Florida Gators, Dan Mullen, with much to prove in season opener

Florida coach Dan Mullen, pre-spring presser

The Dan Mullen era of Florida football kicks off Saturday night in Gainesville against Charleston Southern. It has been over nine months since Florida last played and Gator fans have anxiously waited for this game to arrive.

Here are five things to watch for this Saturday night at The Swamp.

Feleipe Franks won the job, now he needs to win over Gator Nation

It is no secret that Franks struggled at times in 2017 and Florida fans certainly took notice.

Franks enters his redshirt-sophomore year having won the job this off-season over fellow redshirt-sophomore Kyle Trask and true-freshman Emory Jones.

Franks is a good athlete that has play-making potential and a game like this one against Charleston Southern is an important him to begin rebuilding his confidence. Franks was benched numerous times by Jim McElwain in 2017 which had to affect his confidence.

It’s time to let Franks play through mistakes and really see what Florida has in its quarterback.

Welcome back Jordan Scarlett

After missing the entire 2017 season due to suspension, Scarlett returns to the Gator backfield where he led the team in rushing in 2016. Scarlett appeared poised for a big 2017 before the suspension derailed his college career. Now, in 2018, Scarlett joins a backfield that also has sophomore Malik Davis, junior Lamical Perine and others.

Running back appears to be one of the strongest positions on this Gator football team entering 2018 and the return of Scarlett is a big reason why. If Scarlett can return to the form he had late in the 2016 season that would make a big difference.

The big question is how much did not playing at all in 2017 affect Scarlett? We will soon find out.

The Florida Passing Game

Anybody who remembers Dan Mullen’s time as offensive coordinator at Florida, or anyone who watched Mississippi State the past nine seasons, knows how much Mullen likes to throw the ball. Florida enters the 2018 season with maybe the best collection of wide receivers it has had in a decade.

Transfers Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes are eligible to play in 2018 and should be able to come in and contribute right away. Tyrie Cleveland is back for his junior season and with a year of experience for the likes of Josh Hammond, Freddie Swain and Daquon Green, this Gator receiver core has more potential than it has had in years. Can it live up to that potential?

A lot of that will fall on the shoulders of starting quarterback Feleipe Franks.

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