From Tennessee to Vanderbilt, the once promising turned inconsistent Gator front seven has dealt with the dual threat. The trend began in Rocky Top where freshman Brent Schaeffer gained 44 yards on seven carries. UF held Kentucky's Shane Boyd to 32 yards on 14 carries, only to let Arkansas' scramble-happy Matt Jones gain 68 yards and 1 TD.
This troubling trend of letting the scrambler bail his team out had much to do with Florida's losses to LSU and Mississippi State. LSU's Marcus Randall ran for 46 opportune yards to save LSU drives, while Mississippi State's Omarr Conner gained 52 yards with a touchdown in the Starkville catastrophe. Georgia quarterback David Greene saved the Bulldogs by using his legs to avoid a sack then throwing a 50-plus yard completion in the fourth quarter. Vanderbilt's backup quarterback, Steven Bright, ran roughshod over the Gator defense for 77 yards on 16 carries.
With starting QB Dondrial Pinkins out with a rotator cuff injury, Newton will take the helm against Florida at The Swamp Saturday night. Newton, whose bad ankle isn't 100 percent healed, had 49 yards rushing with a touchdown last week against Arkansas.
"Syvelle went through the full practice, but he is still a bit hobbled with his ankle," Assistant head coach Skip Holtz said Wednesday.
In order for the Gators to defeat the Gamecocks, loading the box needs to be a priority against a well-balanced South Carolina attack that likes to make defenses commit to stop the run to open up their deep passing game. Sophomore tailback Demetrius Summers is a force and when teamed up with Cory Boyd and Newton, stopping the Gamecock running game will be a serious challenge for the Gators.
Florida will have more help against the run this week with the return of injured linebackers Earl Everett and Travis Harris. While it's not certain that middle linebacker Channing Crowder (sprained foot) will be 100 percent, he's expected to get in at least a few snaps. True freshman Brandon Siler will likely start again at middle linebacker for the Gators. Expect walkon freshman Alvin Butler, who got his first start ever last week at Vanderbilt, to see significant minutes and Corey Bailey, will probably split time between safety and linebacker. He played linebacker in last week's emergency situation at Vandy.
For Florida's defense to succeed, the Gators will first have to make certain that Newton is unable to break containment in the middle of the field. The Gators have good speed to the outside, but the middle has proven to be Florida's defensive Achilles, particularly with running quarterbacks.
Newton's ability to wreak havoc outside of the pocket tends to make safeties start creeping up toward the line of scrimmage before the snap. This is another area where Newton has acquitted himself well. When he has been able to get the safeties too close to the line, he's shown the ability to throw the deep ball with a nice touch. Wide receiver Troy Williamson is usually the target when Newton throws it deep. He's averaging 20.6 yards per catch (39 receptions, 802 yards) and has seven touchdowns.
"Their personnel run a lot of formations that will force us, particularly if we match up, to make adjustments in order to be sound," said Florida Coach Ron Zook.
If the Gators can show the ability to make adjustments, but more importantly, keep Newton contained, this could give the Gator seniors a great sendoff. A homecoming win would be all the more sweet if it sealed a bowl bid for the Gators.