Okay, so Florida beating Toledo 24-6 wasn’t pretty. How many Will Muschamp wins at Florida have been pretty? You want style? Go to the mall. This is one Head Ball Coach who is fine with winning one game at a time, regardless of how it looks. He’ll take ugly wins all day over pretty losses.
It wasn’t an overly impressive win over Toledo, nothing the pollsters are going to like but a win is a win and as long as the Gators keep winning, the pollsters won’t be able to move them down, only up.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Champ has always been one of my favorite defensive coordinators to watch back in the days when he was an assistant. Nothing has changed since he has become a head coach. I always liked his style on the sidelines and loved the way kids responded to him. He’s intense from start to finish and his teams have always delivered on the field. When he was hired, I knew the Gators were in for constant, great defense and he has delivered that beyond my expectations since day one.
Saturday, I liked the intensity I saw on defense. I liked the way the guys on the field pursued the ball carrier. I like the way they delivered hits. If you’re an old defensive guy like me, then you never see enough big hits and it’s always fun to watch quarterbacks running for their lives.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Dominique Easley was dominant inside and got nice support from Leon Orr, Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler. What impressed me most was watching a healthy Ronald Powell. The year off with rehab must have gone well, because I saw improved quickness off the line and the ability to play in space. As he knocks off the rust of missing last year, he’s going to play dominating football. Did you see how Toledo’s players were making sure they knew where he was at all times? That’s the ultimate sign of respect.
The overall pass rush was average but it should progress with film study and corrections by defensive line coach Brad Lawing. Also, nobody is going to get a lot of sacks against that Toledo quarterback. He moves too well and gets rid of the ball in a hurry.
LINEBACKERS: All the linebackers attacked the ball. Although there were some gap issues, they played hard and aggressive. Neiron Ball is a great story, but sometimes I think people pay more attention to the story than what they see on the field. He can play. When he is paired with Antonio Morrison next week, that should be something to watch. Those guys react to the ball, get to the ball in a hurry and strike you. Both Michael Taylor and Darrin Kitchens played solid and that means the Gators will have five experienced linebackers who are solid assignment guys and big hitters.
SECONDARY: When it comes to talent, these guys are loaded. A lot of teams are going to think it’s just not fair. Loucheiz Purifoy was out for the first game but the Gators didn’t miss a beat. Jaylen Watkins played in his place. He’s been at safety most of August, but he’s also an experienced corner. He had his opportunities to make plays but didn’t capitalize. I wish Marcus Roberson played the ball a bit better and wasn’t so handsy, but he’s always in his guy’s hip pocket and counting his change. VH3 (Vernon Hargreaves III) is just going to be a man. He’s got incredible skills and potential. I like the way Marcus Maye played at safety. Cody Riggs is always fundamentally sound and he’s got terrific range.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I was concerned about my old teammate Erricht Rhett subbing for Mr. Two Bits. I thought for sure he was going to pull something weird. In that Mr. Two Bits outfit he looked like a melting Hershey Bar in a yellow wrapper. But, I loved his enthusiasm and the personality he injected. You could feel the love he has for Florida football. I think he did a great job of honoring Mr. Two Bits, a true Florida football icon.