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Florida suffers 5th loss in row, but there are a few things to build on for next season

Florida Gators DB Chauncey Gardner
COURTESY OF FLORIDA ATHLETICS

Florida lost its fifth consecutive game Saturday, falling 28-20 at South Carolina. The Gators (3-6 overall, 3-5 in the SEC) will finish with a losing record in SEC play for the third time since 2011.

Here are the takeaways from the game.

1. Let’s be positive

The skinny: I don’t care that the team played harder than last week’s debacle at Missouri. There are no moral victories at Florida, especially losing by eight to an average South Carolina team. We know interim coach Randy Shannon is a goner, so it doesn’t make sense to waste time and energy breaking down his decisions. It doesn’t matter that subpar graduate transfer quarterback Malik Zaire left the game with an injury. But with the season long since lost, it is important to start focusing in on what Florida has to build around for the next coach. There were several things to like Saturday.

RELATED: SEC Week 11 in review: A look at all the games from Saturday

2. The freshman corners are promising

The skinny: True freshmen CBa C.J. Henderson and Marco Wilson have grown up a ton over the past few months and have showed glimpses of being a potent 1-2 punch next fall. Henderson recorded an interception, but in reality it was an easy play. South Carolina QB Jake Bentley threw the ball in a horrible spot and Henderson was able to make an easy catch with no one around him (though he did fumble on the return). Henderson looked good on other plays in coverage. He has four picks this season, tying for first in the nation among true freshmen (eighth overall in the country). Wilson also shows signs that he could be a quality player for the next two seasons. Ideally, the new coach will be able to move true sophomore Chauncey Gardner (pictured above) back to cornerback or to free safety. Gardner had a brilliant interception near the South Carolina goal line. He’s miscast as a strong safety, incapable of stopping the run in the box.

3. There is an offensive nucleus

The skinny: RB Lamical Perine scored another touchdown, pushing his total to seven on the ground this season. He gives UF an enviable tandem next fall with true freshman Malik Davis. WRs Kadarius Toney (true freshman) and Tyrie Cleveland (sophomore) also will return. Both showed guts on Saturday. Toney is playing through a shoulder injury and caught a pass for a 23-yard gain. Cleveland caught a pass for an 11-yard gain, but is clearly not the same player as before a high ankle sprain suffered against Vanderbilt on September 30. The new coach will have to find a quarterback, but there’s something to work with at the skill spots. These four players should combine for 40 touches regularly next season.

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