Scouting the Hurricanes
This is the most balanced offense in college football that wants to set up the pass with a powerful running game. The ‘Canes are missing some important cogs from last year's championship team in running back Clinton Portis,tight end Jeremy Shockey and offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie. Those guys will be spelled by Jason Geathers, Willis McGahee, Kellen Winslow and Carlos Joseph. In the 63-17 win over FAMU a week ago, Miami played a lot of players and Dorsey played barely over a quarter. He is the winningest quarterback in Miami history and has led them to 23 wins in a row. Last week the Hurriacanes rolled up 516 yards, including 316 on the ground. Both backs are powerful slashers and Larry Coker believes this year's offensive line, led by center Brett Romberg is a better run blocking team than a year ago. Romberg, Sherko Haji-Rasouli and Ed Wilkins on the O-line are seniors, while Vernon Carey is a junior and Carlos Joseph is a sophomore.
Miami is a pro-style "I" attack. They remind me a lot of the Dallas Cowboys offense in the glory years with Michael Irvin, Troy Aikmen and Emmitt Smith. The key to the Hurricane offense is first down. They do not waste plays on first down. They will run or throw short to the tight ends in the flat to set up an easier distance on second and third down. Everything they do in the first quarter of the game is to set up something later in the game. Example, remember the touchdown catch by Najeh Davenport in the Sugar Bowl? It was a fullback wheel off a play action by Dorsey. The same formation and look of the run play they were having success with in the game. Just when you think they are going to run they throw it over the top to Andre Johnson or Kevin Beard. One additive to the mix this season is Roscoe Parrish. He can run reverses and quick screens, like Santana Moss of two years ago. They are a very disciplined and pragmatic offense.
What to Expect:
I think you will see "run-blitzes" on first down for Florida to try and disrupt the flow of Miami's game. This may involve Guss Scott, Matt Farrior and Mojo or Bobby McCray. The Gators may play soft behind it to allow against the big play but will come and cover every gap at the point of attack. I do think UF will do some slants and stunts with their lineman and shifting as well to try to confuse the ‘Cane blockers. Coverage wise, I think Florida plays a lot of man coverage with Todd Johnson as the free safety in the middle of the field. When Florida does keep an eye on the fullback and tight end to slip out into coverage. The one thing Florida has is numbers on the defensive line and I expect Defensive Coordinator John Thompson will rotate them in early and often. Miami is a sound offense that will force Florida to be disciplined and stay in their gaps and on their assignments. I do not think their fullback will be as dominant on the isolation blocking play as they have had in the past. Miami's favorite run plays are "iso" to the weak side, "Wham G" to the strong side (fullback blocks the defensive end, and the toss sweep play side). This means pulling the play side guard instead of the old student body right where you pulled the backside guard. They are not tricky, just good at what they do.
Gators on the Prowl:
Ian Scott's match-up with Brett Romberg is one of the best in college football. Success at the point of attack will allow Florida's linebackers to make plays in the running game. Tron Lafavor and Bryan Savelio will have to stay low and be disruptive. For the linebackers, Bam Hardman and Mike Nattiel can not fall asleep on the tight end or they will burn you with play action. Farrior and Reid Fleming will have a lot of opportunities to prove there merit when UM runs the iso to the weakside. The number one fullback Kyle Cobia is out and the other guys are unproven. In the passing game, pressure is the obvious key, but hits on Dorsey, even when he gets the ball off will be significant. When Dorsey has struggled with his completion percentage, it has been on the road (Boston College, Washington) where he took some punishment. Look for the Gators to confuse him and blitz him with safety Guss Scott. This means the Gator secondary could be in more man to man coverage this week. Keiwan Ratliff may draw Andre Johnson who is really good at adjusting to the deep fade (like Jabar Gaffney) and making the catch in tight coverage. In the red-zone, look for the tight end in the middle of the field and the fullback or tight end in the flats. McCray would give Florida a better chance of disrupting the quick passing game of Miami because of his height and reach he can get into Dorsey's passing lane when rushing.
Big Game Gators:
Guss Scott, Ian Scott, Todd Johnson and Bobby McCray.
The best front seven in college football. They have size, speed and experience. Vince Wilfork, who was not even listed as a starter out of fall camp, is a load at defensive tackle along with All-American William Joseph and veteran Matt Walters. Walters played some end last week and UM played a lot of nickel and dime versus FAMU. Jonathen Vilma is one of the best run stopping linebackers in college football and DJ Williams is going to have a big year at the Will spot. This combo reminds me of Nate Webster and Dan Morgan. The secondary is new but some guys have played including corner Alfonso Marshall and strong safety Mo Sikes. Sikes has the biggest void to fill in my shoes because Ed Reed was so special at that position and offered them a lot of flexibility. Kelly Jennings is their best corner but he has a cast on his thumb and did not play a week ago. Antrel Rolle is a big corner in the mold of a Mike Rumph. They are young but they are talented.
It is pretty simple, they are a 4-3 cover 2 team. They have been for the last 5 years and they are not going to change. They like there defensive lineman to be fast and get up the field to disrupt the run, but harass the passer first. They like there linebackers to be run first pass second and the secondary to react on the snap to the play and formation. They do stunt some up front and blitz the linebackers and strong safety, but they are at there best playing base. They run some coverages such as "8" or "combo" where the safeties could have the slot receiver man to man if he releases straight down the field. This allows them to play the run very well, because they can cheat up. This makes them susceptible to the post over the top if the inside wide receiver can hold the safety. They will play some man and they don't like trips formation with receivers.
What to Expect:
The shotgun no-huddle offense may cause the ‘Canes some substitution problems especially if Florida can put together some 7-8 play drives. I think the middle of the field is open and you could see some play action throws to the tight ends or Carlos Perez and OJ Small. I also think they will get some shots deep to Taylor Jacobs out of the trips formation. The running game with Earnest Graham will be real good if the offensive line can just stalemate Miami's D-Line because it will allow E.G. to cut back and find holes against over aggressive linebackers (see sugar bowl 2000). I think Ran Carthon will be used a lot in this game because of his speed. Shannon Snell, Mike Degory and David Jorgensen have their hands full and it would not surprise me to see Jonathan Colon some at guard and Maurice Mitchell at right tackle in the first half of the game. I think Rex Grossman will be able to find receivers in the curl zone early in the game and the play action all depends on the success of the running game. You are not going to out run Miami, or Florida for that fact sideline to sideline so look for the Gators to run right at the Canes with the trap, zone and draw trap.
Gators on the Prowl:
This is an Earnest Graham game. He is healthy and determined and has the vision and running style that frustrates ‘Cane tacklers. Rex will have a good game but not an overly high percentage game as some may think. He can make all the throws and he must choose his spots to make the real tough ones. The offensive line is the key to the game, they must stalemate the early pressure and then rely on the no huddle and conditioning to wear down a frustrated defensive line. Colon will have a good game as will the tight ends Walker and Troupe. I think Troupe could have his best game as a Gator as well as Carlos Perez .I think Florida will try to run early to establish a toughness.
Big Game Gators:
Earnest Graham, Rex Grossman, Jonathen Colon, Ben Troupe, Carlos Perez.
Miami has a proven kicker and punter and Florida's are new. Freddie Capshaw for the ‘Canes did get two punts blocked last year and I think Florida may get one Saturday. Both return teams are deadly with Miami having Andre Johnson and Roscoe Parrish.
How will it play out?
Man do I feel on the hot seat with this prediction. Miami is good and their defensive line is better than the Gator O-Line. UF has home field and Rex Grossman, Miami has 23 wins in a row and Ken Dorsey. The Canes are defending National Champs and Florida is out to prove it can win without Steve Spurrier. Florida must score first and play from ahead if they are going to win. If Miami can get to 31 points they will win because they have won 134 regular season games in a row when they score 31. I think it is a coming out party for John Thompson's defense and they win the pressure and turnover battle. Florida finds some more of that '97 Swamp Magic and improves to 4-0 all time on the date of September the 7th. Gators win 21-20.