The Monday Morning Quarterback

Editor’s Note: Gator Great John Reaves is joining Gator Country for a weekly column that will appear every Monday, appropriately named “The Monday Morning Quarterback.”

I like what I see in Tyler Murphy so far.  The way he came into the Tennessee game down, 7-0, and led Florida to a 31-17 victory was truly outstanding given the circumstances. He threw for 134 yards and a touchdown and ran for another 86 yards and a score. What was really nice was watching how the team responded to him.  It’s obvious they like him and since he took over they seem to be more focused.  There have been fewer penalties, better shifting, crisper execution, harder play on both sides of the ball.

In the Kentucky game I was curious to see how he would handle his first start away from home. Now I know Kentucky isn’t Alabama (even though my mother and uncle went there) but they are an SEC team, albeit the only team on our schedule with a losing record. His poise, leadership, confidence, command of the offense and game management was excellent.  We had only five penalties in the game. He got the team in and out of the huddle in time to audible at the line of scrimmage.  His ball handling and mechanics were superb. He throws the ball with accuracy and zip from the pocket and on the move and makes very nice scramble plays.

I like the way he claps in shotgun formation to alert the team it’s time to go, keeping a watchful eye on the play clock. He threaded the needle on the TD throw to Trey Burton at Kentucky. Against Tennessee, I loved that sideline fade to Quinton Dunbar.

Murphy can run too. Although I’ve heard it told that he runs something in the neighborhood of 4.4, I know that sometimes times are exaggerated. So, let’s just say he has above average speed, particularly with his good size at 6-2, 210. I love the way he ran down the interception and the Big D responded by holding the Mildcats to 0 points. He graduates in December yet has another year of eligibility. Now he’s our “guy” so we need to support him.

Trey Burton reminds me of Aaron Hernandez when it comes to skill set. I wish we would use Burton the way the New England Patriots use their slot and motion guys, using more bunch formations and pick passes to get him free. I like what he can do with the ball once he’s made the catch.

The wide receivers as a group are improving and I see a lot of development in the future for the young ones under Joker Phillips.

Matt Jones seems to be coming on after that preseason illness behind an improving offensive line. Jonotthan Harrison is a terrific center. He looks like another Pouncey the way he’s getting the snap off and then pulling outside on the sweeps.

This defense is #1 in the SEC and #2 nationally because it is relentless, particularly on the line where Dante Fowler had another monster game at UK. Ronald Powell keeps playing hard and that’s good to see. He was extremely active at Kentucky.  The linebackers are really active and they’re a bunch of fierce, hard hitters. I like the secondary a lot, particularly Vernon Hargreaves III. He is potentially our best cover corner.

I just hope the defense keeps the “Chucky” doll going. These guys play with attitude and they’re fun to watch.

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Will Muschamp has assembled a really good staff that is getting the job done. Despite all the injuries we have had to go with that tough schedule, they don’t let up and they don’t make excuses. The buck really does stop with Will.

This is a different style than what we had with Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. Spurrier ran the Fun ‘n’ Gun and Urban ran that spread with the emphasis on ball control, running game and defense. Will’s style is far more conservative, but take a look at the numbers: The Gators are averaging 403 yards per game on offense and giving up only 202, plus they’re nearly doubling the time of possession. We’re only averaging 24 points a game, though, so that does have to improve. We need to improve in what I call the “green” zone, the +20 on in.  Red zone is a defensive term. Florida is last in the SEC in that category so I’m looking forward to more efficiency in that area. The Gators were 4-4 against Kentucky so I do believe that area is starting to shape up.

So, another tough SEC opponent comes to The Swamp this Saturday night (7 p.m., ESPN2). Arkansas (3-2, 0-1 SEC) is averaging more yards and points/game than the Gators with two close losses at Rutgers and at home to Johnny Football.  This is a team that can’t be taken lightly. The Gators can still have a very special year but they have to have a great week of practice and we just can’t afford any more injuries.

Remember the old mantra, “Most battles are won or lost before they are ever fought”

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 Our 1969 Baby Gator Freshman class will be having a reunion, led by their recent UF Hall of Fame inductee Larry “Moose” Morris.  It will be fun to tailgate with those guys pre-game.

I was on the Super Sophs then, a Baby Gator in 1968 when freshmen weren’t eligible. We played a freshman schedule of four games — Auburn, Miami, Georgia and Free Shoes U – and the rest of the time we were the scout team for the varsity. Times have certainly changed!

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 So see you Saturday night and remember “In all kinds of weather we all stick together.” Go Gators!!!

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John Reaves
When he finished his University of Florida playing career in 1971, John Reaves was the most prolific passer in the history of college football. He threw for 7,581 yards in his UF career but he's best remembered for the 70-yard touchdown pass to Carlos Alvarez on the third play of his collegiate career against Houston in 1969. A first team All-American, Reaves played in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Bucs, plus three years in the USFL with the Tampa Bay Bandits. He was the quarterback coach at Florida from 1990-94. He's also the father-in-law of former USC coach Lane Kiffin.