Scouting the Florida Gators

Bob Redman has been working for or writing about the Florida Gators going on 19 years. He has attended most and watched all of the Florida games since 1985. Here is a look -- prepared specifically for HI.com -- from the FightinGators.com managing editor as the Gators head into the showdown with Arkansas on Saturday in The Swamp.

THE OFFENSE

The Gator offense has made a quick adjustment to quarterback Tyler Murphy. The Arkansas game will be only his second start after jumping in at the second quarter of the Tennessee game for the injured Jeff Driskel. The offense is long on efficiency and short on big plays so far this year, that is the area that needs some help.

Quarterback

Tyler Murphy (JR, 6-2, 210) has given the gator Nation hope since he actually started playing as the Gator quarterback. What Murphy has shown is the ability to direct the offense, manage it at the line of scrimmage, and stay away from a lot of mistakes. He has been surprisingly nimble on his feet and likes to throw the deep fade, which fans are also keen on. So far Murphy has been very good at keeping drives alive on third down and even in tough down and distance situations. He doesn't have the rocket arm of Driskel, but he seems to make better decisions in the passing game.

Behind Murphy is the big unknown. Skyler Mornhinweg (R-FR, 6-2, 214) has seen nothing but last minute snaps in a ball game handing off to run the clock.

Running Back

Matt Jones (SO, 6-2, 226) had a career day last week running for 176 yards and a touchdown against Kentucky. Back from a viral infection that saw him miss all of fall drills and the first game, it has taken Jones three games to really get back to speed. Jones is an excellent pass protector and receiver as well. He has fumbled twice in three games and is still working his way back into good shape from the illness.

Mack Brown (JR, 5-11, 215) has been a bit of a surprise this year with his reliability. Seldom used in his first two years of eligibility, Brown started game one and ran for 112 yards. Averaging 61.2 yards a game, he is a solid short yardage runner and power back. In the past he was a liability in pass protection, but has gotten better.

Valdez Showers (JR, 5-11, 190) is the speed guy of the group and a transfer from defense where he played safety in his first three years on campus. Florida needs speed at the position and he has helped with a terrific 9.6 yard average in the first two games, but only on six carries. He has missed the last two games with injury but is expected back this week.

Starting fullback Hunter Joyer (JR, 5-11, 240) and Gideon Ajagbe (JR, 6-2, 244) are solid players and both seem to be getting better. Joyer had a rough start to the season after also missing all of fall drills and struggled in the first two games. Ajagbe played well early, but fell off in game three and had a good game against Kentucky. Both can catch out of the backfield.

Receivers

Starters Quinton Dunbar (JR, 6-2, 194) and Solomon Patton (SR, 5-9, 177) are the main targets at receiver along with do-everything Trey Burton (SR, 6-3, 230). All three have double digit receptions and all three should top the 600 yard mark this season in receiving yards. Patton has shown the home run ability while Dunbar continues to make the electrifying catches. Burton can make the big play but is a steady receiver leading the team in catches with 20. He is due for a long touchdown pass soon.

Freshmen receivers Demarcus Robinson (6-2, 201) and Ahmad Fulwood (6-5, 196) are due to step up and start making more plays. More has been expected from both and they both have just one reception on the season.

The top two tight ends are Clay Burton (JR, 6-4, 257) and Tevin Westbrook (JR, 6-5, 255). Neither have shown the propensity to catch the ball, but both are excellent blockers.

Offensive Line

The starting lineup is just about what they expected when fall camp started. Left tackle D.J. Humphries (SO, 6-5, 285), left guard Max Garcia (JR, 6-4, 313), center Jonotthan Harrison (SR, 6-3, 310), right guard Jon Halapio (SR, 6-3, 320) and right tackle Tyler Moore (SO, 6-5, 320) should be the unit that suits up. They had their best game as a unit last week and have been mending some preseason and early season injuries so they are expected to continue to improve.

Key reserves C/OG Kyle Koehne (SR, 6-5, 315), OG/OT Trip Thurman (SO, 6-5, 315) and OG Ian Silberman (JR, 6-5, 306) have seen a fair share of time this season, starting in some cases. Tackle Trenton Brown (JR, 6-8, 360) transferred from junior college and has been good in his time on the field so far as a Gator.

THE DEFENSE>

Florida took a big hit last week with the loss of All-American defensive tackle Dominique Easley. Some would say he was the best defender in the country at the time. But, the gators will always play solid defense under Will Muschamp and so someone will have to step up.

Defensive Line

The three tackles looking to keep things going are Leon Orr (JR, 6-5, 302) Darious Cummings (JR, 6-1, 305) Damien Jacobs (SR, 6-3, 300). Orr has been the starter all year at NOSE and Jacobs has a bit of experience. Cummings has played well in moments in the last two games, but that is the extent of playing time for the junior college transfer. None of these are the play makers that Easley was.

The Gators are blessed with two of the best defensive ends in college football and both are only sophomores. Dante Fowler (6-3, 266) and Jonathan Bullard (6-3, 270) are both big enough to slide into different places along the line and both have continued to wreak havoc from a year ago where they earned freshman all-conference and all-American honors. Fowler is the starter at the BUCK position and could be displayed as a linebacker at times in the right defensive call. He had two sacks last week against Kentucky.

With Easley out, look for Bullard to slide inside a lot, especially on passing downs. He has the size, strength, and quickness to be a solid pass rushing 3-technique.

Bryan Cox (6-3, 260) is a redshirt freshman coming on at defensive end. Starting SAM linebacker Ronald Powell will also play some BUCK at times and is a terror rushing the quarterback as well.

Linebacker

Ronald Powell (6-4, 240) is one of the better stories on this Gator squad. The top high school player in America coming from California in 2010, Powell tore his ACL in the spring of 2012. Just before he was expected to return late last season, he tore the same ACL. Now, he looks no worse for the wear. He is moving fast and does not seem to be favoring the knee at all. He has great size as a linebacker and blazing speed off the edge as a pass rusher. He hasn't notched a good deal of sacks but he continues to "affect the quarterback" as Will Muschamp likes to say.

Antonio Morrison (SO, 6-1, 230) and Michael Taylor (JR, 6-0, 233) are as solid a middle linebacker duo as you will get. Taylor is playing way over his head right now and much better than in year's past. Morrison, most will tell you is the best linebacker on the squad.

Neiron Ball (JR, 6-3, 235) may be the fastest linebacker at Florida in the last few years, which says a lot. Darrin Kitchens (SR, 6-2, 237) is a solid backup at both outside backer spots.

It is a bigger and probably faster unit overall than the 2012 version, these guys are playing well and have depth.

Defensive Backs

This is the position where the Gators just have riches to spare. Cornerback Marcus Roberson (JR, 6-0, 195) is an all-star candidate as is fellow starting corner Loucheiz Purifoy (JR, 6-0, 190). Roberson missed the last game with injury but is expected close to 100% for Saturday. Behind them is super rookie Vernon Hargreaves (FR, 5-11, 192) who was the top rated cornerback in high school a year ago and has three interceptions for the Gators already this season. Brian Poole (SO, 5-10, 205) is listed as the starting nickel and can also play cornerback.

With the emergence of Hargreaves and the steady play of Poole at corner, the staff decided to move Jaylen Watkins (SR, 6-0, 188) to free safety following the Miami game. It is a position Watkins played almost the entire fall camp before switching to corner the week before the first game. He will start in place of Marcus Maye (R-FR, 6-0, 206) who had a solid spring and fall, but did get beat for a long touchdown against Miami and head coach Will Muschamp was notably upset about it.

Jabari Gorman (5-10, 194) will likely get the nod at strong safety again. He had a terrific outing against Kentucky and seems to make plays whenever he inserted into the game. Cody Riggs (JR, 5-9, 190) started the first two games at safety, but will likely fight Poole for the starting nickel spot and be a top backup with quite a bit of experience.

Florida has played some pass happy teams in the first four games and pretty much held the passing game in check for all four contests.

The scary thing about this group is that they are young. They will be a lot better by seasons end, but are already playing at a pretty high level.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Place kicker Austin Hardin (R-FR, 5-10, 208) won the job this fall, but is only 4-7 on the year. Muschamp still has all the faith in the world in Hardin. Backup Brad Phillips (SR, 5-10, 195) has some experience.

Punter Kyle Christy (JR, 6-3, 198) is an all-American candidate, but struggled so far this year. He didn't get a chance to punt last week, but his improvement is expected.

Kick returners for the game should be between three players in Solomon Patton, Valdez Showers, and Loucheiz Purifoy. Patton s the main guy and he has been solid. All three bring good speed to the position. Vernon Hargreaves is now the punt return guy. The gators are looking to get big plays wherever they can get them. Marcus Roberson has been pretty good with it so far as well.


Hawgs Daily Top Stories