Are you thirsty? Well, if you are, Gator Country has a six-pack — of questions — for you.
Each week we will take time to sit down as a staff and answer six burning questions surrounding Florida, their opponent and how the two teams stack up.
Question 1: With Matt Jones and Jon Halapio out for Florida, can the Gators still run the ball effectively?
Andrew Spivey: I think they can, simply because of the opponent they are playing in Toledo. The inexperience on the defense from Toledo should allow Florida to still run well. I think you may see the Gators run more to the left side in the game but I think the issue you may see are in the passing game. The question has always been can Mack Brown pass block, and that will come into play on Saturday.
Richard Johnson: Not to the right side if you ask me. Gator fans should have trust in the left side of the offensive line. You’ve got a guy in D.J. Humphries that, while he may be on the small side — 285 pound — is a very technically sound lineman. Max Garcia also should be fine on the left side, and center Jon Harrison is probably the closest thing Florida has to a sure thing on the O-line. Thanks to Jon Halapio’s absence, Kyle Koehne steps in at right guard. That might not be the best thing for Florida. A lot is asked of that position, especially pulling and trapping to the weakside. Halapio does it very well; I have questions about whether Koehne will. Tyler Moore slides outside to fill the hole Chaz Green was in. I’m not too worried about Moore out there, I think he’ll be able to hold his ground, but with Green out — per the depth chart Florida released Monday — the Gators are one more injury away from playing Trenton Brown at right tackle. I don’t think Brown has the technique right now to play effectively at his size.
Nick de la Torre: I don’t think that these injuries will change Florida’s identity. The Gators want to impose their will on the ground and that’s how they’re going to go about winning games each week. The injuries just mean that Florida will have to go about running the ball in a different way. A healthy Matt Jones was going to carry the ball more than 20 times a game. Brent Pease stopped himself before saying an exact number of touches Jones would get, saying just that “Jones would be tired after the game.” Those carries will now be split between Mark Herndon, Mack Brown, Valdez Showers and the stable of running backs at Florida. Losing Halapio hurts the depth but Kyle Koehne should be a decent replacement in the meantime. I think Florida may have trouble early against Toledo but they will be able to wear down a young, inexperienced defensive front for Toledo under the hot Florida sun and should be able to take the game over late.
Question 2: Do you think Jones will be back for the Miami game or is this illness more serious than the staff is letting on?
AS: I think he will be back in the rotation but not full go by next week for Miami. I think the staff may be under playing how much he is practicing right now to surprise Miami.
RJ: Well Muschamp told us he expects Jones will be back next week, but what Matt Jones will we see next Saturday? Monday, Muschamp told us he hadn’t been out in the heat in pads yet, though he has done other workouts in the heat. Pads are a different story, and I have questions about how Jones will hold up late in that Miami game. He’ll look like his old self in the beginning I’m sure but as that game drags on and it nears the hottest part of the day — game starts at noon — how will Jones’ body hold up? Will it be fully acclimated?
ND: We were told today that Matt Jones will be in shell pads today and possibly continue to practice the rest of the week. Brent Pease shook his head “no” and said he doesn’t need to see Jones in full pads before he feels comfortable and the coaching staff is kind of just waiting for the medical staff to give Jones the green light. Like Andrew, I think you’ll see Matt Jones back against Miami but he will get limited carries and will be closely monitored on the sideline.
Question 3: Who are you looking forward to watching on both sides of the ball against Toledo?
RJ: Clay Burton: he was the winner of the tight end sweepstakes for Florida, I want to see if he’s developed better hands of course. I really want to see how he sets the edge in the run game. That’s something Jordan Reed didn’t do last season and blocking is the best facet of Clay’s game. When you watch Alabama and you see them run plays to the outside, one thing you notice is that they have a tight end either kicking linebackers out or sealing them to create running lanes. I suspect Florida might be forced to run a bit more often off tackle instead of between with the absence of Halapio, especially against Toledo. Florida might find it a bit more difficult to over power with Mack Brown, Valdez Showers and Mark Herndon. Burton will need to be strong in run blocking if Florida decides to go a bit more east/west.
On defense, Neiron Ball: he moved inside and I’m looking forward to what speed he brings inside. When Florida plays the natural 3-4 look they’ve promised to show — besides Mike Taylor — they’ll have quite a bit of speed on the field to aid in pass coverage against Toledo. Ball inside will be big and I look forward to what he’ll bring to Florida’s new defensive interior.
AS: I’m really looking forward to seeing Max Garcia and Demarcus Robinson on offense, simply because Garcia has gotten rave reviews and Robinson is a playmaker the Gators need. On defense, I’m looking forward to seeing Jon Bullard and Brian Poole. Bullard had a good freshman campaign but I want to see how much he has improved.
ND: On offense, I want to see Jeff Driskel. We’ve heard from the staff and his teammates about how he has progressed as a quarterback. But you can call me a doubter, because I need to see it with my own eyes to believe it.
On defense, I’m looking forward to watching Marcus Maye. He’s stepping into Matt Elam’s role and needless to say, those are clown size shoes that he is trying to fill. As long as Maye plays his game the way he is capable of playing, he should have a good season and I look forward to him introducing himself to Gator fans on Saturday.
Question 4: Will Florida play a vanilla style of offense and defense on Saturday like they did last year against Bowling Green?
ND: The blandest flavor of vanilla that you’re ever going to taste. People want to compare Bowling Green to Toledo – the schools are only about a 30 minute drive from each other – but that Bowling Green team that gave Florida a run for their money was a very veteran squad. This Toledo team has some veterans returning on offense but the defense is too young to stand up to Florida for four quarters. Will Muschamp doesn’t care about style points and he doesn’t care what you think about his football team, he just wants to win.
AS: I don’t think so because I think last year against Bowling Green it was the first game under Brent Pease and the staff was trying to take things slow. With this being Pease’s second year and Jeff Driskel’s second year in the system, I expect a normal offensive game plan.
RJ: No, I think the second year in Brent Pease’s offense should breed familiarity. For the most part with the Gators, any smoke and mirrors are just shifts pre-snap to disguise formations, then once the ball is snapped, it’s a team trying to run between the tackles downhill. The level of success they have running between the tackles Saturday remains to be seen. You won’t necessarily see anything radically new Saturday schematically, if anything maybe some picks and rubs to create space in the passing game. However, you may see things run more effectively. Routes crisper, cuts sharper and more open windows in the passing game. Again, conventional wisdom suggests familiarity in the scheme will produce better results. On defense, I’d expect a bit more of a conservative style while they feel things out. The corners will be as aggressive as ever, Puriofy and Roberson will be fine but I’m intrigued about how matchups play out in the interior of Florida’s defense.
Question 5: Name one player on Toledo that Florida should worry about?
AS: Quarterback Terrance Owens, because he’s the leader of their spread offense. If Florida can get pressure on him early, things could get bad for the Toledo offense but if he’s able to settle in, he could have a big game.
RJ: Senior Bernard Reedy, he’s a very talented wide receiver, but I’m most interested in how Florida handles him in the kick return game. He ranked second in the MAC in kick return average with 27.7 yards per return, third in total yards with 885 total kick return yards and tied for first in touchdowns with three. That touchdown number would be good enough for first among all returners in the SEC last season. In punt returns, he was first in total yards with 210 and second in total average with 11.1 yards per return. Upsets are aided by good special teams and if Florida isn’t careful, Reedy could add a quick seven points on the board for the Rockets.
ND: I couldn’t agree more Richard. If Toledo has any hope at pulling off an Appalachian State beats Michigan type of upset, they need Reedy to have a career game on offense and special teams. The Rockets beat a ranked Cincinnati team last season in large part due to Reedy’s ability as a returner. Florida has one of the best punt coverage teams in the country but they were suspect at times last year covering kicks. Contain Reedy, and win the game.
Question 6: Which Freshman will make the biggest impact for the Gators on Saturday?
RJ: He’s a redshirt so I’m slightly bending the rules, but I’m going with Austin Hardin. If this game ends up close, it’ll fall on Hardin’s inexperienced leg. The kicking game last year was an insurance policy, now it could turn into a liability depending on how Hardin performs.The way Florida calls plays once it crosses the 50-yard line changes without Caleb Sturgis, they don’t have his leg to count on. Hardin will need to step up.
AS: I think you will see Demarcus Robinson and Keanu Neal have big games. With Toledo being suspect on defense, I look for Driskel and Robinson to get the air game going. With Toledo being a pass happy team, I think Neal will see a good amount of snaps.
ND: I want to see Demarcus Robinson, but for the sake of being different, I’m going to go with Ahmad Fulwood. Toledo has some size in their secondary and I feel like Ahmad Fullwood’s size and speed mixture matches up well. He is a huge target in the redzone and I’ll go out on a limb to say that he’ll be the first freshman to score this year.