Monday Morning Quarterback

Florida opened its 2003 season much like it did it's 2002 campaign, with a convincing win against a division one opponent. But this year's win looks much different from that one a season ago. This win included impressive performances by all three units for the Florida Gators - offense, defense and special teams all showed that this is a new season of Gator Football and the Ron Zook era officially began Saturday Night.

I thought the Ed Zaunbrecher did a nice job of scripting plays for both quarterbacks, that maximized each player's ability. Ingle Martin, who seems more comfortable under center, did a nice job of working the short passing game and rollout packages. He was aided by a tremendous run and catch by Kelvin Kight to ingnte his first scoring drive. Chris Leak,who has a big league arm, looks very at home running the offense from the shotgun. Leak likes to take shots down the field and got a couple of defensive interference calls that aided his efforts. Both guys did not force throws into double and triple coverage and moved the chains. I like the mix of both quarterbacks and think this is the formula until one distinguishes himself.

Martin played six series in the first half while Leak only played two. This could be a barometer for who gets the nod in Miami. If there was a disappointment it was the fact that they did not get as many yards and carries in the running game. One factor is that the offense experienced great field position. Secondly, they had a defensive touchdown on the interception and started a drive at the San Jose State 2 after the blocked punt. Deshawn Wynn struggled putting the ball on the field twice. The offensive line did a nice job pass protecting and run blocking down on the goal line. The only problems incurred by the first unit was a couple of blitzes and that will get better after this unit works together even more. Kelvin Kight had a great game and caught the first career touchdown passes of both Ingle Martin and Chris Leak. He is the best screen runner at the unit. Carlos Perez had a good first half and OJ Small looks good in the slot. Ben Troupe, Dallas Baker and Jemalle Cornelius have to get more balls and looks if the Gators are going to beat a fast team like Miami.

Can you say anything bad about the defense? The fact is this defense will get better between now and the end of the season. The one issue could be the fact that it won't get bigger. But that's for next week's game. The defense executed flawlessly. After the opening kickoff, the held San Jose St. to field goal and then proceeded to have five three and outs in the first half. Charlie Strong got great effort from the middle of his defensive front - Kenny Parker and Ray McDonald. The linebackers flied around led by Todd McCollough, who delivered some tremendous hits. Guss Scott obviously shined as Strong used him a lot in the blitz package. This is what Guss does well he did not do as much blitzing last year under John Thompson as he did in the prior year under John Hoke. Johnny Lamar was very impressive in his start at corner, while Keiwan Ratliff shined as a punt returner but also was very good in coverage all night. The Gators did not record a sack in holding San Jose St. 98 yards passing but the Spartans do have a short quick passing game and the key was to wrap up the receivers and the Gators did. The biggest surprise was the rush defense, which got itself off to a great start by holding the Spartans to 87 yards on 27 attempts. The true test will come against Miami who will test the undersized defensive line right at the point of attack. But for Saturday night you could not ask for a better performance from Charlie Strong's unit.

Special Teams:
Admit it, you're were thinking here we go again after the opening kickoff? On Matt Leach's first two field goal attempts and Eric Wilbur's first punt attempt you turned your back and asked your wife to tell you what happened. It was impressive for Mike Woodford and Ron Zook. The opening kickoff was a result of young players who were jacked for the opener getting out of their lanes against a very good return man. After that, UF settled down and covered very well including putting some starters on special teams. I like Ratliff's aggressive approach to returning punts. His returns change the field position in the game and set the offense up nicely. Jermaine McCollum's blocked punt puts UF well on it's way to my preseason prediction of four blocked punts this season.

What have we learned?
This team has a chance to be real good at the end of the season. To come out and execute so well with so many new faces and young players was tremendous. All three phases looked very good and show signs of marked improvement in each of them. Offensively they executed, defensively they got turnovers for points and special teams blocked a kick and set up the offense in great field position. It was a much more impressive performance than UAB a season ago and this team will only get better.

This Week:
Florida gets to trip to Miami to face the very fast and explosive Hurricane squad. The size of the defensive front is going to get tested early with the power running game, while the offense must find a way to get open against one of the nation's best secondarys. It's a night game in the Orange Bowl and Florida will be prohibitive underdogs to the top five Canes. The Gators must keep the chip on their shoulder and prepare for challenges in all three phases of the game. The key will be how this young team weather's the early emotion of pressure from the fired up Canes.

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