GAMEDAY: Wildcats vs. Florida Head-to-Head Matchup

This week, we match up the Florida Gators vs. the Kentucky Wildcats on a position by position basis. Read this in-depth analysis and see who has the edge coming into this Satuday's game on ESPN at 6pm.


Kentucky is led defensively by senior Ellery Moore. The Ohio native moved from the nose to defensive end this spring. Thus far Moore (6'3 290) has been in on 14 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. Taking Moore's spot over center is 6'2 275 redshirt freshman Ricky Abren. He has just four tackles. Senior Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns has been second team All-SEC the past two years. that the 'Cats could have hoped for . The 6'2 268 had his knee 'scoped on August 19th and hasn't seemingly been full speed since. He checks in with three tackles, one for a loss, and an interception. He had a team high nine tackles versus the Gators in Lexington last season.

Junior Jon Sumrall will start at one of the inside backer spots. Sumrall, 6'2 220 has made 11 tackles this season. The Grissom, Alabama native had just 19 tackles the past two years, moving from defensive back. Fellow inside linebacker Dustin Williams has been battling a pulled hamstring. The 6'5 250 Williams saw limited action against the Hoosiers, but is reportedly full speed. Kentucky will start 6'3 245 Durrell White and 6'4 220 Ray Fontaine outside. White recorded six stops against Louisville with two tackles for loss. He had five more against Indiana, as well as, another tackle for loss. He has good speed and was a 3rd team freshman All-American selection last year. Fontaine played for the same Canadian club team that produced former Florida quarterback Jesse Palmer. The junior has recorded eight tackles. Fontaine has not been the most aggressive player on the 'Cats roster.

The Florida offensive line did a solid job of protecting quarterback Chris Leak last weekend in Knoxville. The Vols recorded two sacks against the Gators. One on a blitz, which the Gators picked up pretty well for most of the night. The other occurred when Jesse Mahelona ran through the center/guard gap and dropped Leak for a nine yard loss. Overall though, Leak was able to find open receivers most of the evening without having the Orange shirts draped all over him. The run blocking wasn't as consistent as Coach Joe Wickline would like, but it was pretty good. Running backs Ciatrick Fason and DeShawn Wynn combined for 30 total carries. Thirteen of those went for five yards or more. Fason finished the night with 5.4 yards per carry. Wynn averaged 3.9 per carry.

Veterans Mike Degory, Randy Hand, Lance Butler, Jon Colon, and Mo Mitchell started for Florida giving the Gators a sizeable group at 6'6 ½ 323. Redshirt freshman Steve Rissler was expected to get the start at right guard, but suffered a broken nose last week and was having difficulty breathing. He also has a leg infection. The Gators should certainly hope to get additional reps for Anthony Guerrero, Billy Griffin, Drew Miller, and Phil Trautwein during this week's contest.

Analysis: The 'Cats don't have much to offer in terms of clogging up the middle and stopping the run. They haven't even slowed down the run. Kentucky has given up 437 yards rushing (Louisville 261 & Indiana 176) in two games. I just can't see Abrams, Sumrall, and Williams blowing through likes of Degory, Mitchell, and Butler. Hand and Colon have also played well at tackle. The 'Cats will have to find a way to get pressure on Leak, but the Vols struggled to get to him. Can UK be any better in that respect? The Gators will spread things out and force the backers to do things they weren't very successful doing against the likes of Louisville and Indiana. Things should open up for C-4 and Wynn.

Big Edge:


The leaders of the Wildcat secondary reside at safety. Manning the free will be 6'0 200 Muhammad Abdullah. The Folkston, Georgia native was a second team All-SEC selection as a sophomore last season. He picked off a pass, recovered a fumble, and had five tackles versus the Gators last year. Abdullah set the school interception record and was an all around track star at Charlton County High School. He led the team with eight tackles versus Louisville. Strong safety Mike Williams is a former Tallahassee Godby star who last season recorded the most stops for a UK defender since 1994. Williams will probably be used by the 'Cats in blitz packages to get pressure on Chris Leak.

Cornerback Earven Flowers (5'10 193) is in his second year as a full time starter. He has seen extensive action the past three years. The senior is known for making sound reads. Starting opposite Flowers will be 5'11 175 junior Warren Wilson. He suffered a season ending knee injury his sophomore season, which required a total reconstruction. After securing the redshirt, he struggled with injuries yet again last season. Both Flowers and Wilson hail from Texas.

Chris Leak was outstanding versus the Vols. The sophomore completed 22 of 31 for a career high 286 yards and three touchdowns. His nine-yard touchdown pass to Jamalle Cornelius clearly demonstrated his patience and ability to manipulate the defense. Leak did throw one interception. The Gators group of talented receivers grew up a bit as well. Senior OJ Small was terrific. Mr. Reliability led the Gators with eight receptions. This game should add to the confidence of Andre Caldwell, Dallas Baker, Chad Jackson and Cornelius as they combined for eight receptions. Each was able to demonstrate a little athleticism, and didn't appear to have to think so much about what they were supposed to do. Hopefully the team learned a lot from Baker's retaliatory punch. You never know who is watching and what pathetic decision they'll render anyway. The tight end remains the invisible man.

Ciatrick Fason continues to turn heads. The junior ran for 81 yards against the Vols on just 15 carries. Sophomore DeShawn Wynn added 59 tough yards as well. I would expect to see Skyler Thornton this week. There was no explanation as to why we didn't see the speedy back against Tennessee. Fullback Billy Latsko hauled in one pass last weekend.

Analysis: The Wildcats have a couple of solid performers at safety. Last weekend Indiana used a spread formation against the Wildcats and put 32 points on them. IU passed for 236 yards. Simple addition using Florida's offensive line, skills personnel, and Fedora calling the plays = Gators high octane attack.

Big Edge:


Unlike their defense, the middle of the Wildcat offensive front will be solid. Center Matt McCutchan was named the SEC offensive Lineman of the Week for his performance against Indiana. The junior from Lebanon, Ohio totaled eight cut blocks, three knockdown blocks and a pancake. He is starting for the first time at Kentucky, since transferring from the Naval Academy. Left guard Jason Rollins is the 'Cats most experienced lineman. Rollins 6'5 290 is a three years starter. The Ohio native was named the best lineman as voted by the staff after the 2003 season. Right guard Matt Huff is yet another Kentucky starter with extensive experience. The 6'5 303 senior moved from tackle to guard this past spring. Huff suffered a broken leg in the season finale' versus Tennessee last season.

The tackle position is one where the 'Cats will have some growing pains. Starting at left tackle this week will be freshman Aaron Miller. Kentucky lost starter Michael Atcheson last week. The 6'6 295 Grayson, Kentucky native has very good footwork. He was an All-State performer last year in high school. Sophomore Hayden Lane is the starter at right tackle. Lane (6'6 280) has played in eight games last season, including getting his first starting assignment against Tennessee in place of the injured Antonio Hall. Lane is one of the nation's brightest student-athletes with a 3.95 GPA in Classics.

After making some adjustments, the Florida defensive front slowed the Tennessee power game. It's what they failed to do on back-to-back Tennessee drives late in the first and early in the second quarters that thwarted the Gators defensive game plan and force the Vols freshmen quarterbacks to make plays. The Gators gave up 116 yards on the ground during those two drives, including 10 runs of five yards or more. The Vols ate up 7:59 on those 80 yard drives and, most importantly scored a pair of touchdowns. There were several missed tackles during those drives where defenders failed to wrap-up the Volunteer backs. Florida held Tennessee to 76 yards rushing on 21 carries (3.6) the rest of the game. One of those plays was quarterback Brent Schaeffer's 22 yard scramble in the third.

Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has a long week on the practice field and in the meeting room. Strong's group got no pressure on either Schaeffer or pocket passer Eric Ainge. The Tennessee offensive line neutralized the Florida front four in passing situations. Defensive ends Jeremy Mincey and Joe Cohen combined for 12 tackles, but got no pressure on the quarterbacks. I understand keeping containment on Schaeffer, but Ainge has little if any running ability. The three man rush employed by Zook and Strong was destroyed by the Vols. Regardless, this group has to get hell bent after quarterbacks. The Gators appeared to get their best push when blitzing. Linebacker Earl Everett recorded a sack and forced the fumble on Schaeffer. True freshman linebacker Javier Estopinian was credited with one of two quarterback hurries. Estop put pressure on Ainge very late in the third quarter as Ainge's pass fell incomplete.

Analysis: The Wildcats ran 33% of their offense out of the shotgun. I wonder if that number might increase due to starting a freshman at left tackle. Quarterback Shane Boyd has running ability, so they'll have to contain him while finding a way to get pressure. Pressure that was non-existent against the Volunteers. It will be very interesting to see if the Gators D-Ends can improve. The 12th man in "The Swamp" helps give the Gators the edge here.

Slight Edge:


Kentucky quarterback Shane Boyd no longer shares duties with everybody's favorite lineman err quarterback, Jared Lorenzen. This gig is all his baby. Boyd wasn't successful in the 28-0 season opening loss to Louisville, hitting just 14 of 34 passes for 172 yards and a couple of interceptions. The 6'2 228 senior was equally ineffective running the ball. Boyd put together a complete game against the hapless Hoosiers though completing 21 of 30 for 205 yards and a pair of touchdown strikes. Boyd leads the Kentucky ground attack with 176 yards on 26 attempts. Boyd has also fumbled a couple of times.

True freshman Tony Dixon has 113 yards rushing on just 13 carries. The 5'10 190 Parrish, Alabama native was the Alabama Back of the Year for Class A. He helped lead Parrish to a 13-1 record and their first ever football state title. However, Dixon has fumbled twice in those limited opportunities. Junior Arliss Beach will play the reserve role. Beach, 6'0 220, got his first ever start last season against the Gators and ran for 47 yards and three touchdowns. Beah has run for 71 yards on 17 carries this season. The 'Cats lost fullback Rock Johnson is likely to miss the game with a shoulder injury.

Former North Miami star Glenn Holt is the Wildcat go to man this season. The 6'2 195 junior had only five starts last season, but has played in each of his first two seasons in Lexington. He has eight receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown. Holt doesn't have tremendous speed, but he is very athletic. Look out for Holt on the reverse. JUCO transfer Scott Mitchell (6'3 215) is the 'Cats second leading receiver with four receptions for 81 yards and a score. Mitchell is acclimating himself to the Kentucky offense quickly. He has good speed and is a solid blocking receiver. He is dangerous after the catch.

Kentucky will also use a pair of tall freshmen to take advantage of mismatches with shorter defensive backs. Bowling Green Lonnell DeWalt set the Commonwealth on fire last season with 58 receptions and 14 touchdowns. DeWalt (6'6 220) is a very good athlete. Like Holt, he doesn't have great speed, but has averaged 14.2 yards per reception thus far. He has four receptions for 57 yards. Redshirt freshman Jacob Tamme is a 6'5 221 possession receiver who Wildcat coaches believe will settle in nicely after missing last season due to a back injury. Tamme has three receptions this season, all last weekend. Both of these guys should see more opportunities as the 'Cats lost Keenan Burton to a fractured wrist. Burton tried to go the past two weeks, but continued to have difficulty.

The Florida secondary had their backs to the wall and were torched by Tennessee freshman Eric Ainge, who completed 12 of 19 passes in the Vols final two drives. Ainge grounded two of those, so realistically he was 12 of 17. The Gators allowed him to hit five of those passes on third and fourth down plays. That's right, Ainge completed 5 of 5 on third and fourth down plays respectively. No true freshmen should ever have the ability burn a quality secondary in those situations.

The cover three and two packages were not effective enough to slow down the Vols. The two-headed Tennessee monsters completed 19 of 28 for 232 yards. Kentucky quarterback Shane Boyd is no All-SEC performer, but he has wheels and if he can throw on the run, could present an even bigger problem for Florida. Presently, the Gators are far from having a quality secondary.

Analysis: The 'Cats passed the ball 57% of the time on first down against Louisville and found themselves in second and third and long situations throughout the remainder of the game. Brooks changed that strategy and threw the ball only 27% last weekend in first down situations cutting the number of second and long situations dramatically. Kentucky also ran roughly 33% of their plays from the gun last weekend. Dropping eight proved to be successful in helping secure a Tennessee victory last weekend. Will the Gators employ that same sound strategy in the future? Regardless, the Florida secondary looked no better than the second week of practice. The 'Cats will have some success moving the football on these short routes.

Slight Edge:


Offensively, Larry Fedora has done a tremendous job calling the Gators shots. The players had other opportunities to score slip through their hands last weekend in Knoxville. Florida's defensive staff had the players in position to make plays, while the Volunteer running backs were running into the secondary during those two series in the first and second quarter(s). There were several missed tackles. However, where was the pressure on the UT freshmen quarterbacks? They both made mistakes when pressured, but the Florida coaches elected to drop eight when the game was on the line. Obviously, there is little confidence in allowing Webb and Hill to go man.

Rich Brooks, Mike Archer, and Ron Hudson have also been around the game a long time. Brooks hasn't had a winning record since '94 in Oregon.

Analysis: See Brooks…



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Big Edge:

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