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Zaire to start for Gators at Missouri

 

He came to Florida to play his final season of college football only to get beat out by redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks. But finally, after seven contests, Malik Zaire will get his shot. 

When the Gators travel to Missouri this weekend to take on the Tigers, Zaire will start under center for the first time this season. 

"This is his opportunity," interim coach Randy Shannon said, "to get this team where it needs to be and not to be satisfied just because he's the starter."

Shannon said Monday he planned to shake things up and do things his way while leading the Gators through the end of the 2017 season. He made that clearer with this move, departing from former coach Jim McElwain's preference for Franks. 

Franks started six of Florida's seven games this season, amassing 830 passing yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. The remaining game was started by Luke Del Rio, who was lost for the season. 

Zaire has only played in mop-up duty, helping Florida limp to the finish line in games that were out of reach. In those two appearances, he's thrown for 142 yards and no touchdowns. 

Zaire is more mobile than Franks, who at 6-foot-6 has shown the ability to scramble some, but it's not viewed as a strength. Sometimes he also scrambles to his detriment, sensing nonexistent pressure and leaving the pocket only to lose yards near the sideline. Zaire hasn't had many opportunities to show that he can do better, but he'll get one in Columbia. 

He just has to make the most of it. Shannon said the competition between him and Franks, who will serve as the primary backup this weekend, is ongoing. 

"Today is an opportunity for him to run the offense and understand the expectations that we have for him," Shannon said. "This is not a time for him to feel comfortable and feel like he's made it. We want him to keep grinding and understand that competition is very good." 

 

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