After Further Review

In my years of service in the football offices at the University of Florida one of the things I did was help break down the tendencies of Gator opponents for the coaching staff to prepare. One other aspect of that job was to self-scout for the Gators so that they could learn their own tendencies and possibly game plan around them.

Watching the games over and over is the best way and so every week I am going to bring you my thoughts after watching the replay of the games. I will try and have them out on Sunday, but due to special constraints this week, it is a day or two late. Here are my thoughts after scrutinizing the game after the fact.

Offense

Tebow had a solid game, but not spectacular. However, he only had four incompletions on the day and two of those were dropped (Brandon James, Deonte Thompson). One of those was a first down that would have kept a drive alive, the other was a touchdown pass. His efficiency rating would have been very high with those two catches.

I was a little surprised in his decision making on a couple of running plays, especially wide. I thought he should have checked out of a couple of option plays that Hawaii had defensed very well, including his cut back run where he almost scored. This was something I thought he improved on a lot over the spring and did not see that on Saturday. There were some good checks, like Jeffrey Demps run for a touchdown. Meyer said that was a checked call by Tebow and a good one.

The backups didn't show much and need to get better fast. We all know that Tebow is a marked man and will have to come out of the games sometimes, these guys need to get prepared. If something were to happen to Tebow I can see a Chris Leak – Tebow type situation with John Brantley and Cam Newton where each has a role to play.

The running backs of course looked great. Demps, Chris Rainey, and Brandon James all showed flashes of the big play ability we all knew they had. They will be fun to watch. Kestahn Moore ran alright, but he doesn't have the jets the other three have. Emmanuel Moody dinged his ankle, so he gets no grade for the game. He was supposed to be the work horse.

One thing that I thought stood out was using Rainey and James in short yardage. Both are smaller backs that until this spring were not thought to be a part of the short yardage game plan. James touchdown run in the first half was a short yardage play with two blocking backs in the game. In the first series of the third quarter, Rainey was called on to run the ball on 3rd-and-one and got the first down. Florida running back coach Kenny Carter was serious when he said that his guys need to be able to run every play in the playbook if they are going to get on the field.

The inside running looks like it can be easy for Rainey who was able to destroy the one Hawaii linebacker on the sideline near the north end zone on his the run to the three-yard line. Rainey lowered his shoulder and really took it to the linebacker who had to come out of the game.

Fullback T.J. Pridemore had a perfect block on James' touchdown run. James ran right off the hip of Pridemore and was never even touched on the play due to the block.

The wide receivers didn't get many chances and unfortunately there were drops out there with the few chances they got. James dropped a first down pass, Thompson dropped a sure touchdown, David Nelson dropped a pass. In Thompson's first game, I give him a break, but that first game is over now.

I thought Louis Murphy showed great strength on his touchdown catch. Turning around and catching the ball with a defender on him, spinning and getting away for the touchdown. We all know Murphy is a serious speed threat with added strength he could be a bigger weapon than anticipated this season.

The down field blocking was excellent from the group and Riley Cooper put on a clinic in blocking with Rainey's long touchdown run.

Tate Casey at tight end looked great and far more productive than expected at any time this season. This is a good sign and with Aaron Hernandez back in action soon, the Gators may be able to still really use a lot of their two tight end sets that was the plan before Cornelius Ingram went down for the season.

I usually judge the offensive line performance by the overall game and not individual plays. Sacks happen and sometimes it is not clear as to who is responsible. I think the pressure that Tebow received on Saturday came from mistakes in protection mainly from the running backs and linemen not communicating and not a lack of ability on the line.

The fact is the Gators averaged a whopping 7.4 yards per play and only had 55 plays on the day. The lack of plays came because of two scores on defense and one on special teams. With three more possessions, the Gators would have had over 500 yards of offense on Saturday.

The passing game will have to step it up against Miami. But games like this is where Tim Tebow will earn his keep, I fully expect it to happen.

Defense

What I saw from the defensive line was more pressure, which is just what I wanted to see. Lawrence Marsh was a beast most of the day. He had two sacks and actually was a big part of a third sack as he caved in the offensive line. Hawaii was huge on the offensive line and Marsh was able to move them around...that was nice to see.

Terron Sanders was active, but didn't get into plays too much. The same could be said for Matt Patchan, who does play tenacious, but he had a tough time sometimes against some of the bigger linemen he faced. Omar Hunter will get there but he just can't run well right now, he needs to get that foot speed back he had eight months ago when I watched him in Orlando at the Under-Armour All-American bowl.

Jermaine Cunningham played great at times. He forced a fumble had a sack and a half. Carlos Dunlap didn't even make the stat sheet and that just cannot happen on a regular basis. He has too much physical ability not to be making plays every game. Justin Trattou was everywhere as usual. He is a beast that can run and he made plays both at the line of scrimmage and down field by running to the ball.

It is a two edged sword with Dustin Doe. He seems to always be there to make a play, yet sometimes he fails to wrap up just trying to knock out the ball carrier rather than bring him down. Doe has to improve there if he is going to be relied upon. A.J. Jones was more active on Saturday and I thought he flew to the ball very well. The same could be said for Ryan Stamper who must be very important as he came back in the game with his hand bandaged up after breaking his thumb.

Of the backups I thought Brandon Hicks flew to the ball, but like Doe wasn't able to wrap up a couple of times. On the other hand, Lorenzo Edwards made a couple of great open field tackles and is a mystery to me why he isn't on the field more. I think when it comes to angles of pursuit and wrapping up the ball carrier, Edwards is in the top two of the linebackers in doing so.

Not much more can be said about the safety play on Saturday. They seemed to be in the right place at the right time all day long. That was missing so much last year, it was a very pleasant sight to see. The three interceptions from the safety position (could have been four with Will Hill's drop) is only two shy of the five interceptions by Florida safeties for the entire last season.

It was a great sign of maturity for Ahmad Black to have two interceptions including one for a long touchdown, and also lead the team in tackles. Black played inspired the whole game and seems to have a knack for the game. Will Hill has more physical tools but has his work cut out for him to replace Black in the starting line up.

Major Wright's interception was something we never saw last year with all the time he spent on the field. The break on the ball and heading the other direction just shows the instincts that Wright has for the position. The fact he had several hard hits in the game means he has only added to what he was able to do last year.

Will Hill will get there, he just needs time. What we saw was his ability to run and some flashes of the instincts needed at the safety position. The position should have some depth when Hill catches up , Bryan Thomas is back healthy, and Justin Williams becomes a little more familiar.

The aggressive play of the cornerbacks was the most welcome site of all. On Black's first interception of the day he gave the corners credit for re-routing the receivers. In other words they were aggressive and forced the receivers to leave their routes forcing a misfire from the quarterback.

Joe Haden was the king of aggressive as he was flying around and knocking people around. He had a forced fumble and a recovered fumble on the day all due to his aggressive play. Janoris Jenkins started as a true freshman at corner and was never a worry the entire game. Again, he is on the field because of his aggressive and physical play. Wondy Pierre-Louis was also in the mix a lot.

The staff shuffled in Jacques Rickerson, Markihe Anderson, and Moses Jenkins early in the game. The depth at cornerback is another thing the Gators have not had in a while and it should pay off dividends with the aggressive play for the rest of the season.

As a whole the defense did fine. They did give up 72 yards in the first quarter mostly due to continuing drives because of penalties.

Special Teams

I have no idea what they were trying to accomplish on the kickoffs, but I actually believe some part of the issue was the quality return game that Hawaii has. Hawaii is a very good kick and punt returning team and Urban Meyer no doubt did not want to play into their strengths. Still, I am sure if he could do the whole thing over again, he would be kicking the ball out of the end zone every time if possible. I put the coverage problems on the kickers because I just don't believe they executed what Meyer wanted them to do.

Chas Henry punted for two touch backs, something he had not done once all of his first season last year. He did kind of make up for that with the fake punt. He will be a weapon.

No one needs to comment on Brandon James return ability, you just have to watch him do his thing.

Punt coverage was as good as always.

Final Points: The first quarter was sloppy as can be expected sometimes in openers. Add to it that the best player on defense was out of the game and the most dynamic offensive player was out of the game and things were not going to just go easy as one would hope. It also poured before the start of the game making the playing field wet for the early part.

The offense still racked up more than 400 yards in only 55 plays and the defense only allowed 81 yards and a field goal in all but the last drive of the game. The defense forced six turnovers which was a big part of the issue from last season. All in all, it was a good game by the Gators.


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