Grading the Gators

Close to 91,000 were in attendance to watch as the Tim Tebow era took center stage in The Swamp early Saturday afternoon. The outcome was never in doubt but how the youth would respond was a question heading into the season opener.

Each week I will take a closer look at the numbers and game circumstances in an attempt to grade the Gators on both sides of the ball. Today, I start with the strength of the team, the Gator offense.

Quarterbacks --- A-

It would be very hard for any quarterback across the country to live up to the hype that Tim Tebow has received during the off-season. With 91,000 on hand, that's exactly what the Gator signal caller did. Tebow finished the day 13-of-17 for 300 yards with three touchdown passes and one rushing. The thing that impressed me the most was his ability to make something happen when the pocket collapsed.

He finished the day with eight carries for 44 yards for an average of 4.8 yards per carry. I thought back to last year when Tebow would seek out any would-be tackler and take them head on. Saturday, I saw the maturation process from the Gator quarterback as he often found the sideline in an attempt to minimize unnecessary hits. The only knock on Tebow in my mind was his clock management or lack of at the end of the first half.

Cameron Newton came in and went 3-of-4 in limited action for a total of 25 yards. It is a shame that the game was called early. I was looking forward to seeing Newton with some extended playing time.

Wide Receivers --- A+

This was the biggest mismatch on the field as the Gator wide receivers combined for 16 catches for 325 yards and three touchdowns. Riley Cooper and Andre Caldwell both showed great ability of getting behind the secondary and stretching the defense vertically. The Gators most electric player, Percy Harvin, ended the day with three catches for 53 yards and one touchdown. Harvin added three carries for 25 yards.

Cooper was tops on the team with four catches, Caldwell, Harvin and Murphy all had three while David Nelson had two and Cornelius Ingram ended the day with one. Louis Murphy is the best blocker out of all the wide receivers.

Running Backs --- B

Kestahn Moore ended the day with 16 carries for 92 yards and two touchdowns with 5.7 yards per carry average. Most Gator fans are looking for that back that can take it to the house, and while Moore is no speed demon, he was running with a certain swagger and had no hesitation hitting the hole.

Tebow was the second leading rusher on the day with eight carries for 44 yards while Harvin was tops on the team at 8.3 yards per attempt. The Gators ended the day with 33 carries for 192 yards for an impressive 5.6 per carry and four touchdowns. The longest run on the day came from the quarterback position and Tim Tebow early in the game when he broke lose for 18 yards.

Offensive Line --- A

I don't care who you play, anytime you rack up 49 points, 510 yards of total offense, average 9.4 yards per play and allow no sacks, your offensive line has done their job. I thought the offensive line could have done a better job opening holes up the middle but kept would be blitzer's at bay all day long, all without the top offensive lineman in the starting lineup.

From left to right the Gators came out with Jason Watkins, Jim Tartt, Drew Miller, Maurkice Pouncey and Carlton Medder. At times they showed nice burst off the line and finished blocks into the second level. I give the offense a final grade of A on the day. Remember the game was called with 8:23 left in the fourth quarter. It is clear that this is the most amount of team speed on one side of the ball that head coach Urban Meyer has ever had and offensive coordinator Dan Mullen is not afraid to use it.

Defense --- B+

The Gators ended the day with four sacks in a little over three quarters of play, all coming from the defensive line of Derrick Harvey (2) Jermaine Cunningham (1) and Justin Trattou (1). On the day, the Gators held Western Kentucky to 204 yards on 53 plays or 3.8 yards per play. he defense was even better against the run where Western Kentucky had 32 rushes for 48 yards or 1.5 yards per attempt.

I thought on the opening drive of the game the Gator defense came out too aggressive and hyped up as they over pursued and proceeded to miss tackles all the way down the field. The secondary at times looked a little gun shy but to get this first game out of the way will pay huge dividends down the road. It would have been very interesting to see how the secondary would have responded had starting quarterback David Wolke, 3-of-4 for 43 yards, not been knocked out of the game by defensive end Derrick Harvey.

Guys that stood out

Obviously, the Gators best defensive player Derrick Harvey continues his hot play with two more sacks on the day for a total loss of 14 yards. Early in the summer Meyer questioned the work ethic of starting middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, he responded with 11 total tackles. Another guy that I was impressed with was No. 32 Dustin Doe. He did miss two key tackles but was seen flying all around the ball and ended his day with a total of seven tackles.

A couple of true freshman had impressive days as well. Major Wright and Jeremy Finch both ended the day with three tackles each. When Lawrence Marsh plays, it will take some pressure off the ends, and I think you will see the defensive line start to get some serious pressure up the middle while the speedy ends collapse the pocket.

The bottom line is the coaching staff wanted to put the guys on the field and see what they can do under live fire, and it was a good measuring point for the players and the staff to take into practice this week and try to improve. The object is to keep the other guys from scoring and the defense allowed a total of three points on the day.

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