift to Earth? 


Nobody is cheering for the punter. Nobody is happy when the punter is on the field, yet they go about their business quietly flipping fields and making up for lackluster offenses. It's not a glamorous job but they're the salt of the Earth. #PuntersArePeopleToo 


Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson



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