It seems like just yesterday that we thought the season would never get here and now a quarter of the season is already in the books. With three games complete Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre hand out game balls to the top three performers on either side of the ball.
Nick de la Torre: All right Andrew, Will Muschamp told the media that Tyler Murphy got a game ball after the Tennessee game. He joked that it might be an NCAA violation but he was certainly deserving of getting a game ball. The gesture got me thinking about who should get game balls for the way they’ve played throughout the first three games. Picking three players on offense and defense was hard, for very different reasons, but we came up with three players on each side of the ball that will get Gator Country’s game ball for the first quarter of the season. Let’s get started on offense, who are you giving game balls to on offense?
Andrew Spivey: You know Nick the offense hasn’t played great the first three weeks of the season but I think a few guys have stood out. I have to start with Solomon Patton. What a year the senior receiver is having; his first 100-yard receiving game against Miami followed by 73 yards and a touchdown in the first conference game against Tennessee. So, Solo has to get one of my game balls.
Nick de la Torre: Normally I would accuse you of being a homer about your pick of Solomon Patton, since he is from your hometown, but I can’t say that after the way he has played in the first three games. Solo is leading the team in receiving yards and his route running and hands are night and day improved compared to last season. He has grown leaps and bounds since Urban Meyer recruited him out of Mobile.
Andrew Spivey: Next up I want to give a game ball to the most consistent guy on the offensive line so far and that’s Maryland transfer Max Garcia. Garcia has played guard and tackle and while he struggled a little at tackle he has been consistent at the left guard position and the Gators have run behind him a lot.
Nick de la Torre: I agree that Max Garcia has been the best offensive lineman by far for the Gators. The line has been pretty terrible this season but Garcia has been solid for the most part. He’s had some bad plays but most of the time he is solid. Garcia had a crucial pull block that sprung Mack Brown for a touchdown against Tennessee. Garcia wasn’t asked to do a lot of pulling at Maryland where he played left tackle so this is new to him. He struggled with it against Toledo but has done a better job in the two games since.
Andrew Spivey: My last game ball on the offensive side of the ball goes to running back Mack Brown. What a year Brown has had after being a forgotten guy the last few years in the offense. During the offseason all we talked about and heard was how good Matt Jones was going to be so we heard nothing about Brown. Well, when Jones went down with an illness Brown stepped in and stepped up. He hasn’t started a game since Jones has returned but he has played more and played better than Jones this season.
Nick de la Torre: I also agree with the selection of Mack Brown. It’s such a feel good story with Brown. Urban Meyer and his staff were pumped when he committed to Florida four years ago but like you said, hasn’t done anything at Florida prior to this year. He’s running fast and physical and it’s nice to see him taking advantage of this opportunity.
Andrew Spivey: It’s almost like Brown learned the feel good story from former Gator Mike Gillislee.
Now that we gave those precious game balls out to the offensive side of the ball let’s go to where the Gators are winning games at right now and that’s the defensive side of the ball.
Who are you giving out the game balls to on the defensive side of the ball?
Nick de la Torre: I had a hard time picking three players on offense and defense. On offense it was hard to find three because they’ve underperformed in my opinion. On defense it was the opposite. So many players deserve recognition that it was hard to pick just three.
In my opinion everything on defense starts with Dominique Easley. He sets the table for the rest of the defensive line, which makes things easy for the linebackers and when you get pressure on the quarterback the secondary’s job gets easier. Easley is actually making the entire defense better just from what he’s doing at his position. He’s earning himself a pretty big paycheck from some NFL team with his play as well.
Andrew Spivey: Dominique Easley is a no-brainer the man is making money this fall and he’s a man among boys out on the field. Easley is not only a great player on the field but he’s a leader off of the field as well. Sharrif Floyd was a first round pick last year but I think Easley may be a better player than Floyd overall. Easley is simply the heart and soul of this defense.
Nick de la Torre: My next player is Vernon Hargreaves III. He’s leading the defense in interceptions and already has five tackles. He’s playing like a third-year starter, not someone who’s only been on campus for a few months. He might be the best cornerback on Florida’s roster and that includes two players in Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy who have NFL scouts drooling. He’s a truly special player who hit the ground running.
Andrew Spivey: I agree. My second game ball will go to VHIII. I think most people would be hard pressed to find a freshman cornerback who has came in and had the impact that Hargreaves has had. For Hargreaves to even be on the field with all of the top notch defensive backs the Gators have is impressive enough but to have two interceptions in his first two games is even more incredible.
Nick de la Torre: Finally, I’m giving the last game ball to Cody Riggs. Riggs only played five quarters of football in 2012 before he was lost for the year with a foot injury. He was asked to move to a new position – safety – this season and he’s fourth on the team in tackles and second on the team in pass breakups. Riggs is a veteran player and one of the best communicators on defense. He has played well in his new position, not perfect, but well.
Andrew Spivey: You know, in our pre-game meeting I said that I agreed with you but after further thought I have to disagree with your St. Thomas Aquinas homer pick of Cody Riggs.
Nick de la Torre: Let the record show that sources can neither confirm nor deny if this was a homer pick.
Andrew Spivey: I’m going to give my last game ball to Jaylen Watkins. Watkins is second on the team with 12 tackles and has been moved all of over the defense from safety to cornerback. Watkins is one of Florida’s best open field tacklers and that has been a key. Like Easley, this year Watkins is also showing NFL scouts what he’s got for the next level.
Nick de la Torre: That’s a solid pick. Watkins has played very well this season. So, in total, we have four defensive players but there were so many that were in the conversation.
Andrew Spivey: Dante Fowler is a guy that people will raise their eyebrows and ask why didn’t he get a game ball and my reason is simple: he didn’t play great against Toledo or Miami.
Nick de la Torre: I agree completely. Fowler had a phenomenal game against Tennessee but he wasn’t a factor in the first two games.
Antonio Morrison is another player who we could have given a game ball but didn’t because he missed a game. Even though he missed a game he still leads the team in tackles. I suspect he will get getting one when we hand these out again after the LSU game.
Andrew Spivey: Yeah, I’m not giving a game ball to someone who missed a game. Unless, of course, he barks at me.
Going forward I’m interested to see if Tyler Murphy gets a game ball after game six, because I think the Gators need him to take over the offense in a big way.
Nick de la Torre: The next three games bring two cupcakes and LSU so I think if Tyler Murphy isn’t earning a game ball the Gators will be in trouble. I have a feeling he will though.