Florida’s second battle against a Conference USA team will provide a different type of challenge than a week ago. UCF is a much more polished offensive unit, led by sophomore running back Kevin Smith. I have watched the growth of this program in a short time under George O’Leary very closely and he is on his way to making this a top caliber football school.
Steven Moffett should probably be a junior but a coaching change in his first season put him on the field in a year he should have redshirted. He has survived the coaching change to become the real leader on his team. He can move a bit but likes to stay in the pocket and let the ball go. His top target is Mike Walker, a legit NFL receiver prospect who was a quarterback in high school, then a defensive back in Mike Walker who was a quarterback in high school. I broadcast the UCF-Penn State game a couple of years ago and Walker played defensive back in that game. He is tough and fast and will be a good challenge for UF’s secondary.
Finally, finishing with the offense, Cedric Gagne-Marcoux is an NFL type center who anchors a good offensive line. UCF wants to run the football first then play action off of it but if the Gators “overpopulate” the line of scrimmage they will try to take shots down the field.
I have not mentioned much about the other side of the football, because it is still work in progress for the defensive minded O’Leary. The Golden Knights want to be physical but they might be a year or two away from loading up on the right talent for the front seven. They are physical enough to play in Conference USA, but in the SEC I think they may wear down. Southern Miss was a more physical front seven than UF will see in UCF which it is why the Gators must oil up the run game this week to prepare for Tennessee on September 16.
The Gators defense a week ago played very well without their senior defensive tackles in Steven Harris and Marcus Thomas. The Gators made good adjustments after the first couple of series and unveiled a blitz package that included a lot of twists from the defensive front. Twists won’t confuse UCF this week as much as USM last week so the tackles are going to need to get a push to create some pressure on Moffett. Brandon Siler needs to key the tailbacks this week and not forget the backup, Jason Peters, who also plays some fullback. With the new rule changes defenses must come out with intensity and energy from the start of the football game. Had the Gators played UCF last week they might have gotten themselves behind two scores before tightening up. I expect UF to come out aggressive and with Thomas leading the way look to pressure Moffett early.
INTERESTING DEFENSIVE STATISTIC: In the first half of the game last week the Gators held the Golden Eagles to 1.92 yards per carry. The goal for this season is under 3 yards per carry.
Florida’s offense is still trying to figure out who can be the feature back in the offense for an entire game. One thing is for sure, Percy Harvin touching the ball looks like part of the game plan every week. The quick sweeps and screens give Harvin a chance to get in the open field one on one and make a play and he is the first UF athlete in two years that has shown he can make something happen. I also think Bubba Caldwell will be more of a factor this week as he shakes the rust. Practice is good but it’s not game speed and Bubba looked a bit unsure of himself last week. Chris Leak will do the best he can to spread it around but when you only get 55-60 snaps in a game you have to find the guy who is open and stick with him. That’s why the NFL games have one or two receivers who dominate because the plays are so limited they can play more and conversely the premier guys get 7-10 touches a game like Dallas Baker did last week. Great passing combinations usually have guys do their own thing like the first touchdown against Southern Miss. Shane Mathews and Willie Jackson had it, Wuerffel and Doering and even Rex and Jabar Gaffney. These guys trusted each other and had sense what the other guy was going to do and that is un-coverable.
INTERESTING OFFENSIVE STATISTIC: Chris Leak was 8-15 on first down which is not bad but could be a bit better. With the new clock rules, the Gators probably want that number closer to 11-15 to avoid too many second and long situations.
SHORT RANT: I have mentioned the new rules changes in this column and I am glad my prediction came true. I have been complaining about this since the spring and now that people are seeing teams use timeouts after change of possession to stop the clock more fans are with me on the new rules. College football came off one of the most watched and historic seasons ever and they want to go and change it by changing the game? How about fewer commercials, less half time or less pre game? These kids put in to much time and the coaches have put in too much effort to be short-changed. This rule has to change next year and if for no other reason how about the development of young players? If you cannot play your young players or even backups in a game because of the number of plays how are you supposed to develop them? We lost 18 plays a game last week compared to 2005. That’s probably two more series and 12 more plays for the Gators. If you multiply that by their average of 6.74 yards per play in the game Dan Mullen turned out 471 yards in the opener against Southern Miss. That sure would have impressed a lot of people, don’t you think? Tim Tebow played five snaps. What is he going to get out of that? Some of the back-up offensive lineman need some reps and they get just one series. Thank goodness I don’t play for the Gators or I may have never lettered without those 12 extra plays a game.
WHAT DOES FLORIDA HAVE TO DO TO WIN?: Play with more focus this week and get off to a better start is a good beginning. That was a quality win a week ago but the game had a sloppy feel to it. You want to be sharper in game two as you get ready to make the big road trip to Rocky Top. I expect UF to be able to move the ball on the ground with the running backs and the offensive line should improve every week. I think DeShawn Wynn will be healthy and I still think he can be THE guy. From the passing game Leak may not be as zoned in on Baker this week, but he may choose to spread the wealth to various receivers to give Tennessee more to work on. Caldwell must get better for UF to beat Tennessee. I think the Gators score more this week against a gritty UCF team. GATORS WIN: 44-14.
STAT OF THE WEEK: 10. UF had ten legitimate possessions and scored on 5 of them.
Check out Sun Sports College Kickoff Friday Night at 7 p.m. with an in depth look at this big game plus check us out immediately following the Gator Game for the Post Game Show featuring Urban Meyer’s Press Conference and player interviews. Whit Watson and Terry Norvelle will be with me Friday and Whit, Todd Lewis, David Steele, Nat Moore and I will anchor the Post Game on Saturday night. http://www.sunsportstv.com.
Be sure to listen to Brady Ackerman on 900AM Ocala and 1230 AM Gainesville every morning, Monday through Friday from 7-10 a.m.