The offensive line, the running backs, particularly Ciatrick Fason, defensive tackles, the way the Gators came out after the weather delay to finish off a touchdown drive, the way the Gators came out after halftime and put away EMU.
Wide receiver, Quarterback, Linebacking, Special teams
Defensive ends, Secondary
Defensive tackles Ray McDonald, Marcus Thomas, and surprise starter Kenny Parker completely dominated the middle of the line of scrimmage, helping to limit Eagles to just 95 rushing yards. Eric Holcombe and Clint McMillan provided adequate support. I pretty sure everybody who plays defensive end for Florida played in the game. Jeremy Mincey and Joe Cohen started, Cohen caused a fumble and Mincey would have had an interception for a touchdown except for the fact he is a defensive lineman and forgot to catch the ball. Steven Harris led in tackles with 5 and Florida's only sack. Tranell Morant and Jarvis Moss gained valuable experience. The lack of pressure on the quarterback is a concern but mitigated somewhat by the fact that EMU's pass attack feature three step drops and roll outs.
Channing Crowder looked in mid-season form, recording 10 tackles while covering sideline to sideline. Earl Everett spent most of the day covering Eagle wide receivers and Travis Harris was solid against the run. Do not worry too much about losing Crowder to injury, suspension, or the NFL. Reserve linebacker Brandon Silar, a true freshman, looks to be the real deal, recording 6 tackles to finish second on the team to Crowder. Todd McCullough looked a little rusty after not having played in over a year and a half. True freshman Javier Estopinan also got valuable experience and will be a solid backup through out the year.
Florida unveiled its brand new secondary and left the Florida faithful wanting. Reynaldo Hill and Dee Webb started and promptly dropped their first and in Webb's case second pass interception attempts. Webb struggled getting outsized by one EMU receiver for a completion and missing a tackle that resulted in an Eagle touchdown in the second quarter. Reserve Vernell Brown saw plenty of action and made a nice open field tackle, considering his size I was impressed. Hopefully these guys will get better with experience. Safeties Corey Bailey, Jarvis Herring and Terrence Holmes provided solid run support and will definitely hit you, while displaying adequate coverage skills. This group is definitely a work in progress.
The starting offensive line of Jonathan Colon and Randy Hand at tackles, Lance Butler and Steve Rissler at guards with Mike Degory at center looked extremely impressive, helping the Gators churn out 159 yards on the ground. Degory and Rissler were most impressive. Colon looked good. Hand looked to have given up the only sack. There seemed to be a drop off with the reserves, but Mo Mitchell certainly proved he could be a starter.
Florida's most experienced receiver, O.J. Small, led the way with a solid 6 catches for 99 yards and a touchdown, catching everything thrown his way, proving to be Florida's go to receiver. While Small provided stability, Andre Caldwell, Dallas Baker, and Chad Jackson provided the highlight reel. Caldwell was stubble away from going the distance, Baker made a spectacular catch and caught a touchdown, Jackson had only one reception but it was for 39 yards and setup a score. Baker and Reggie Lewis each had a notable drop, which were the only blemish on an otherwise solid debut.
Ciatrick Fason, hereafter referred to as C-4, proved why he was named the starter and just as explosive as his nickname by rushing for 105 yards on 16 carries, scoring two touchdowns, while adding 1 reception for 9 yards. DeShawn Wynn and Skyler Thornton were no slouches adding another 66 yards on 20 carries with each scoring a touchdown. Fullback Billy Lasko's two receptions for 10 yards and a score should not be undervalued.
Chris Leak had 16 receptions on 25 attempts for 244 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interception. The scary part is that Leak struggled early missing several throws, once he found his groove though he was incredible. Leak was a couple of dropped passes and a stumble away from putting up huge numbers. Leak's play action has definitely improved, he had excellent touch, yet, seemed reluctant to throw the frozen rope a couple of times. As his timing improves his numbers will certainly go up. Gavin Dickey was solid in mop-up duty.
Other than allowing the EMU Eagles to recover an onsides kick, kicking and special teams played well. Coverage units seemed improved. Chad Jackson had a nice 47-yard return he nearly broke for a touchdown. Punt returns could be better. Matt Leach was 7 for 7 on extra points, Eric Wilbur punted three times for a 42-yard average, Nick Fleming knocked both of his punts inside the 20-yard line, and Matt Piotrowicz's kickoffs were deep with 2 touchbacks.
New offensive coordinator Larry Fedora likes to work fast that is for sure. Fedora used his modified hurry up to show a little more vertical passing attack than his predecessor. Other than that the offensive was fairly vanilla, which was to be expected. Defensively, Florida didn't show much either, while playing a lot of zone coverage to protect its young secondary. I thought the coaching staff did an excellent job coming out of the weather delay, finishing off a touchdown drive and at halftime by putting away EMU in the third quarter.
GRADE Offensive A Defensive B+
Most of the Florida faithful who chose to attend the game had hurricanes on the minds, not the Eastern Michigan Eagles. Not the Miami Hurricanes, but rather real hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Ivan. Most fans were discussing the aftermath of Charley and Frances or the potential effects of Ivan. Ivan's impending advance definitely affected the attendance as several fans chose not to attend. A good number decided to call it a day after the weather delay, but those that stayed were clearly happy to be watching a football game as a diversion. Even fans are allowed a pass every once in a while.
Florida was clearly ready to open the season after being delayed a week.
Eastern Michigan provided a solid opening game opponent, but Florida we need
to improve to beat Tennessee next week. Florida will need a better pass
rush. Brandon Silar was the most impressive true freshman on this Saturday.
The defensive backs cannot afford to drop potential interceptions and may
have trouble with taller wide receivers. Jonathan Colon needs to stay
healthy. I am excited about C-4's potential. Did Andre Caldwell get his
shoes from Bo Carroll; if he stays upright he is dangerous. You can't say
enough about Chris Leak, so I'm not going to even try. Why can't we
remember that these teams we open up with have nothing to loose and that
they will try at least one onside kick during the course of the game, since
they only get to kickoff a few times it would seam appropriate to be ready
for the play. I want to see more of Larry Fedora's offensive strategy; I
liked what I saw on Saturday. Overall, the game was a good way to open the
OVERALL GRADE: B
The Armchair Quarterback
Later GATORS, after while the rest!