I think it was a tough combination for Urban Meyer and the Gators offensively. The Cowboys were a solid, gutty bowl team that was familiar with Meyer's offense. Because of that they put together a scheme that gave the new look UF offensive line some problems. They also had the entire summer to prepare and I think that helped. UF had a typical first game in my opinion. They did some great things in all three phases but also had some opening game mistakes like sacks, dropped interceptions and poor coverage on a kick. Wyoming is not a great team and I think they are probably as good as South Carolina or maybe Ole Miss in the SEC.
BRADY: What was good in your opinion?
Chris Leak was very sharp in the passing game. After missing the opening touchdown pass he really did a nice job of delivering the ball on time. Chad Jackson showed he can go deep inside. He's very tough. Andre Caldwell is a five tool player. Bubba made plays with the screen, deep ball, shovel pass, end around and option pitch in Meyer's offense. I like Ray McDonald at end and he could have a Alex Brown-type year. Vernell Brown was impressve as was the overall blitz package by coaches Greg Mattison and Charlie Strong. UF brought corners, Will linebackers and Mike linebackers all night. The new look defensive front also created a new line of scrimmage all night. Chris Hetland was impressive and for the most part the kickoff coverage teams were very active and included good players like Reggie Nelson.
BRADY: What looks to be good in your opinion?
The passing game was very solid and really involved only three receivers in Dallas Baker, Caldwell and Chad Jackson. I would like to see Jemalle Cornelius get some more looks and I do think there is a role for Tate Casey somewhere. The third down defense was very solid and UF was aggressive on third down, holding a good offense to 2-13 in third down conversions. Josh Portis looks to be a guy who could get some work in a series or two a game against every opponent. He has to learn to hustle on every play but he has a chance to be good. The linebacker situation looks like it may be in good shape. Everett had a very solid game and look for Jon Demps and Brian Crum to get some more work.
ACK: What needs some work to be good in your opinion?
The running game with the starters was not good. In the first half UF had -1 yard rushing. Skyler Thornton and Kestahn Moore were okay but not spectacular. Also Dan Mullen abandoned the run after the first two series and relied mostly on Leak for the first two touchdowns. UF never established a running game and whether the numbers say they did or didn't, they were never a threat to run it down Wyoming's throat. Pass protection needs to shore up and communication is the key. Also Leak held on to one too long which resulted in a coverage sack. Tennessee loves to "game" on the inside portion of the defensive line and they would have had a big day Saturday night. The defensive backs could have had several more interceptions in the game and Dee Webb, who had an early case of the drops last year, started out the same way this year. I also think Leak could improve on his running. His three called runs in the game were positive gains but he needs to attack those quicker and he might get a big play.
BRADY: What were you wrong about?
Well that would take up the entire column, but I did not see Florida playing that much "base" defense coming into the game and I was wrong. Todd McCullough did play and I predicted he wouldn't, but he did not look 100 percent. Wyoming featured a tight end a bunch so I think the coaches had the right plan and I just missed it. Also I thought Markus Manson would have a good night but he saw only mop-up duty and may have blown an assignment although it was hard to tell. He must have fallen off in practice the last couple of weeks.
ACK: What were you right about?
Ray McDonald. End of story. It was the biggest move of the preseason and he had the first sack. I am confident the offense will get straightened out but it is the defense that can elevate this team to the conference title. While the measuring stick is the Volunteers, I do think you can see the defense will be much improved. I picked UF by 22 and they won by 18, not too bad.
ACK: Who were your MVP's?
Like everyone else I liked Ray Mac, Vernell, Leak, Chad Jackson and Caldwell. Let me also mention Marcus Thomas who had a tackle for loss and three tackles. He really pushed up the middle all night and I think had a good game.
BRADY: Should Josh Portis play more or even start?
Well he should not be the starter ahead of Chris Leak that is for sure. You look at what an experienced quarterback did in games on Saturday (USC, Texas) and what having an inexperienced one did (Oklahoma, Auburn). Leak may not be able to run the full offense with the running game but there is not a better passer in the country. Portis could play more if he proves that he understands the sense of urgency and I think you could see him like D.J. Shockley was at Georgia behind David Greene. But Chris Leak is on his way to finishing this season as one of the five in New York.
ACK: Will DeShawn Wynn help the running game this week?
I think he will play and is the one guy right now that can move the ball forward in the middle of the line. Wynn has to be the guy … heck he was the starter and the best player at the last open scrimmage on August 17th. He is learning a valuable lesson about committment and if he has paid his dues, I think he can grab the starting job. Kestahn Moore is going to be good and remember, Michael Hart last year took awhile at Michigan before he burst on the scene so he will be in the mix.
BRADY: Did the Urban Era open the right way?
I think so because they got a win over a quality opponent. I know everyone is looking at the offense but don't forget how well this defense looked against an offense that returned almost intact from last year. That to me was impressive but with UF not playing flawlessly, it gives Meyer and his staff some things to work on and motivate with this week. The key to a successful season is to reach our peak in the conference schedule and carry it through the end to Florida State.
ACK: What did you think of the new traditions?
I will say I was skeptical about the Gator Walk but it looked awesome on our Sun Sports cameras. The fans made that special and that will be really cool to see Sept 17th vs. the Vols. The player tunnel was something I wish I could have been part of. The guys who did get to go told me it was cool to be on the field once again in front of the greatest fans in the country.
Brady Ackerman can be heard on ESPN radio Gainesville-Ocala on AM 900 and AM 1230. Brady's website is http://www.bradyackerman.com