Podcast: Previewing the Florida Gators homecoming game against Missouri

    Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier as the Gators take the field to take on the #6 ranked University of Utah Utes to kick off the 2022 season at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in on September 3rd, 2022. (Photo by David Bowie/Gatorcountry)

    GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we break down the Florida Gators’ homecoming game against Missouri on Saturday afternoon.

    Andrew Spivey and Nick Marcinko breakdown what the Gators need to do on both sides of the ball to get a win on Saturday.

    Andrew and Nick also give you three players to watch for the Gators, plus we predict the score of the Gators game on Saturday.


    Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, back with Nick. Nick, it’s Florida-Missouri. Gators get back into SEC play with the big Homecoming matchup against the Tigers, who are coming off of a choke job against Georgia. 22-12 leading and somehow or another they put the brakes on the game and lost 26-22. Kind of seem like their luck the last two weeks. Lose a game they shouldn’t have lost at Auburn, and then they lose a game against Georgia they shouldn’t have lost either.

    Nick: Yeah. I was watching that game, the Missouri-Georgia game, and I couldn’t believe what I was watching. I said this earlier in the week, and I’ll stand by it. I think a good coaching staff wins that football game for the Missouri Tigers. They went away from the run, which was what was working. Nonetheless, the Gators got a lot of film on Missouri this year. They’ve had some up and downs throughout the season. They lost 40-12 to Kansas State earlier in the season, but they bounced back and almost pulled off the upset against Georgia.

    There’s a lot that goes into this game. The Gators have to be ready for Missouri to run the football. We’ll get into that, and we’ll break it down, but the Gators got a lot of film on this inconsistent Missouri team this season. We’ll see how that goes this Saturday.

    Andrew: I say this, and this can be said for any game, I guess, if you want to say it like that. I think it’s in particular very much for this game. Florida needs to just take care of Florida. When I say that, I mean Florida just needs to go in and play their style of football. They need to go in and be effective running and passing, and I think that they can score enough points to win this game. Obviously, the defense, that’s about the best thing I can do is huff. It’s been an up and down process for the defense all year, but this Missouri offense hasn’t been great. Now, to be fair, there’s been a lot of offenses that haven’t been great that faired very well against this Florida defense, including South Florida.

    Again, I think Anthony Richardson playing his style of game, Florida should be in good shape in this game. If you look at just Anthony playing Anthony football, like he did against Tennessee and then against Eastern Washington.

    Nick: Napier mentioned the veteran defensive line for Missouri. I think they’re starting four seniors along that D line. They have length. They have height. They’re going to get to the quarterback. If Richardson plays his game, and the Gators can get the run game going early, it should all work itself out. I think when you look at the Missouri offense, they have been off to such a good start this season. They rank 10th in the SEC in total offense. They’re a team that’s going to run the ball. They’ve ran the ball significantly more than they’ve passed the ball this season, which is why I was so confused as to why they shied away from the run against Georgia, averaging 8.4 yards per carry.

    Andrew: They got scared.

    Nick: I don’t know what it was.

    Andrew: They got scared. You look at the game against Auburn, same thing. They had chances to really just punch it in and run away with that game against Auburn, and they decided let’s back off a little bit. Let’s do this, let’s do that. It didn’t work for them. Then they had the fumble where the guy dropped the ball before he was going into the endzone in overtime to win the game. There’s ways to lose football games. Nick, that might be the worst. I don’t know. Missing a field goal is bad, but that? I don’t know.

    Nick: You can’t do that. When you look at Missouri here, they don’t really offer a ton on either side of the football. It’s a game that, Napier said it this week, there’s no bye week. There’s no gimme in the SEC. Every team can beat you at any given day, and we certainly saw that last week when Missouri basically controlled Georgia for four quarters and somehow managed to lose the game.

    Gators have to put their foot down, and they have to put their foot down early in this one, in my opinion. They got to get the running game going. I want to see the play action bootleg. I want to see all the tricks out for this one, because if you let Missouri hang around, they can beat you.

    Andrew: They’ve shown that. You look at Georgia, and you look at Auburn, they didn’t put them away. You look at that, they had chances to win, Missouri did. I think you can really look at it and say that they should be 2-0 after the last two weeks.

    Nick: I agree. This is a team that they started off not very hot, like I said. Lost to Kansas State 40-12, which is not what you want to see at the beginning of the year. I would say they bounced back. They played pretty good football. Obviously, it’s about winning the football game, and they haven’t been able to do that, but when you’re looking at the talent on the field, they’ve been in these games. They’ve competed with the #1 team in the country.

    In my opinion, maybe you agree with me, Andrew, maybe you disagree, I think they outplayed Georgia most of the game. There was little things where Missouri got to the goal line twice and couldn’t punch it in for six. That’s a difference. You got to be able to score in the redzone. Like I said, I thought there was a little bit of a coaching mystery, question mark.

    I was watching the game, and I just couldn’t believe that they would not go back to the run. There was four minutes left. They had plenty of time. They were coming off a drive where they were gashing Georgia. Like I said, running backs ran for 8.4 yards per carry against Georgia. Only ran the ball 15 times. If you’re running the ball at 8.4 yards a clip, you got to have 20+, 30+ carries.

    Andrew: Yeah. Especially in the second half, in particular the fourth quarter. You were trying to ice the game away. What were you doing throwing the ball there? Stopping the clock. Just not good.

    Nick: Just a bunch of question marks.

    Andrew: I think the biggest thing, Nick, is just don’t let Missouri be in position to have that option to fix last week’s mistake, or the last two weeks’ mistakes, of not running the ball or not holding onto the ball. Put them away. You were able to finally see last week. Granted, it’s Eastern Washington, but you were able to feel what putting it away means and how it feels. Hopefully, that helps this team gain the momentum they need, and hopefully that helps this team just really go out and play well on Saturday. It’s Homecoming.

    You’re about to enter a stretch of three games that are absolutely filthy on the schedule. Missouri, LSU, Georgia. Don’t care how good Missouri is, don’t care how good LSU is, and I don’t care how good Georgia is. That’s three tough games, and it’s three games that are back to back to back.

    Nick: I agree. I think the key to this game for the Gators is jumping out to an early lead and kind of getting Missouri, like you said, back on their heels a little bit. When you look at the production from their offense to this point in the season, they have two running backs with over 45 carries. That’s a significant margin. They’re both at around the 260-yard mark, averaging 4.7 and 5.7 yards per carry. They’ve got four touchdowns collectively.

    Ultimately, I think that’s Missouri’s bread and butter, so if you can kind of get them back on their heels and kind of make Brady Cook, their quarterback, a little bit uncomfortable. He’s off to a decent start this season, 63% completion rate. He’s got almost 1,000 yards passing, but just five touchdowns and four picks. I don’t think that Brady Cook is going to beat the Gators. He may contribute. He may make a few nice plays here and there, but ultimately, I think they’re going to try to run the ball. So, if you can kind of take that away from Missouri by jumping out to a 14 point lead, 20 point lead just early in the game, make Missouri a little bit uncomfortable.

    I think it’s no question we saw Missouri uncomfortable against Georgia. They were trailing late in the game, and they couldn’t get it done. They even shied away from what they do best, which is run the football. I think the key is to just jump out to an early lead. Obviously, the Gators need to win the game at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

    I mentioned this in an article yesterday, I think the Gators front seven is really what’s going to make or break this game, Andrew. Linebackers playing with better leverage. Defensive ends getting to the quarterback, making him uncomfortable, like I said, and really just kind of zoning in on the run. It’s the Gator’s front seven for me this week.

    Andrew: I agree there, but I will take it a step further and say that I think it’s the front five on the offensive side of the ball. You can say that every week, it’s a line of scrimmage football game, and that’s true. It is. But I think it’s particularly in this case, where Missouri’s defensive line is their strength. Don’t allow Missouri to get pressure on Richardson. Don’t allow Missouri to really disrupt things. Don’t allow Anthony Richardson to get out of his groove to where he’s in that mindset where he feels like he has to do it all, and then we have Kentucky all over again. Get that push up front, and get that push from the beginning, and I think you’re good there.

    Again, I don’t know that defensively Missouri, I think they’re a pretty good defense, but I don’t know that Missouri can stop Florida’s rollout game and their running with Richardson, if they’re on par and ready to go.

    Nick: Right. You mentioned the Missouri defensive line being the strength of the team, and I agree. Like I mentioned earlier, they got four or five seniors on defense, just on the defensive line. We also know they have a really good linebacker in Ty’Ron Hopper. I believe he leads the SEC in tackles, if I’m not mistaken. Missouri’s front seven is pretty good.

    What gives me confidence going into this game, Andrew, is the fact that we’ve seen Richardson kind of excel in both kind of scripts that I could see happening. We’ve seen the gameplan from Tennessee, where they kind of just stopped the run. They eliminated the Gators from running the ball and said, Anthony Richardson, we want you to beat us through the air, if you can. Although we lost that game, I thought Richardson showed that he can beat you through the air. Then we’ve also seen games like against Utah, where Florida completely dominated the running game, and Anthony Richardson was a big part of that game as well, through the ground.

    I think we’ve seen Richardson do both of the kind of scripts that I could see unfolding in this game. The question is can Richardson do it consistently? That’s kind of where we’ve kind of keyed in on Richardson this season is we just want to see consistency with that. We’ve seen him do it. We’ve seen him do it all. Can we see it consistently? I think if he can do it against Missouri, then we’ve seen three straight great performances from Richardson.

    Andrew: I think the biggest thing for him is to get an early start, to come out playing well, because he is a guy that kind of plays off confidence and is a guy that a little bit has emotions on his sleeve, I guess is the best way to say it. You want him to start fast, and you want him to start on a good note to where you’re not worrying about him all night. Again, I said this last week or the week before last, this team is going to be as good as Anthony Richardson is. It just is what it is. Florida’s going to have to outscore opponents in a lot of shootout games. I don’t think this is one of them, but LSU probably is. Georgia is definitely going to be. This defense just isn’t good enough for that.

    Now, granted, I do think that this week the defense can have a good week. You look at it. Missouri is only averaging 169 yards on the ground and 205 through the air. They’re just okay. They’re not the best of completion ratio either, and they’ve thrown six interceptions. Go get after them, and make Missouri throw the ball to win the game. Like you said, that all starts with that front seven, and you’ve got to be containment wise and play assignment football, if you’re Brenton Cox, if you’re Princely, or whoever it is playing on your defensive ends. They’ve got to play sound football and play fundamental football and stay in their assignments.

    Nick: Right. Andrew, everybody wants the answers, right? Everybody wants the answers to this Gators defense. Why aren’t they playing good?

    Andrew: I have the answer to it. Todd Grantham.

    Nick: Exactly. The honest answer is that we aren’t going to see those answers this year. We may see the Gators improve over the course of the season. We may even see them play really good defensive game. We saw it against Kentucky. I think ultimately you’re not going to see the changes that you want on defense this year, simply because of the lack of depth and the lack of talent on this team. This was a defense that was not left in a very good place, like you just mentioned. It’s going to take time.

    This is, in my opinion, the identity of this Florida Gators team. We have an offense that can score the football. The Gators rank 5th in the SEC in total offense. That, in my opinion, is very impressive with the limited kind of plays they’ve had, due to their defensive coordinator.

    Andrew: I thought Billy Napier needed an offensive coordinator?

    Nick: Right. I don’t know. I thought so too. No. Guys, this Florida offense is playing really good football right now. They’re coming off a great game against Eastern Washington, and another game against Tennessee. They have a chance to put up three really impressive offense performances in a row. It’s a team that ranks 5th in the SEC, and that’s with limited snaps. I don’t have the exact number, Andrew, but I would be willing to bet that Florida ranks near the bottom in offensive snaps.

    Andrew: While we’re talking, I will go look that up.

    Nick: That’s a complete guess on my end, but I do know that we had limited play snaps against USF and Eastern Washington.

    Andrew: Even the Utah game. You didn’t have a ton, because both teams kept the ball. Again, this is a team that for the most part, outside of the USF game and the Kentucky game, have handled their business.

    Nick: Right.

    Andrew: When you look at what this team has done overall offensively, for the most part they’ve been very, very good. Again, I don’t know that’s a recipe that you want to continue forever, having to rely on that, but this year you’re going to have to. Florida ranks 9th in the SEC in total plays run. They’ve run 161. Compare that to Alabama, who’s run 242. Holy cow. Texas A&M has only run 109 plays all year. Didn’t Utah run like 70?

    Nick: Something like that.

    Andrew: Or Tennessee did.

    Nick: No. Tennessee, yeah. They ran a ton of plays.

    Andrew: Wow.

    Nick: Look at that. Florida, like I said, they’re 9th in the SEC in snaps, overall snaps. They rank 5th in total offense. The teams ahead of them, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Ole Miss. Those are four really good offenses. Florida’s hanging with the big guys here on the offensive side of the football. To me, that’s really impressive, simply based on that this defense for Florida hasn’t been good. They’ve given up long drives, long touchdown drives. When you look at it from that aspect, this Florida Gators offense is in a really good spot right now.

    Andrew: Yeah. It is. Again, you’re going to rely on that offense all year. You have to just worry about the defense. My question to you is this, Nick. If you’re Patrick Toney and the defensive staff, do you roll with Kamari this week more over Trey Dean? Did you feel like you got enough out of Kamari to see that he’s willing and ready to go, or do you stick with Trey Dean, the veteran?

    Nick: It’s a tough question to answer, for a number of reasons. The first being I thought Kamari played pretty well. I thought there was things he could have done better. I know Napier said after the game that he made a number of mistakes, but to me the most important thing was that he’s not giving up chunk plays. Right? He may not be winning every snap, but he is not giving up 80-yard touchdowns.

    Andrew: Right.

    Nick: I know it was against Eastern Washington, his first start, but we’ve seen Kamari Wilson rotate in pretty often. He has not made a huge mental mistake yet. I think that says something about the young freshman safety. He’s obviously very talented, and he’s going to have a great future here at Florida. Obviously, I want to see Kamari Wilson play more. I know for a fact they’re not going to shy away from Trey Dean. He’s going to play in the game. He’s not going to sit for four quarters. You can give up on that hope. He’s going to play. He’ll probably start and play a majority of the game.

    It’s tough. Obviously, I’m not in the locker room. I’m not attending practices. I can only tell you what I saw in fall camp and what I’ve seen so far this season. That’s that Trey Dean is just an inconsistent player. He’s going to make plays. He’s going to make big plays, but he’s also going to allow plays that just make your jaw drop and make you wonder why he’s on the football field.

    Andrew: Right.

    Nick: I can’t speak on his injury. I have not heard anything about that. I know for a fact he was not in a boot or any sort of brace last week. We’ll see, Andrew. The answer is I want to see Kamari Wilson play in the game, and I want to see him play often. I want to see him play. I want to see him in there. I want to see him definitely in the rotation, probably more so than he has been would be my answer. I don’t really see a sense in kind of arguing this point, mainly because I think, Andrew, me and you both know that he’s going to play in the football game, Trey Dean is.

    Andrew: 100%. Again, Trey’s made some bonehead plays. Period.

    Nick: Yeah.

    Andrew: So has a lot of the other defensive guys.

    Nick: Correct.

    Andrew: So has Brenton Cox. So has Rashad Torrence. So has Amari Burney. There’s a lot. You have to take it. It is what it is. I want to see Kamari play more. I’ll be honest. I even wouldn’t mind seeing Miguel Mitchell play more than Rashad Torrence. That’s just me. I’ve seen enough of Torrence to know what I’m going to get from him. We’ll see. I’m like you though. Trey is going to get the start. It just is what it is. He is. He’s earned that right, for the most part. He’s going to play. That’s what a fifth-year senior does is get out there and play.

    I was okay with Kamari’s play on Saturday. I thought he played well. Like you said, I think he made some plays where he maybe went with his head down and was trying for the big lick, instead of just making the regular play, instead of making the highlight play. But again, that’s to be expected of a freshman, especially a freshman who was a five-star guy, who had hard hits all over his film.

    The question for me is how they’re going to split up the corner reps with Jaydon, Avery, Marshall, and Moore. Obviously, Jaydon started last week, so that kind of tells you that he’s going to start this week as well. I think he’s definitely probably better suited to start that Avery Helm. I’m just still a little bit concerned of being rusty.

    Nick: Yeah. I am too. I said this a few weeks ago. The Gators have a mess of cornerbacks, a mess of them. They have five to six guys that can go out. I guess the best way to say it is they’re not really pulling away from each other. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It could be both, or either/or. When you look at the unit, I think Marshall has kind of locked in the Cornerback 1 spot, right? I thought he played a really good game last week, probably his best game to this point in the season.

    I just want to make this kind of note on the cornerback room. It’s extremely difficult to cover your defender for a long period of time. When the Gators aren’t getting pass rush, when they’re not getting to the quarterback, knocking him down, making him throw off balance, getting him out of the pocket, just making the quarterback uncomfortable, it’s extremely difficult to cover somebody one on one. It’s probably the hardest thing to do in football.

    Andrew: Right.

    Nick: So, when you see players get burnt, and there’s always exceptions, like I thought Devin Moore was beat at the line of scrimmage the other day, but Corey Collier didn’t get him any help. He was way late getting over. It really is a team game. It’s really a team defense. When somebody gets beat for a 30, 40-yard pass play, were the Gators getting any pass rush, or was he sitting in a clean pocket? I think when you look at it that way, the Gators have a number of talented cornerbacks.

    Andrew, I guess the answer that I have for you is Marshall is going to be Cornerback 1, in my opinion, and then you really are looking at that Cornerback 2 slot. I agree that Hill is probably the guy they go to over Avery Helm. I haven’t been a big fan of Avery Helm this season. In fact, I think I would probably rank him closer to the bottom of this kind of cluster of corners we have here with Devin Moore, Jalen Kimber even. I’ve seen really good things from Jalen Kimber this season.

    But I think the answer, Andrew, is that we’re going to see them all rotate in and out, just like we’ve seen every other game. Everyone was freaking out over Jalen Kimber being listed third on the depth chart. Guys, that doesn’t mean a dang thing.

    Andrew: No.

    Nick: We’ve seen several Gators this season start games in which they weren’t the starters on the depth chart. We’ve seen Jalen Kimber lead cornerback room in snap count, even though he’s the third on the depth chart. Depth Chart doesn’t mean anything, guys. Billy Napier said it at the beginning of the year. It’s nothing more than a talking point for the media. Don’t look too much into that. The Gators room is a cluster. The cornerback room is a cluster right now. There’s a bunch of guys that are going to rotate in and out. Hopefully, Andrew, in my opinion, I want to see two guys emerge as the top two guys.

    Andrew: That was going to be my next point. Until two guys emerge to be that guy, I am with you. I think that it’s a situation where, even with Jason, he hasn’t solidified CB 1 to me. He just hasn’t. He’s had some mistakes. He’s CB 1, because he’s CB 1 right now. Because he’s played the best of the group. Has he dictated that he’s worthy of that overall, as far as caliber in the SEC? No, he hasn’t. I think that it’s now a tossup of Helm, Hill, and Moore and Kimber to really be that second guy. I think you can make the argument Kimber at times has shown he’s the best for it. I think at times Moore has shown he’s the best at it.

    Nick: I agree.

    Andrew: I think, if you go back and you look at history, Jaydon Hill shows that he’s probably best for it. He hasn’t shown that yet from injury, and I think at times Avery Helm is fast enough and has shown he can do. I think it’s about consistency, and I think that’s the word that can be used for this defense in general is consistency. When you look at Ventrell, he’s Mr. Consistency, but outside of him, nobody’s consistent.

    Nick: Nope.

    Andrew: Gervon Dexter hasn’t been consistent. Cox hasn’t been consistent. Rashad Torrence hasn’t been consistent. Dean hasn’t been consistent. They’ve got to put together a four quarter consistent game of them all playing well. When they do that, they have a chance to be pretty good. Dean and Torrence are good enough safeties to win a lot of football games. Dexter and Cox are good enough defensive linemen to get pressure on guys up front. Burney and Ventrell are good enough to stop the run. They just have to do it consistently for four quarters.

    Nick: I guess that’s kind of my issue with everybody harping on Trey Dean as much as they are. He is not the only one that’s been inconsistent this season. I think you nailed it on the head, Andrew. Outside of Ventrell Miller, this defense is filled with inconsistencies. Every player that’s starting on the roster has made a mistake. It may not be the costly mistake that Trey Dean made, kind of just letting his defender walk by him, but the bottom line is this defense is filled with inconsistencies. Where’s the same energy with the defensive line? They have not had the pass rush that we all hoped for this season. Where’s the energy for the other linebackers in the room, who aren’t playing with leverage and aren’t filling their gaps properly?

    Andrew: Right.

    Nick: You can go down the list. You can go down the list of defensive players that have made mistakes this season. I think that’s kind of just going to be the identity and the story for this year’s Gator football team. I said it earlier in the podcast. I don’t know if we’re going to get an answer this season to the defense. It may not come this season. It may not come next season. I think this is something we’re going to really have to be patient with. We’re going to have to get the right recruits in, get kind of that Todd Grantham stink out of the defense, and see where it goes.

    Andrew: You didn’t like Todd Grantham?

    Nick: No. Did you?

    Andrew: No. I just had to ask.

    Nick: No, no.

    Andrew: Making sure you wasn’t a Grantham guy over here.

    Nick: Nope. Not a Grantham guy.

    Andrew: You don’t like giving up 3rd and 19.

    Nick: I don’t love playing 15 yards off the line of scrimmage on a 3rd and 3. That’s my cup of tea.

    Andrew: I’m with you there. No, I’m with you. Again, this defense wasn’t good last year. The players got the defense simplified as much as they possibly could. You’re starting to see, again, guys like Kamari Wilson, Devin Moore, Shemar James, guys like that who are getting more and more snaps, because they’re playing better ball.

    Again, I don’t know, well, I do know. I do know that you’re not going to get the starters benched. Dean’s not going to the bench. Burney’s not going to the bench. Those guys are not going to the bench. They’re going to still play and play a good bit. I just think that you’re going to see more of the younger guys, the Shemars, the Kamaris, those guys, the rest of the year, and rightfully so, because they earned that right. They’ve shown for now five weeks that they can play, and they’re really starting to show that they’re understanding the defense and understanding the adjustments they have to make.

    I think that at the end of the day, that’s all you can hope for from this defense was that by the year end your guys were ready to compete next year. Obviously, Dean’s gone. Torrence is gone. Those guys are gone. You need these guys to be ready to go next season at their spots.

    Nick: Yeah. When you sit down and look at the rotation for the Gators defense this year, we’re already seeing improvements based on last season, based on the youth movement.

    Andrew: To be fair, it couldn’t get no worse.

    ve had five freshmen from the:

    Andrew: I think last week they played 82 guys.

    Nick: 81.

    Andrew: 81. Okay.

    Nick: 81 officially. Yeah. The Gators got in almost all of their scholarship available players. I know there was some with injuries. Max Brown didn’t dress out, and so there were some unavailable players that were on scholarship. Basically, every scholarship player that wasn’t nursing an injury played in the game, and we saw several walk-ons play. That was definitely a bright spot.

    Again, I think my point is we’ve seen kind of this youth movement. Maybe not as much as some of us would have liked. Guys, Trevor Etienne, for example. All the Gator running backs are within six carries of each other this season.

    Andrew: Right.

    Nick: We have three running backs that are all within the 30-40 attempts this season. Trevor Etienne is a true freshman. We’ve seen Shemar James play a serious impact on this defense. Napier wasn’t afraid to roll out Miguel Mitchell on the second defensive series of the game. I already think you’re seeing an improvement in that aspect of this defense, just based on personnel usage. I think you’re seeing Toney and Napier are not afraid to roll out young Gator defenders. Devin Moore has played a major impact on this team. He’s been in the rotation just as much as some of the veteran guys in that room. We’ve seen more playing from Chris McClellan. I think me and you both, Andrew, want to see him let loose here.

    Andrew: I think he’s your second-best defensive tackle.

    Nick: Right.

    Andrew: I don’t even know that it’s close. I think he’s played the best of the group, outside of Gervon. I think the biggest thing for me, Nick, is this defense is for the most part knowing where to be. They’re lining up correctly. They’re in position, for the most part, to make plays. They’re not making the plays every time, but they’re in position to make the plays. For me, that’s a gigantic step in the right direction compared to last year. Is it where we need it to be? No. Absolutely not. But you were crazy to think that it was going to be a complete 180 to being a dominant defense in Year 1. Year 2, Year 3, it better get better. Year 1, it’s tough.

    Nick: It is tough. I think you made a really good point. These players, they seem to be in position to make the plays. For example, Drive 1, Eastern Washington, last week’s game. Amari Burney missed a tackle which would have forced a three and out on the first series of the game. We would have stopped their opening game script, if Amari Burney just makes an open field tackle. He didn’t, and guess what? That cost the Gators an extra 50 or 60 yards.

    Andrew: Right.

    Nick: Then you look at, the Gators gave up 411 yards of offense. If Amari Burney makes that open field tackle, we only give up 360. It’s the little things like that to me that stick out. Burney was in the position to make the play. I do think he makes that play more times than he doesn’t. He just so happened to not make the play, and then we saw Jaydon Hill miss a tackle in open field. He’s coming off an injury, knocking some rust off.

    I think there’s a bunch of factors that go into this defense, but in my opinion the most important factor is that these players look to be so far lined up in the right spot. Andrew, last season we saw the defensive line not even set up when they were snapping the ball. We saw players not knowing where they were supposed to be.

    Andrew: Ten guys on the field.

    Nick: Yeah. 10, 12, 13 guys on the field. You name it, we saw it last season. I think this year we’re at least seeing more consistency with the coaching, with the players being lined up, with the right personnel being on the field. The Gators have not made plays this season, but I think we’re seeing more consistency just on that aspect of the defense this season.

    Andrew: Yeah. That’s all you can ask for. That is. Let’s pick some players. What are you thinking? Who’s your first pick this week of players to watch?

    Nick: I will go with Ricky Pearsall. I was looking at his numbers earlier in the week. I just want to see the Gators get him the ball more. He’s an NFL route runner. The guy runs crisp routes. He’s got hands. Obviously, we saw how well he moves in open space on that reverse pitch, which was a gorgeous play design. Shout out to Sale, who brought that play over from the NFL. Beautiful play design. Couldn’t have ran it with a better player either. Pearsall, we saw his speed too on that 76-yard reverse touchdown. It looked like he was going to get tackled by the safety coming across the field, and he just totally outran him.

    I just want to see him get the ball more. He’s an explosive playmaker. Find ways to get the ball in Ricky’s hands. The guy can make plays. He can run routes. He can even run the deep ball. This is a do it all wide receiver. I love Ricky. I was looking at his numbers, and I just want to see an uptick there.

    Andrew: I’m going to go with Montrell Johnson. I think Florida has some success running the ball, and so I think Montrell is the guy who has been the most consistent for the most part. Against a defense and a linebacker in Ty’Ron Hopper that are pretty physical, you’re going to need a physical back. Montrell is my pick.

    Nick: I’m going to stick with the offense here, and I’m going to Keon Zipperer. I think in the last two weeks, Andrew, we’ve seen just a little bit more explosion from him. We obviously saw the Tennessee play, where he was able to shake off. I don’t know what Tennessee was doing on that play, by the way, but he shook off three Tennessee defenders and took it in for six.

    I just think in the last two weeks we’ve seen more explosion from the tight end unit, and obviously that comes with Richardson being more comfortable and more aggressive in the pocket and things of that nature. I want to see more of him. In my opinion, Andrew, I think Keon should be the starter over Dante Zanders. Do you agree?

    Andrew: 100%. I think it’s a situation of Keon makes an impact. Dante hasn’t been blocking very well, hasn’t caught the ball very well overall. I’m with you. I think Keon should be the guy there. We did see a little bit from Jonathan Odom last week. Griffin McDowell did play a little bit last week, but Keon’s the guy there. I like that pick there.

    I’m going to go with Justin Shorter. Guy who has been Mr. Inconsistency and hasn’t put together back-to-back good games. Maybe this is the week he puts together back-to-back good games against some corners he should be able to go beat. I think Justin Shorter has at least one touchdown.

    Nick: Quick note on Justin Shorter, he’s got 14 catches this season for 314 yards. That’s 22.4 per catch. That’s pretty impressive. Like you said, I think Justin Shorter has been inconsistent at times, but we’ve seen him make big-time plays. We saw it against Tennessee where on the 4th down he went deep, caught the ball. We saw it against USF. He had a big 4th down conversion there as well. Obviously, we saw it last week. First play of the game, 75 yards. Shorter is a guy that he’s actually, Andrew, third in the country versus single coverage. Third in the country. I thought that was interesting.

    Andrew: Yeah.

    Nick: I’ve been critical of Shorter this season. I think we both have, Andrew. If he’s going to continue to beat single coverage, then props to him. Third in the country PSF grade.

    I’m going to go on the defensive side of the ball here. I’m going to go with Ventrell Miller. I mentioned earlier this front seven for the Gators is the key to the victory. Who’s the leader in the front seven? It’s Ventrell Miller. This is a guy that has a ton of respect in the Florida Gator locker room, and he’s just a dog, Andrew. I don’t even know what else to say. He’s an animal. He plays injured. This guy just loves the game of football. He’s an incredible human being. He’s great to talk to, and he’s extremely hard not to root for. He’s just a leader on the defense. He’s a leader on the team. I’m picking Ventrell Miller here.

    Andrew: Okay. I like that. I’m going to go with Gervon Dexter. You need to stop the run and force Missouri to pass, so I’m going to go Gervon. I think he shows out a little bit. I know Napier kind of quietly called him out a little bit. He didn’t call him out. That’s the wrong word. Said he’s still young and still learning, and I think that was a little bit of a challenge of wanting him to step up and be ready to go. I think Gervon has a big day for the Gators on Saturday, and if he does, that’s going to bode very well for Florida.

    Nick: I think the kind of note to make about Gervon is we haven’t seen him really produce on the stat sheet this year, and we didn’t really see him produce last season. There’s no question that the guy draws a lot of attention, right, Andrew?

    Andrew: Right.

    Nick: He draws double teams. The running backs know that he’s there, that he’s going to be coming. I think at the very least he is drawing attention.

    Andrew: Yeah. I agree. What’s your pick this week? Gators are an 11-point favorite. Do they cover?

    Nick: I’m going to go, I’ve been back and forth on this one. I followed the spreads for a while, and this one is a tricky one, because obviously Missouri is coming off probably their best performance of the season. Florida is coming off a win. Eastern Washington, can’t really take away much from that. I’m going to say Florida covers. I’m going to say they win by two touchdowns.

    Andrew: People out in Vegas don’t build casinos by losing bets.

    Nick: True.

    Andrew: They’re hardly wrong. I’m going to go Florida wins as well. Two emotional losses for Missouri, where’s their mindset in this game? I think Florida wins this game, and I think they win comfortably in the game. I’m going to go 31-17, Gators win on Saturday.

    Nick: I’ll give my official score prediction in my preview article.

    Andrew: Okay.

    Nick: I haven’t thought that much into it.

    Andrew: There you go. We will be back, hopefully to recap a Gators win on Homecoming on Monday, and then we’ll get ready for those pesky corndogs from Baton Rouge, as the Gators take on LSU next week. Make sure to tune in on Saturday, as we’ll have a lot of recruiting updates, updates from pregame and Gator Walk and postgame, and everything that goes along with the game day in Gainesville. Make sure to check us out at GatorCountry.com on the web and on social media. We will see everyone on Monday. Thanks, guys.

    Nick: Thank you. Thank you.

    Andrew Spivey
    Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.