Fightin' Gators insights into the Toledo game

The Florida Gators finished game one of what they hope to be an exciting 2013 season. There were certainly some fun things to watch on Saturday in the 24-6 win over Toledo and there were also some things we would have liked to see. Cody Jones and Bob Redman answer ten questions about Saturday's win and what what we believe the season will unfold.

1. What were some pleasant surprises on defense?

Cody: "There were two that stood out to me on defense -- defensive tackle Leon Orr and safety Cody Riggs. Orr has always had monster size, but he held his ground in the middle of the defensive line and even showed some athleticism to get outside and tackle a running back on a screen. If Orr can turn into a space-eater next to the quickness of Easley, this defensive line could be really special.

"Riggs lacks the size, but he's always in the right spot and can deliver a blow. He broke up a pass in coverage today and always seemed to be around the ball, leading the team with six tackles."

Bob: "I know I have been hyping him up this fall after watching him at practice, but I was really impressed with Bryan Cox and that was without him even having a single stat. He was physical on the edge and was even in on the second play of the game. With talent at DE, that says a lot for a guy that was playing his first snaps of college football in his life.

"Another guy that I liked was Neiron Ball. Again we talked him up during the three open practices but ball played well in pass coverage and he played well near the line of scrimmage in my opinion. By the way did anyone notice the clip / block in the back by Toledo on Ball on the swing pass that went for 28 yards. It was right in front of the ref and Marcus Roberson whiffed on a tackle at the legs on the running back.

"I will go concept on my third second thought. While I agree Orr played pretty well, it is apparent that Florida doesn't have a true NOSE right now. With that in mind and playing a spread team, they used a variety of personnel on the field and sets to force the confusion from a very good quarterback. That was a very good offense Florida faced on Saturday and they kept them totally out of the end zone on the day. That is something I thought wouldn't happen.

"They used quite a few different looks with a three man line and brought pressure from various players. They dropped ends and tackles from this look, they blitzed multiple linebackers or defensive backs from the look. Most of it worked and they looked extremely fast pulling it off."

2. What were some disappointments on defense?

Cody: "This is a tough category to fill when a team only allows six points. The cornerbacks allowed the Toledo receivers to get open on some of the shorter routes today, but most of that had to do with playing with a big lead and not wanting to get beat deep. This unit played really well on Saturday and has high expectations for the rest of the year."

Bob: "I am going to go with penalties up front with all of the off-sides. The guys were getting good jumps all day but many times were trying to anticipate and got caught jumping. It helped account for at least one of Toledo's field goal drives."

3. Did the Gators show more or at least enough pressure on the quarterback to build on for the season?

Cody: "I think they did. Jonathan Bullard led the Gators with eight quarterback hurries during the 2012 season. Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell were each credited with three on Saturday alone. Muschamp even noted after the game that they didn't blitz much early because the four-man pass rush was affecting the quarterback just like they wanted to do.

"When Easley is getting off the ball as well as he did on Saturday, it's going to make the pass rush from the outside look that much better. The Gators even slid Bullard inside on some third downs, helping get pass rush from all over the field. Bullard had a quarterback hurry from inside that forced a bad throw on Vernon Hargreaves' interception."

Bob: "I think so as well. One thing I was pushing in the off-season is that this defense could be as good but they will attack in a different way. it goes back to not having a true NOSE and thee fact they seem to have more speed all over and actually more size overall at linebacker. They can come at the quarterback from so many different ways and that should be very fun to watch this year."

4. Who will provide the biggest lift with their return next week?

Cody: "I know how good Loucheiz Purifoy is, but I still go with Antonio Morrison here. Stopping the Miami rushing attack will be vital, and Morrison is a key component of making that happen. His tenacity at linebacker, combined with the emergence of Neiron Ball at the WILL, should give the Gators a group of linebackers ready to take on the challenge of Miami running back Duke Johnson."

Bob: "I agree totally. I like the make up of this linebacker group and I think most that watch the Gators every day in practice would say that Ronald Powell and Antonio Morrison are the big guns at the position."

5. What will be Jaylen Watkins role and the whole secondary for that matter, given Loucheiz Purifoy's return next week?

Cody: Watkins has proven too much over his career to be taken off the field, but the play of Hargreaves on Saturday will make things interesting. Muschamp has even said that Watkins can play the nickel if needed. With Marcus Maye and Riggs playing well at safety on Saturday, the immediate need isn't there for Watkins. I think he'll stay at corner and be involved as the nickel in some sets. It's truly scary how deep this defensive backfield is this year. Bob: "What a problem to have. The Toledo receiver unit was supposed to be a very good one. They weren't allowed much on the day at all. I think the only thing keeping Watkins from moving to safety is like you said, the play of Cody Riggs. He really has played well since moving back to the position in the middle of fall drills. I think they will go five DB's and that will allow Watkins and Riggs and Purifoy out there. I just tend to think that with the emergence of Hargreaves as well, Watkins will start to get more time at safety. He seemed to play physical enough there on Saturday. There isn't a team in America that wouldn't want this quandary.

1. Who or what was a pleasant surprise to you on offense?

Cody: "Mack Brown is the obvious answer here, so I'll go that route. He waited his turn for a start and earned his first start in the first game of his fourth year in Gainesville. He carried the ball 25 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns. The most interesting part of the performance is that it wasn't planned this way.

"Will Muschamp wanted to give him some first half touches and squeeze Mark Herndon into the game for some touches. With the way Brown was running, the coaches couldn't get him off the field. It was a feel good story for a running back that waited his turn."

Bob: "How about linebacker Gideon Ajagbe? Excuse me, fullback Gideon Ajagbe. Because of Hunter Joyer's injury he started and played a lot in the game. He scored on a pass play, ran the ball well, and blocked really well. What a find this kid has been at the position."

"Totally agree with Mack Brown as well, but loved Jeff Driskel's poise and his efficiency and really the play calling around that stat. He was 17 of 22 with two drops and a blocked bass on the day. Although we saw no deep vertical passes, they used the middle of the field quite nicely and hit a few in the 15-20 yard range. It was clear they could dominate on the ground so it limited the passing attack, but I liked the little we saw of the passing game."

2. What was a disappointment to you on offense?

Cody: "It wasn't necessarily his fault, but I wish Demarcus Robinson would've been more involved in the game plan. He had one pass thrown his way, but it was tipped at the line of scrimmage and didn't get to him. With what Robinson showed in open practices and the praise he has received from his teammates and coaches, it shouldn't be long until he's a big part of the offense.

"The positive part of his role is that Robinson showed great effort and was very effective as a blocker on runs outside the tackles and quick passes to other receivers. That's an important part of playing as a freshman, and he looks to have that under his belt."

Bob: "After halftime I was hoping to see more of the other running backs rather than Brown. We got little glimpses of Mark Herndon and Kelvin Taylor and how could you not like what you saw there?

3. How do you think Jeff Driskel played?

Cody: "I thought he managed the offense well and looked to have better touch on throws down the field. Today's game plan wasn't for him to show off the arm. Muschamp wanted to keep the ball and not let Toledo control the tempo of the game. The up-tempo Toledo offense would've been bad news if the Florida defense spent extended snaps on the field on Saturday. When Driskel did have a chance to throw, he did well. He hit Trey Burton for 26 yards and the longest completion of the day on the first drive.

"He dropped a perfect throw over a defender to Solomon Patton that was dropped and would've gone for a big play. It was easy to see that Driskel was more calm and collected in the pocket. He had touch on the ball when it was necessary but still showed off his big arm."

Bob: "I started above and Muschamp made a great point about how far Driskel has come. On the sack and fumble from a corner blitz, Muschamp said last year he would and should have had his peripherals all over that guy coming. This year he is so comfortable with what he is going on, he relied on his protection to get that guy and his protection failed. He chided him for fumbling, but the overall concept of the play is more embedded in Driskel than ever before.

4. Was the lack of a downfield passing game much of a concern?

Cody: "Not today. If it continues like this for another game or two, it could become a concern. However, it wasn't part of the game plan today. The Gators still did try to take some shots. The play where Driskel was sacked and fumbled was setting up to be a deep throw. Once the Gators had the game in hand, the offense went even more vanilla to run clock and not show any more of the offense than needed."

Bob: "I think it all had to do with the way they played the Gators. Driskel said it in the post-game that they were very safe and not going to give up anything deep. In turn, Florida hit a few intermediate routes and took a couple of more shots at those routes."

5. How do you see the running back reps working out when Matt Jones returns?

Cody: "Mack Brown certainly made things interesting today. I don't think anyone believes he will overtake Matt Jones for the starting job, but he proved that he deserves more touches. Jones is built to be the bell cow that touches the ball 20-30 times a game. With what Brown showed on Saturday, it looks like he could still factor in for 4-6 touches a game. "Muschamp also said they didn't use the entire package designed for Valdez Showers. He still has some plays for him, as well as Mark Herndon and Kelvin Taylor." Bob: "I think until they feel that Matt Jones is totally back Mack Brown may be that short yardage guy. One, to protect Jones, and two, because Brown showed he can run hard and get the tough yards. I also believe he totally has the trust of the staff to go in at any time I the game and play well for them."


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