Florida has a young team, that is well documented. Along with the fact that this is Jim McElwain’s first year at the helm of the program, he is waiting to see how this team responds to the emotions that raced the program last weekend.
“This will tell us a lot about where we’re at,” McElwain said earlier in the week about his team and their ability to focus on this game against a big time opponent. “We’re still in the infancy of this program. It’s an opportunity to see how we handle whether it be adversity, or in this case, handle a little success from an emotional standpoint.”
McElwain will just reiterate the things that allowed this team of over-achievers at this point, to be 4-0 and ranked among the nation’s top 25.
“How that works is the understanding that through the preparation gave you the opportunity to be successful,” he said. “Are you going to take care of the focus (in practice) in the red area, or fourth quarter, or overtime, or whatever the situation is. Our guys have done a great job of living in the now and yet you don’t even find out until you play the game on Saturday.”
The matter at hand includes the Gators playing a very talented team on Saturday. Ole Miss comes to town with talent all over the roster. But as will be the case many times this year the match up of Florida’s offensive line vs. their opponent’s defensive line will be something to watch. With maybe the best defensive lineman in the country in Robert Nkemdiche lining up against Florida on Saturday, this is likely to be the biggest mismatch on the field for any team. McElwain and his offensive line group will take their turns at limiting the effectiveness of Ole Miss up front.
“There are a couple of ways to look at it,” McElwain said. “We have been on a lot of different ways to attack an obviously very talented front. The challenge for us is being on the edge and to really stay away from the negative tackle for loss plays based on penetration and handling their games.”
He warns that they can’t throw everything they have worked on and feel comfortable with out the window.
“Once you start to totally redo something, all of a sudden you aren’t very good at that and then you get real bad at what you hang your hat on.
“With us being aware of where the players are, indicators based on alignments to help us play a little faster. Pace wise, we need to do a good job of changing the pace and helping our guys from a simple standpoint in being strong in gaps.”
The Ole Miss secondary is also loaded with talent and with the Florida offense still in its infancy in terms of growth, there is concern there with going against Ole Miss’ secondary.
The one thing I will say in general, obviously they are opportunistic in the right spots,” McElwain said of the secondary. “Communication… the thing I like to see is on pre-snap when guys are communicating, especially with motions and shifts. What it tells me is they’re all on the same page. You don’t see some of those ‘hey what was that guy thinking’ busts, where you leave a guy free and running uncontested somewhere. Obviously their talent takes care of the rest.
I would say overall, having been gone out of the league for as long as I was and now coming back, the overall talent level and what (Ole Miss) has done in recruiting to get some great players in there on both sides of the ball… man they have really stepped up their game.”
Knowing that Ole Miss is very talented, McElwain is always quick to note that if the Gators can take care of themselves they will have a great chance of winning any game. It starts with the quarterback position and Will Grier will start his fourth game in a row for the season with the competition at the position still there with sophomore Treon Harris.
“We have two really good quarterbacks and still do,” McElwain said. “Both are very capable of playing in this league. Obviously based on the last game and Will was the guy that played, there were a lot of things that need to be corrected in his play for us to be successful. With that being said, the other ten guys around him have to do the right things and be in the right spot for him to be good.”
He did see plenty from Grier to make him believe he was ready to continue on a winning course.
“What I liked was maybe how calm he was in the situations when we needed it most,” McElwain said of Grier. “I thought that was something we could build on. We will just try and keep getting better at that spot. More than that we need to try and get better at the other 10 spots on the field as well.”
With all of that, the Gators are basically playing with house money on Saturday. As long as they don’t get blown out of the water, not many are expecting the home team to win and so they should be able to play loose. Sure there is still a lot on the line, but losing this game won’t be the end of the world and another chance to learn.
But, a win for the Gators and it could be monstrous. Nobody expects this team to be 5-0 next week and far from it according to preseason polls. The big step for this club would help the morale of a team that actually already seems on the uptick. In the end though, I am going to have to go with Ole Miss in a close game and say the Rebels will win 23-16.
GATORS’ OFFENSIVE TWO-DEEP
|WR||#11 (JR)Demarcus Robinson (6-1, 208)||#5 (JR) Ahmad Fulwood (6-4, 210)|
|WR||#81 (FR) Antonio Callaway (5-11, 206)||#10 (SR) Valdez Showers|
|WR||#4 (SO) Brandon Powell (5-9, 185)||#89 (R-SO) Alvin Bailey (5-11, 189)|
|LT||#78 (SO) David Sharpe (6-6, 359)||#73 (FR) Martez Ivey (6-5, 311)|
|LG||#63 (R-SR) Trip Thurman (6-5, 307)||#52 (R-FR) Travaris Dorsey (6-2, 321)|
|OC||#54 (R-SO) Cameron Dillard (6-4, 311)||#64 (FR) Tyler Jordan (6-4, 294)|
|RG||#51 (R-SO) Antonio Riles (6-4, 312)||#77 (R-FR) Andrew Mike (6-6, 302)|
|RT||#75 (R-SR) Mason Halter (6-6, 295)||#74 (FR) Fred Johnson (6-6, 312)|
|TE||#83 (R-SR Jake McGee (6-6, 244)||#30 (SO) DeAndre Goolsby (6-4, 243)|
|RB||#21 (JR) Kelvin Taylor (5-10, 206)||#32 (FR) Jordan Cronkrite (5-11, 205)|
|QB||#7 (R-FR) Will Grier (6-2, 203)||#3 (SO) Treon Harris (5-11, 195)|
GATORS’ DEFENSIVE TWO-DEEP
|DE||#96 (FR) CeCe Jefferson (6-1, 270)||#17 (R-SO) Jordan Sherit (6-4, 250)|
|NT||#91 (JR) Joey Ivie (6-3, 290)||#93 (R-FR) Taven Bryan (6-3, 290)|
|DT||#90 (JR) Jonathan Bullard (6-3, 280)||#57 (R-SO) Caleb Brantley (6-2, 303)|
|RUSH||#94 (R-JR) Bryan Cox (6-3, 265)||#14 (R-JR) Alex McCalister|
|MLB||#3 (SR) Antonio Morrison (6-1, 234)||#48 (R-SR) Anthony Harrell (6-2, 237)|
|WLB||#40 (JR) Jarrad Davis (6-2, 232)||#13 (JR) Daniel McMillian (6-1, 216)|
|Saf||#42 (JR) Keanu Neal (6-1, 215)||#26 (R-SO) Marcell Harris (6-1, 211)|
|Saf||#20 (R-JR) Marcus Maye (6-0, 210)||#8 (R-SO) Nick Washington (6-0, 189)|
|NIC||#24 (SR) Brian Poole (5-10, 208)||#7 (SO) Duke Dawson (5-11, 201)|
|CB||#1 (JR) Vernon Hargreaves (5-11, 200)||#15 (R-FR) Deiondre Porter (6-0, 178)|
|CB||#6 (SO) Quincy Wilson (6-1, 210)||#31 (SO) Jalen Tabor (6-0, 197)|
GATORS SPECIAL TEAMS TWO-DEEP
|K||#98 (R-FR) Jorge Powell (5-10, 171)||#16 (R-JR) Austin Hardin (5-10, 205)|
|P||#19 (R-SO) Johnny Townsend (6-1, 200)||#16 (R-JR) Austin Hardin (5-10, 205)|
|KOR||#4 (SO) Brandon Powell (5-9, 185)||#81 (FR) Antonio Callaway (5-11, 206)|
|PR||#81 (FR) Antonio Callaway (5-11, 206)||#4 (SO) Brandon Powell (5-9, 185)|
|LS||#41 (FR) Ryan Farr (6-0, 213)||#47 (R-JR) Jonathan Haney (6-2, 210)|
|H||#19 (R-SO) Johnny Townsend (6-1, 200)|
Here is a look at the rest of the content from Fightin' Gators from the week on the big game...