The pre-season for the Florida Gators is over and now it’s time to step up and play some SEC football. The Tennessee Vols come to town Saturday and while they might have lost to UCLA, their defense will present a good challenge to the Gator attack. Expect Tennessee to play as if it has nothing to lose.
Speaking of defense, you have to be impressed with Charlie Strong’s unit this past Saturday. They took the heart out of the Troy Trojans, taking a pretty solid passing attack and forcing junior varsity numbers (66 passing yards). The plan was solid, but the unit played with tremendous energy the entire day. The defense was the story in the Swamp in the victory over Troy.
Florida opened up in their Joker package which is a 3-3-5 look. The interesting thing was Justin Trattou was the number one option at the nose tackle. He played hard all day and is very valuable to this football team. However, I think that position would be occupied by Lawrence Marsh if he is healthy. Troy is not committed to the run and when they did in their wildcat package, it was almost predictable. I also loved the fact that Strong was able to get all three safeties on the field most of the game. The Joker package allows you to play your best eleven on defense and not necessarily the best eleven at a particular position.
The Gator offense seemed to be committed to running the ball in the first quarter and I thought Troy squeezed them. One thing I would like to see is Tebow have the freedom to check to a deep pass on first down if the safeties are inside ten yards. The Gators ran the ball too much on first down early and once they started throwing on first down, it loosened things up for the entire offense. I was very impressed with Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. These guys can each go for 1,000 yards if Meyer wants them to get their touches. Riley Cooper is the best blocking receiver I have ever seen at UF and oh, by the way, he is on pace for an All-SEC season. Finally, I like the fact that Tebow ran the ball in this game. Tebow is at his best when he is involved in the run and pass game and that was very evident in the middle part the game.
THIS AND THAT: Tough day for Emmanuel Moody, who fumbled and reportedly was injured. It was not a great day for the Gators who uncharacteristically turned the ball over three times and he was the one guy who could not afford one. I don’t think we have seen the last of Moody, but he is definitely number three on the list right now … The Gators still need some help at receiver but it was encouraging to see Brandon James lay out and make a big-time catch for a touchdown. He is not a natural receiver, but his overall performance this past weekend is very encouraging. I think UF should run more screens to James and Rainey to get them touches. UF had a screen pass called to Rainey, but Tebow sailed it over his head … Tebow had a strong game; however when he is moving in the pocket he must keep two hands on the ball. His fumble will happen more often in the NFL if he continues that trend. He seemed to get better throwing the ball as the day went on and it really felt like an opening game because of the competition the Gators saw the week before … I think UF’s best formation is when Aaron Hernandez is lined up off the line like and H-back. This gives them so many options in the run and pass game … AJ Jones looks like a much- improved player. He was very active and only busted once on a run that I saw. He had the first sack of the season and showed great strength on that play … Deonte Thompson has tremendous speed and you hope he is going to be okay … I think Florida has a chance to be a big play, downfield passing team with DT and Cooper.
FINALLY: With a win this week, Florida will set a school for consecutive wins with 13 … The Gators are averaging 10.5 yards per touch on offense this season and 13 yards per pass completion on first down … UF has not given up a touchdown in the first two games … The Gators improved their third down defense this week against better competition. Florida held Troy to 2-16 on third down which is dominating … The Gator defense has only allowed five runs of more than 10 yards in the first two games and none over 20 yards … Janoris Jenkins had a great opening day with an interception, two tackles for loss and he even had a tackle on special teams … The match-up of the week is Florida’s running game versus Tennessee’s rushing defense. The Gators average 330 yards per game rushing and the Volunteers surrender just 59 yards per game.
BCS BOWL-BOUND STAT 30-30-15: Through two games the Gators have caused four turnovers, registered four sacks and they’re giving up 4.5 points per game.