Notebook: Trouble in Gainesville

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines are on the brink of facing a Florida team that has been depleted by suspensions.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines are on the brink of facing a Florida team that has been depleted by suspensions. Buy this photo
Amelia Cacchione/Daily

 

Thursday, August 31, 2017 - 2:27pm

There are just three days left before Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and the 11th-ranked Wolverines start the season.

Michigan’s roster, which was released yesterday by Harbaugh, is full of youth and inexperience. Nonetheless, it’s still in a better situation than Florida’s — more on that below.

Here are some things to know ahead of Saturday’s game:

SUSPENSION GALORE: Another round of suspensions were announced Wednesday for the Gators, and the latest updates have provided seemingly the biggest blow yet.

Running back Jordan Scarlett has been suspended indefinitely from the football program. He provided a huge boost for Florida’s offense in 2016, leading the Gators with 889 yards and six touchdowns. Scarlett is one of 10 Florida players who won’t be available this weekend. The other key loss is wide receiver Antonio Callaway.

In 2016, Callaway had 721 receiving yards, three touchdowns and 218 return yards. His absence provides a huge relief for a young Michigan secondary.

Callaway and Scarlett are the two most notable losses, but what Florida needs most is depth, and losing eight other players doesn’t help.

Additionally, rumors on Twitter have suggested that there may be even more suspensions to come as the investigations continue.

NAMING A QUARTERBACK: Amidst all the suspension talk, one player for the Gators that will be on the field Saturday is quarterback Feleipe Franks. Florida coach Jim McElwain announced Wednesday that Franks won the starting position over Luke Del Rio and Malik Zaire, a transfer from Notre Dame.

Harbaugh has yet to announce his starting quarterback, taking the same discreet approach to opening weekend that he did last year.

Redshirt junior Wilton Speight beat out fifth-year senior John O’Korn for the starting job last year. Harbaugh mentioned that the competition is — once again — between those two, leaving redshirt freshman Brandon Peters out of the conversation.

Earlier this week, Harbaugh responded to the media’s questions about the position battle.

“Have not heard Florida announce who their starting quarterback is,” Harbaugh said. “We’d love that information.”

Well, now he’s got it. Franks is the Gators’ starter.

COORDINATORS TALK GAME DAY: Michigan’s offensive and defensive coordinators, Tim Drevno and Don Brown, spoke to media Wednesday about the preparation for Florida.

Drevno mentioned that the speed on the outside is a big improvement from last year. The young receivers — notably sophomore Kekoa Crawford, sophomore Eddie McDoom and freshman Tarik Black — have been excelling in practice.

Drevno would not talk about a depth chart or answer questions about who is starting, but he did touch on Wilton Speight’s improvements from last year. Speight’s been working with Michigan’s new passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton throughout the offseason.

“(He’s come a) a long way,” Drevno said about Speight. “Pep has done an outstanding job with him.”

He continued to talk about how Speight is doing a better job understanding the offense and taking command of the game, while also highlighting his improved ability to throw the ball deep and read defensive coverages better.

Brown spoke more about Florida’s offense, and how the Wolverines have been preparing.

“(Florida has) three good tailbacks,” Brown said. “I kind of like each one of them in their own way. They’ll run the ball tight in zones, right at you. They’ll run the off-tackle slash plays pretty well. They do have some elements of zone read in their package as well. … There are some elements we are getting ready for even though we don’t see it on tape.”

Florida’s additional suspensions have dropped that “three” down to two since Brown spoke, putting Michigan’s defense in a good position to succeed when it takes the field Saturday.