Rewind And Fast Forward

Because the week has been so packed with information and activity about the Gators, the "After Further Review" story for the South Carolina game was missed, so I hope you will bear with me as this will be a combination preview of the Florida State game and a review of last week's South Carolina game.

Against South Carolina, the Gators put together one of their most complete games of the Ron Zook era. Florida was dominating on both offense and defense. While the running game was stymied by the South Carolina line and linebackers, their gamble to stuff the run allowed Florida to open up the passing game. They stacked the line, often seven tight in the box, so the Gators countered by throwing deep early and often. Chris Leak missed some early passes, mostly on corner routes and passes in the flat. Early on the wind was swirling and that may have had an effect on his accuracy, but once he got on target, South Carolina paid a huge price.

From what I have seen on film, I believe the FSU game sets up well for Leak. The Seminoles don't play a lot of bump and run and man coverage, preferring instead to play zones. They really don't like to mix it up. Leak is at his best when he can throw timing routes and zones make it easier by not impeding the receivers.

The running game wasn't up to par against South Carolina but that was due to the Gamecocks selling out to stop the run. Expect that to happen this week, too. Florida State's first goal on defense always is to stuff the run. Their front seven is as fast as the Gators have seen all year, with the exception perhaps of Georgia. The linebackers are exceptional both with speed and tenacity. Florida State doesn't try to confuse opponents with schemes. They just line up and try to intimidate you with their speed and deep, athletic defensive personnel. They will blitz on occasion but not too often.

Florida's receivers had a great game against South Carolina. I have been told that except for penalties, every single receiver graded out at 100% against South Carolina. I can tell you that grading is something that Coach Fedora does not handle lightly. To grade out perfect means that on every single play, you carried out your assignment to the best of your ability, every downfield block, every route angle and yards and no drops. It is so much fun to watch Chad Jackson and Bubba Caldwell grow into this offense and into their Gator careers. Chad is the receiver that finally got his chance and excelled and Bubba is the receiver that finally caught up with his own two feet. Dallas Baker seems to be making big play after big play, too. Lately he has caught a lot of the outs and long corner passes.

I think this is a good match up for the Gators. Unless Florida State starts playing a lot of man defense for a change, I believe the Gators will be able to throw consistently on the Noles. If FSU decides to go man to man, look for Tate Casey, who has emerged as a presence at the tight end position. He has become a huge weapon with four touchdowns in the past four games. His height and speed make him an awkward player to cover and a good man coverage breaker. Remember Ben Troupe's role last year in the FSU game?

If the offensive line could get over their propensity to flinch at the line of scrimmage, we would have nothing bad to ever say about them. They did have a little trouble running the ball against a defense that was stacking against the run, but the pockets that Leak passed out of were absolutely picture perfect.

I expect a lot more pressure from FSU. They are much faster than South Carolina and they will get after Leak. The drop back passes and the pockets created against USC will be very hard to duplicate against FSU but still, the Gators will have to take their shots and hope that the offensive line will continue to be the strength of the team for one more game.

Florida's defense had a superb game against South Carolina. In the past few days, I've been asked countless times, what did the Gators do differently? From a scheme standpoint, nothing was done differently, but there were more blitzes called which idid surprise me. I thought that because South Carolina's quarterback is such a good runner, the Gators would lay off the blitz, but early on the Florida defense found a rhythm that allowed them to keep the heat on the rest of the game. From what I saw of the defense, the main reason for the success was the play of the defensive tackles. Marcus Thomas, Ray McDonald, Michael Hill and company were in the backfield faster than I can remember our linemen in recent memory. This was helped a lot by sloppy line play by the USC offensive line, but there seemed to be extra burst from the front guys. Some have asked if we lined up wider at defensive end. I only saw that when we brought the linebackers up and blitzed them in the interior gaps. Nothing else seemed that different as far as scheme.

Against Florida State, I believe the Gators need to be just as aggressive. With Wyatt Sexton in the game, the Gators do not have to worry about a quarterback beating them with his feet. He's strictly a pocket passer so if Florida can put pressure on him, the Gators could force some bad throws or get some sacks. I don't think the FSU offensive line is that good. They are pretty slow on the outside and because of this I feel like the Gators should try and utilize a faster defensive end on the right side instead of Joe Cohen. Still, "Big Joe" is great at stuffing the run on his side of the ball and that has to remain the focus of this defense, especially against FSU.

The linebackers played extremely well against USC. Brandon Siler had 14 tackles and it seemed as if he had 30. He was absolutely everywhere. Earl Everett seems to play better without Channing Crowder but maybe it is just a matter of maturation for him as well. USC used a lot more spread formations than FSU will and there were a lot of two linebacker personnel groups on the field to account for that. We didn't have to go deep in the empty well at the position.

FSU will play more of a pro personnel set with a tight end, two receivers and two running backs. They will spread out some, but more than likely lose the tight end and add a receiver. Look for Crowder to add a boost with his return this week and play the Sam linebacker position. If the coaches are finally comfortable enough with the other guys, Crowder could actually come out of the game to rest his foot injury when the Noles go to the three wide receiver sets. More likely, look for Channing to slide down and be a rush end in passing situations and when the Gators go to a nickel defense. I like this matchup the best of all against teams like FSU that have a run-first mentality. The FSU backs are as good as it gets, but the offensive line isn't. What FSU does with its line plays well into the strengths of what the Gators do well on defense.

Florida's secondary played aggressive, but was, of course, burnt on the second drive of the game by the long ball. The ball was thrown the only way it could be to be completed and Reynaldo Hill didn't look back for the ball. He was in man coverage and had the ball been thrown perfectly, he may have been there to defend. I realize that people don't agree with this, but most analysts will tell you that an under thrown ball in tight man coverage is hardest to defend. Other than a few plays here and there, the secondary was great. Kyle Jackson stole the show with his two interceptions and maybe more importantly, his hard nosed aggressive play at or near the line.

We need more of that this week. If the secondary continues to be aggressive against a team that is having a hard time throwing the ball, they will cause more problems than we make for ourselves. The key will still be up front where the Gators have to get pressure, but the secondary needs to stay aggressive and make the Seminoles earn every single yard. The Gators really have been great about not giving up the really long play, but the overall pass defense has at times been passive. When the Gators play well in the secondary, the safeties are playing confidently and stepping up their game. Florida's safeties need to play as well as they did against South Carolina.

Matt Leach is on a roll and is kicking very confidently. He could be the difference in this game. The other kicker, Matt, Piotrowicz, has been a tackling machine on kickoffs. He's an important reason the kickoff coverage unit has continued to excel. The same goes for the Gator punting and coverage. The kickoff returns haven't be great, but the Gators are limited in number because of touchbacks.

The key spot for stopping FSU kicking game is the return men. The Gators just cannot allow Leon Washington and company to have too many chances to actually field the ball and make a play. I believe the Gators can win the game on offense and defense as long as they win the turnover war. They just don't want to allow a freebie on special teams. Freshman Gary Cismesia has taken over for incumbent kicker Xaviera Betia. Betia was seven of 16 on the year from outside of 30 yards. Cismesia is three of three on the year and all FG's in the 40-50 yard range. Look out for head hunter Ernie Sims on kick returns. He is the one that tried to take out Piotrowicz last year.

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