Let's get right to it…
I think one thing we have learned with this staff is that when they have a plan they have been able to utilize it for the most part and they stick with it. On Saturday, it was easy to see that Charlie Weis and company wanted to really challenge the freshmen linebackers at Tennessee and make them do work.
Weis called another game to keep the heat off of Brantley by opening up with short screens that would slow down the rush of the defensive line a great deal. The screens of course worked well, but what they also did was get the best play makers on the team past the line of scrimmage quick and often times one-on-one with the young line backers which we all know was a mismatch.
Weis called some shots down field a few times and that didn't last long as he knows where his play makers lie on this team right now.
Of course we want to see more passes down field, but the games, especially late, predicated that the Gators remain safe and not do anything stupid. So far, John Brantley has thrown six passes in second half of the UT game, two passes in the second half against UAB, ad nine passes against FAU. That is passes THROWBN for an average of six a game.
I wasn't sure about the timing in the game of the ugly double reverse pass that went for a 10 yard loss. However, it actually looked like Chris Rainey ran a quick wheel route. If there was another two seconds of time, Rainey could have pitched the ball and was totally uncovered as he took off down the field after he pitched it. Go watch it again and see.
One thing John Brantley is doing much better than a year ago is standing tall in the pocket and occasionally taking a hit, but most of the time following through on the throw. He is getting better protection, so that helps, but it is noticeable from the end of last year that he is feels the pressure and has been okay with that.
There were five passes in a row at one point in the red zone, four to wide receivers. Brantley laid a few passes up there for Deonte to go make a play and it doesn't happen. He threw behind Omarius Hines on the crosser in the end zone, but he had to throw a little behind, if he led him the opposite safety would have gotten there. I think Hines has to come back a little for that ball for it to have any chance.
Brantley also threw a beautiful corner route to Dunbar on the sideline and Dunbar made a beautiful catch of a pass that could only be thrown where it was. Again, it was just off the mark with getting his foot down in bounds, but a receiver has to make a play sometimes.
Probably the play if his Florida career was the short pass to Rainey that went 83 yards. On the play, the offensive line was all by itself blocking and Tennessee sent five. With one on one blocking all the way across each man got an initial hot on the man across from him, but the pocket started to collapse fast. At the end of last year Brantley may have just gone down or he would have thrown it away. This time, he stepped up in the pocket, had the presence to sidestep a little traffic and then spit Rainey who was quarantined because of a mix up in coverage.
Brantley isn't the best quarterback Florida has ever had, but I believe he is making incremental steps in becoming a better one. He needs some speed receivers to step up and help him out.
Rainey of course is just ridiculous. He actually has been responsible for 39% of the entire offensive yardage production having notched 520 rushing and receiving yards while the entire team has a total of 1,327. He has been a part of 29% of the plays so far or 59 carries / catches of 207 runs / passes.
Rainey seems so good at everything. He absolutely puts his whole body on the line to block for his teammates as well. What a fun guy to watch.
It appears to me that Jeff Demps is either seeing the hole better than we saw in game one or the timing is better with his linemen to hit that hole. We have seen him run through large holes at the LOS and the break outside like lightning before heading up field in last two games.
I thought it was funny how CBS's Gary Danielson made it a point to over-play how Tennessee linebacker Austin Johnson ran down Rainey and on the very next play Johnson got burned trying to cover a short crisscross from the running backs and Demps gets it for 28 yards with Johnson trailing far behind. Two plays later Burton breaks a Johnson tackle and then a few more on his way to a16-yard completion. Danielson did seem to pump up the Vols a little too much on the telecast IMO.
The best thing I will say about the receivers is that they are some of the best blockers on the edge that I can remember at the position. They are just unselfish and take pride in laying out the defender it seems.
They are adequate at catching the ball and all seem okay, but the real issue is that nobody has stepped up to be the play maker in the group yet. Will it happen? It is really hard to answer that question in the affirmative right now.
At tight end, Gerald Christian looked alright in the game and I thought he blocked well. It was good to see him catch a pass, even if a short one.
The best thing was seeing A.C. Leonard back and in on first drive. That was a pretty quick return after a torn Meniscus and it surprised me to see him back, although I expected in another week or so.
Jordan Reed should be back next week and I really think it starts creating more issues for opponent's front sevens when those two can get on the field at the same time.
Only one sack allowed and that was the first of the season and was a breakdown in communication. Tennessee has some talent (albeit not deep) along the defensive line. John Brantley was clean most of the night.
The run blocking has been good and sometimes great, but a bit sporadic. There are just a few too many tick-tack penalties up front as well, but that isn't really out of control.
I think it is time to give some props to Jonotthan Harrison. This is a guy that hadn't played center since the ninth grade until the spring, and has come in and done a really nice job. We all saw last year what bad snaps can do for a team and we saw that again on Saturday, from the opposition. "Big baby" needs some love.
The defense is starting five true sophomores and two true freshman. They allowed -9 yards rushing on Saturday with a team that had a running back averaging 100 a game. Sure they allowed 288 yards passing, but that was on 48 passes, just six yards a pass.
I tallied up successful plays for the defense. A successful play as I was taught as a quality control assistant is getting four yards on 1st and 10, and then getting half the distance to a first down on second down, and then getting a first down on a third down play. For defense it would be holding the offense to the opposite of that.
With that I mind, and including seven penalties against the defense, I had the gator D with a 44 play to 35 play advantage in success. Then they held Tennessee to only two plays over 20 yards in the entire game. The consistent play all game with making the play and the not allowing the huge plays are a great combo and recipe for success.
The return of Sharrif Floyd was a good one. He was credited with two hurries and a pass break up to go along with three tackles. The fact is, he gains ground on the tackle regardless of the situation, so if the ball is coming wide to his side on a toss he is forcing his man back and making the back run further to get to their point.
Dominique Easley continued his dominant play. He had two tackles for loss in the game, but should get credit for just how much he disrupts an offense because of his quickness to the backfield.
Jay Howard is the unsung hero on this line. He just does his job and is really spending some quality time in the backfield. He had a half sack, a pass deflection, and finished third on the team in tackles with four.
Ronald Powell did indeed improve and was the reason that Bray scrambled and threw the pick on the opening play of the second half. Powell was also in on a sack and seemed a little more adept at getting around the outside of the tackles to get to the backfield when he was allowed to rush.
I still think Lerentee McCray is the best pass rusher off the edge. I think he will get more chance to do so moving forward and he had a tackle for loss and two pass break ups on the day. One of which he looked ridiculously fast in coverage in the middle of the field.
We still need a little bit more rush off the end, but I was pleased with the progress that seemed to come on Saturday and think it is getting better.
With steady defensive tackle play, you expect your middle backer types to lead the team in tackles and that is exactly what happened Saturday. Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins were one and two in tackles against Tennessee and the two combined for two sacks, two passes broken up, and one quarterback hurry. It was a good day at the office for Jelani and Jon.
We talked about McCray up front and he played both spots. I was disappointed and not sure why Michael Taylor didn't play in the game. That is a good question for Muschamp.
These guys are going to have their bumps and bruises and they may have just gotten by the best quarterback they will see all season. I actually loved the play of the secondary.
With a bunch of young puppies, the last thing you want is for them to be tentative. Well, they aren't shy that is for sure. They were called for several pass interference / holding penalties, but time and time again, they were in position to make a play. I go back to the only two plays over 20 yards in the game. That is huge for a good quarterback that throws the ball 48 times.
The fact they are in position just means they just have to learn some better technique at the position and with their youth, the learning curve should be a pretty sharp one.
Remember this as well, they will look a lot better as that defensive line improves in front of them. I think it is a very bright future in the secondary and they aren't that far off.
I don't hear anyone complaining about D.J. Durkin now. Not only are his linebackers playing at an elite level. I counted a penalty on one kick return and one shank of a punt in four tries as the only special teams' losses outside of made field goals and extra points from Tennessee.
The positives included a blocked punt that set up points. The Gators went four for four on field goals by kicker Caleb Sturgis. Tennessee had to start on their own 19 yard line twice and 11 yard line once from kickoffs, plus four touchbacks,. They also started at their own 16 and own 11 on two punts by punter David Lerner. It really was a dominant performance form special teams that played a critical role in the win.
Add it all up and it means a victory for the Gators.