Florida Breakdown: An Insider's Look

Being part of the Scout.com network, we have a chance to share expertise across the network with the outstanding reporters who cover the different team sites. Bob Redman joins us from FightinGators.com to bring you his perspective on the Florida team that will square off Saturday night with the Crimson Tide in The Swamp. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. CDT (8 Eastern) with CBS televising.



Bob Redman has been covering the Florida program since 2004 and before that worked 10 years on staff with the Gators. He has a unique insight into what goes on in a football program even if he is two head coaches removed from Ron Zook who was his last boss at Florida. Here is what Bob has to say about the current Gators before their match up with Alabama.

Quarterback: John Brantley (6-3, 225)

Strength: Brantley is finally in a system that fits his skill set and won't be asked to run the ball from the option like he has had to do in previous seasons. A pure drop back passer he has all the big league throws and solid arm strength. Brantley hasn't been asked to do too much and really has not been pushed to really have to make plays for this Gator team this season. He plays smart football and has only two interceptions to go along with four touchdowns. He is throwing for 188 yards a game and completing 64% of his passes and has thrown only 20 total passes in the last half of the four games this season, just 2.5 passes per quarter in second half play all year.

Weakness: Brantley still seems to make an errant throw or two a game into coverage. The biggest issue now is that he has not seen a defense as good as Alabama this year, so the jury is out on how he will respond on Saturday.

Coming on Strong: Jeff Driskel (6-4, 235)

He was the nation's top quarterback out of high school and so far has looked pretty good. His first pass ever as a Gator was an interception, and against Kentucky he went 0-3 with an interception and a fumble. Still, this kid has as much potential with his arm and leg as any quarterback that has ever suited up at Florida and some day that will get tested.

Running Back: Chris Rainey (5-10, 180); Jeff Demps (5-9, 190)

Strength: Fastest tandem in college football without a doubt. Rainey is ultra-crafty with the ball in his hands and in the open field will make absolutely anyone miss. Demps is more of a straight line runner and an NCAA national champion 100 meter guy with a recorded 9.96 second time in the event. Both can take it the distance with the smallest of creases.

The two have combined for 731 rushing yards and 284 receiving yards in four games. They have a total of 1,015 yards of the 1,847 offensive yards so far this season or 55% of the total.

Trey Burton (6-3, 240) will play at running back some and may eventually become the big running back this offense is lacking. He has skills too and should be a running back but plays fullback / tight end/ H-back for Florida and will play professionally someday. He has a total of 139 yards and four touchdowns on offense.

Weakness: Size for the two top guys is less than desirable. Backups Mack Brown (6-0, 208) and Mike Gillislee (6-0, 205) are very capable runners but have not been able to grasp blocking schemes and so they have been relegated to run only situations and mainly play late in games.

Fullback: Trey Burton; Hunter Joyer (5-11, 245)

Strength: Burton can be a real playmaker from the position allowing for two of those in the backfield at the same time when he is out there. Hunter is going to take over allowing Burton to be in a spot more conducive to him making plays. Joyer is a beast of a blocker and has shown he can carry the rock in short yardage situations, at least against lesser teams.

Weakness: Joyer is still learning although he has a pretty good grasp of most of the offense.

Receivers: Quinton Dunbar (FR, 6-3, 189); Frankie Hammond (JR, 5-11, 188); Deonte Thompson (SR, 6-0, 203); Andre Debose (5-11, 190)

Strength: They are a solid group that makes most catches thrown their way. Each has shown flashes of being a quality receiver. They are fast as a group and also make catches in traffic. They seem to run solid routes which wasn't a given having come from such a different offense last season. Dunbar is supposed to be the biggest play maker and he has some nice catches, but nothing huge yet even against inferior opponents.

Weakness: Lack of real play makers at the moment. Maybe a bit of too much thinking going on, but there are not may yards and special moments after the catch. These are the only four guys they really trust right now.

Coming on Strong: I listed Debose above, but he is the least used of the four. He is a guy that seemed ready to make a move vs. Tennessee before he got injured in the game. He missed the Kentucky game but will be back Saturday.

Tight End: Jordan Reed (SO, 6-4, 250); Gerald Christian (SO, 6-3, 235)

Strength: Reed is a play maker and excellent with the ball in his hands. He can stretch the field and has size and strength to go up and make a big play. He missed the game with Kentucky but is expected back. Christian has his best game as a Gator hauling in his first touchdown pass on a Go-Route for 45 yards against the Wildcats. He also had a nice third down grab for 11 yards and a first down that kept an early drive for Florida going last week. He is a physical player.

Weakness: Reed lacks the physicality to be an in-line blocker and that is something they will look to for the other guys, which inevitably gets his play making ability off the field.

Coming on Strong: A.C. Leonard missed the first two games of the season and has been seen sparsely in the last two. However, he should be a big time player before all is said and done and a guy that will be a mismatch for defenses. He has two full weeks of practice behind him now, so expect him to do something Saturday.

Offensive Line: LT Xavier Nixon (JR, 6-6, 300); LG Dan Wenger (SR, 6-3, 295); C Jonotthan Harrison (SO, 6-4, 300); RG Jon Halapio (SO, 6-3, 310); RT Chaz Green (FR, 6-5, 300)

Strength: Wenger is a transfer from Notre Dame and has maybe been the single biggest influence on the offensive line since his arrival in early summer. He really corralled the line and has been a leader in the cohesion of the unit. He is a bonus the team never expected and landed in their lap in May. The tackles are playing well right now and are probably two of the most athletic tackles anywhere. Interior play wasn't great in game one, but has been much better ever since. Halapio is a beast up front and the most aggressive player of the unit. The Gators have decent depth if they stay injury free.

Weakness: Too many penalties up front and a lot of that caused by the youth on the right hand side and starting from the center spot where you have two sophomores and a freshman. They haven't been tested like they are going to be this week.

Coming on Strong: Matt Patchan (JR, 6-6, 295) would be starting if not for the excellent play of Green. Patchan is a monster and plays extremely aggressive along the lines of Halapio. Kyle Koehne (SO, 6-5, 300) has been a big surprise this fall and may be inserted on definite running downs with his ability to move the man in front of him. Koehne filled in for Halapio when Halapio went down (he is back now), but Koehne earned lineman of the week for his play. There is not a drop off if one of the guards go down. Now two is another question.

DEFENSE

Defensive Line: BUCK Ronald Powell (SO, 6-3, 245) DT Jaye Howard (SR, 6-3, 295); NT (SO, Dominique Easley (6-2, 282); DE Sharrif Floyd (SO, 6-3, 295)

Strength: This has been so far and will be a good run stopping line. The three sophomores get all the press, but senior Howard has been a two time SEC defensive lineman of the week already in 2011 and has had a great start to the season. They are getting pressure from the middle and have been very good at keeping containment from the outside. This group is a big reason the Gators will play better against Alabama this year as opposed to last season.

They also have very quality and experienced depth with DE William Green (SR, 6-4, 255); DT Omar Hunter (SR, 6-0, 310); and less experienced NT Leon Orr (FR, 6-4, 310).

Weakness: There is no sack master just yet, but Powell has been improving in the last couple of weeks and currently has two sacks to his name and has forced two interceptions. Floyd had a really good Tennessee game and then was pretty quiet against Kentucky.

Coming on Strong: Orr is making a few plays with limited time in the game. BUCK Kedric Johnson (SO, 6-3, 235) has played pretty well, but has very little experience.

Linebacker: WILL Jelani Jenkins (SO, 6-3, 230); MIKE Jon Bostic (6-3, 240); SAM Lerentee McCray (JR, 6-2, 252)

Strength: This is probably the strength of the defense and all three starters are playing well. Jenkins is coming off of a freshman All-American season and is the leader on the defense, although Bostic calls the plays. Those two are inseparable on and off the field. Jenkins is a tackling machine that has a nose for the ball while Bostic is fighting through a slumping sophomore season and doing it in a big way, having a great junior campaign so far. McCray may end up rushing the passer way more than anyone anticipated and has been a real big positive for this defense early in the year.

Weakness: The linebackers were caught chasing receivers against UAB with a pretty good quarterback but less than average receivers. They need to do a little better in pass coverage although Jenkins already has two pass break ups on the season. Against Kentucky, the Wildcats burned them for a few screens and for huge yardage. That will cost them dearly if not fixed in the Alabama game.

Coming on Strong: Michael Taylor (FR, 5-11, 220) had a big game against Kentucky and an interception he returned for 30 yards. Dee Finley (6-2, 230) at WILL is the only other linebacker right now that seems to be getting any minutes.

Secondary: CB Marcus Roberson (FR, 6-0, 185); CB Cody Riggs (SO, 5-9, 185); Saf Matt Elam (SO, 6-0, 205); Saf Pop Saunders (FR, 5-10, 190)

Strength: The strengths would have to be the athleticism and instincts of the group. Two true freshmen start in Roberson and Saunders and both have been super this fall. Roberson is tall for a corner and opposite Riggs is very physical even with his smaller stature. Elam is the absolute leader of the bunch as a true sophomore. Elam has had an interception in each of the last two games.

Weakness: The experience of the group before this season was almost non-existent. Elam played a good deal last year as a true freshman but mostly in nickel situations and as a nickel playing in the slot. Roberson and Saunders were in high school last year and Riggs did get two starts at corner but his size scares you in this league. There is no experience behind them except for an unproductive senior in Moses Jenkins (SR, 6-2, 195).

Coming on Strong: After losing his starting spot at safety, Josh Evans (SO, 6-0, 195) has made a real push and played very well in a backup role this season. He has size and a lot of speed and can do some things well. At cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy (FR, 6-0, 188) is a very speedy guy with length and can play, but it is his first semester on campus. CB Jaylen Watkins (5-11, 190) has also come on strong and looks like a guy they will get on the field against bigger receivers.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Specialists: Punter David Lerner (SR, 6-0, 194); Kicker Caleb Sturgis (JR, 5-11, 183)

Strength: Sturgis is 11 for 11 on the season including 51 and 45 yard field goals. He's a really good one that was injured most of last season. He also performs kickoffs and has done an excellent job there so far. Muschamp likes to kick for returns instead of touchbacks or Sturgis would likely kick them all out of the end zone.

Weakness: An untested punter is the biggest concern here and he has been fairly inconsistent, but not bad.

Returners: PR Chris Rainey; KR Jeff Demps, Solomon Patton, or Andre Debose

Strength: Rainey is dynamic whenever he touches the ball and they like to get it to him as a returner as well. He is electric. Demps and Debose find a crease and hit it hard. Debose tied a school record a year ago with two returns for touchdowns and had a 50 yard return last week. Demps took the opening kick of the season back for a TD, but it was called back erroneously by officiating. Patton has his moments as a kick returner, but has been a little inconsistent.

Weakness: Not really too much here. Florida is loaded with speed guys and have a lot of options if need be. Florida has excelled on all special teams so far this season.


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