Well first of all I took the Vols because I thought they might win this style of game. This game reminded me of Spurrier's first big win at Alabama. It was a game that had a memorable offensive play but was won by defense and special teams. The game itself went mostly the way I thought it would with tough defense on both sides. Even though the offense did not put up big numbers this was a team win for the Gators. When you don't turn the ball over and win the time of possession you help your defense stay fresh and they can continue to attack. Tennessee only ran 60 plays in the game and other than the second quarter, they were never in control of the game. I thought it was a championship effort by UF and by winning it expands your view of the overall goals for the season. SEC title talk is real and national title talk can begin with the Gators win over Tennessee. I don't regret my pick but I am very happy that the Gators stand 3-0 and maybe I should pick against UF every week!
Ack: What did you think of the secondary's performance?
I think Chuck Heater has done an amazing job with the secondary. UF has played lights out across the board, corner to corner. I am no longer a skeptic of Vernell Brown and I am happy to see Dee Webb have a big game on a national stage. He is the type of player that is better when you line him and let him go play.
Brady: Do you think the Gators are a tougher team?
I think that the fourth quarter dominance show this team is mentally tougher than any of the last two seasons. The 16 play drive led by Chris Leak drove a dagger in the heart of the Volunteers and guaranteed the Gators the victory. Just think of last year when UF had the 28-27 lead on the Vols or the 21-17 lead on the LSU Tigers …what if they could have driven the ball for several first downs and kept the ball for nearly eight minutes? That is the difference the offense played well enough at the end to avoid any shaky finishes and give this group of Gators what they deserved --- a victory.
Ack: What are your thoughts on the injuries?
Man, Bubba Caldwell is not going to be easily replaced. He was a five tool player who could get the ball down the field, in the screen area, on the reverse, on the option and on the shovel. Several players will have to step up to replace him. I think Jemalle Cornelius will move inside and get a shot as will Gavin Dickey. The biggest thing Caldwell gave you was the big play capability and that isn't just sitting on the sideline. Ray McDonald is another crushing loss because here is a kid who finally was seeing the writing on the wall. He was becoming a leader and working like a guy who could play at the next level. I think he could return this season (4-6 weeks) but he need to bust it in rehab and make sure he does not come back too soon. I think the best situation would be for Harvey to emerge at the end spot. Joe Cohen played well the other night and will be the starter.
Ack: What is wrong with the offensive line?
There could be some changes on the line this week as they try to shake it up a bit. I remember after we lost to Tennesee in 1990 Spurrier made some changes and our line stayed together through our SEC title year in 1991. Meyer said that depth at running back and o-line were a concern and right now he seems to be very accurate. People need to remember no player is playing the same position he played last season with UF. They are all learning a new system and new positions. Only Mike Degory is at the same spot. Butler was at right guard, Washington at left tackle, Hand at right tackle, and Drew Miller played at left guard. This week will help get UF back on track and look for the Gators to improve. Tennessee's front is as good as any unit UF will face all season.
Brady: What's wrong with the offense?
I thought Meyer was a bit conservative on Saturday but that seemed to be the right plan to get the win. He probably did not trust his offensive line enough to put the entire game on Leak's right arm. Penalties killed some flow the Gators were developing in the first half and UF did execute a terrific 80-yard drive. I wonder if we will ever see the option, veer and shovel part of the offense with Chris Leak in there against quality opponents. It's apparent to me he did not want to get Chris Leak hit in the game which is why he did not call an option play. Also the injury to Caldwell (who did score on an option reverse) could impact those particular plays because he was the feature player on many of them. I think Wynn is poised to have a 1,000 yd season but I still think Marcus Manson deserves a look. Kestahn Moore is indecisive in the hole and because he is a freshman that can be expected. UF needs someone to pick up the slack and I can't help but think Manson is the guy. Chad Jackson also needs to assume the leadership role at the skill position. He already was the leader in work ethic but he needs to challenge the other guys to pick up the slack.
Ack: Any thoughts on Kentucky?
They are not very good and UF should get 50 on them this week. I also think it's time to get Josh Portis back in the fold by allowing him to run some option this week. Kentucky played a good Louisville team tough but since then struggled to beat Idaho State and lost to Indiana, which is not very good. UF must stay focused and this will be a nice road tuneup for Meyer's team before trips to Alabama and LSU. Florida Co-Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong may want to drop his resume off after the game because I could see this job opening after the year and his name will surface as a contender.
Brady: Is Meyer trying to fit a square peg in a round hole with this offense and Chris Leak?
Once again the offensive line is the key to any offensive system. Until the guys get comfortable up front they are going to be hit and miss. I do think he has to evaluate the option game and whether he is going to allow that part of the offense to run it's course. If you are going to have Leak run it he must pull the ball sometimes and keep it on the edge. Let's wait till midseason to see where this offense is statistically. I think you have a quarterback who could put up All-SEC numbers and look for Meyer and Dan Mullen to let Leak throw it more in the future. Remember, last season Meyer only threw the ball more than he ran it in one game. The other night, they ran it more than they threw it and won so he is consistent. I believe the offense will find its identity and they may have to do it on the road at Bama.
Ack: Do you think we will see Marcus Manson?
I think so because of his playmaking ability. But Meyer has publicly stated that ball security is a number one priority and that may be why Manson has not been in the game. You wonder if Manson gets his shot and has a fumble if that may set him back for his entire career. Listening to the comments, I think it puts pressure on a back but Manson needs to just go play and deserves a shot against Kentucky. Manson could be a guy who could run the shovel pass and the option with his speed.
Ack: Do you think Chris Hetland has proven he is the man at kicker?
Absolutely he has. He has won the SEC player of the week twice already. UF's special teams were opportunistic the other night. The coverage teams performed very well against Tennessee. UF is still last in punt returns and near the bottom in kickoff coverage but up to ninth after last week's game.
Brady: Can the defense maintain it's national ranking of number two?
UF is off to a great start and without injuries I think will finish in the top 15 at the end of the season. The SEC is tough with good running offenses at Alabama and LSU and obviously FSU and Georgia are very skilled. The key for the defense is getting more turnovers, playing more players and playing with the same focus and intensity on the road. The road is a different environment and UF has yet to trail in a game this season.
Brady Ackerman can be heard on ESPN radio Gainesville-Ocala on AM 900 and AM 1230. Brady's website is http://www.bradyackerman.com