It’s well-known enough advice that you should not overreact to Week 1 that it’s become a cliche. Here’s mine for this week: don’t overreact to Week 2 either.
After all, it wasn’t hard to find people wondering if Florida was more than a marginal bowl team a year ago after losing to Kentucky in Week 2. UK turned out to be a lot better than people thought at the time. So did the Gators.
It’s important to note that some of the issues from the opener did get fixed. Florida went down to three flags for just 30 yards, and the only procedural one came in the fourth quarter when all of the backups on offense were in. The Gators didn’t turn it over, though Kyle Trask really tried to on his one incompletion.
Plus, UT-Martin’s early offensive success was a factor of them having some good plays and executing them well. They caught UF napping with the quarterback draw a couple times, something I almost put in my preview piece since they did that to good effect in their first game too. When a team has a pocket-bound passer, the draw will be open sometimes. To UTM’s credit, they cashed in on those chances.
Feleipe Franks looked a lot better and more comfortable. The fact that the defense dropped eight guys a lot, something Dan Mullen spoke about in his postgame presser, meant that he was standing around in the pocket a lot. It’s hard for a three-man rush to get pressure, but it’s also hard to find an opening when eight guys are in pass coverage.
The accuracy was there when he threw, though, as he only had two incompletions on the night. One of them was a nothing-to-lose heave to the end zone on the last play of the first half, too. His second incompletion wasn’t pretty and could’ve been picked off, but for him to only have one objectionable throw is progress over two weeks ago.
That said, I think Franks made a lot of questionable decisions on read plays early. I’ll get into specifics later in the week, but they were largely about him throwing when he probably should’ve handed off on RPOs. He completed all those throws, so that at least was good, but you want to see him make the right decisions. Him having a nearly flawless game with his decisions was what made his performance against FSU so outstanding late last year.
Some first-week issues did not get fixed. Chris Bleich had a rough game again; I’m not sure about Jean Delance and will have to tell you after I do my game charting. Stone Forsythe got a hold called on him after getting one against Miami too.
Blocking from the tight ends was bad for the second consecutive game as well. I know how much the coaches want Kyle Pitts on the field because he’s a real threat in the passing game, but one play he’ll execute his block perfectly and the next he’ll look utterly lost when trying to figure out who to block. I know from the depth charts and usage that they like him and Lucas Krull the best in that unit, and Pitts is getting his first real collegiate action as a blocker. He should improve with time. If they get to crunch time and really need to run against someone, they’re going to need to use Kemore Gamble more.
It’s hard to draw too much from the defensive performance. Florida was rotating young guys in from the jump, with Chester Kimbrough appearing at corner opposite Marco Wilson instead of CJ Henderson on the first drive. The young defensive backs acquitted themselves well, and it was good to see TJ Slaton looking disruptive in the middle. He will need to A) avoid getting himself suspended anymore and B) do that against at least FBS competition to get a vote of confidence from me, but he was giving full effort from what I saw.
The injuries to Kadarius Toney and Henderson are worrisome, though the early word on them seems to be that they’re unlikely to be gone for long. UF can absorb the loss of Toney a lot easier, and not just because Jacob Copeland looked good in his limited action. UF only gives the ball to Toney about four or five times a game anyway, and receiver is still a loaded position without him. Good as the freshman corners looked, there’s a wide gap between them and a likely first round NFL Draft pick.
Overall it was a good scrimmage on Saturday, showing some improvements and areas of opportunity. There were some injuries, but they don’t seem to be severe. There are a lot worse fates than being 2-0. Just ask Tennessee.