After Further Review

In my ten 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. The late game and all the recruiting caused a delay this week, but with a bye on the horizon we can still talk about this game.

Offense

If there is one glaring negative sentiment from Gator fans and anyone that watched the game Saturday night it was the play of the offensive line. While I agree the line did not play well, they also were not quite as bad as everyone is making them out to be after the game.

Some credit has to be given to the play of the Miami defensive line, but other credit should also be aimed at the confusion Miami caused up front. Sometimes they rushed all their linebackers and backed off their linemen...sometimes they horded the line only to rush three...they really mixed it up numerous ways and the confusion caught the Florida line and more importantly quarterback Tim Tebow off guard a few times.

The confusion caused breakdowns in blocking schemes and first year sophomore starter Marcus Gilbert was the victim of the confusion more than once on the day. Senior tackle Phil Trautwein allowed an edge rusher to come untouched to tackle redshirt freshman running back Chris Rainey for a loss and a drive killing personal foul call early in the game when the Gators could have had Miami on the ropes early. The fact is the linemen didn't get beat man on man, they just really blew assignments and that was caused by the confusion up front.

Early on this could have been avoided, even with the confusion, had the offense just quick hit the defense on the outside. When Florida head coach Urban Meyer said as much in his press conference after the game I was just nodding my head in agreement as many of the receivers were one on one. This is something they took three quarters to really concentrate on but when they finally did it, it was successful.

On to Tebow. He clearly was in sync with his offensive coordinator in the fourth quarter and on the first drive of the game. But for the nearly three quarters in between there was just not enough consistency to score and that is exactly what didn't happen.

The consistency issues also came on rushed throws because of the aforementioned protection problems. Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said Monday the protection and blocking issues were there, but they were things that shouldn't happen and things they figured would get fixed quickly. It took almost three quarters.

Of course Tebow's receivers had a few drops again, but they also had some nice catches that kept drives alive including the big catch from Carl Moore that led to the "comfort" touchdown the Gators needed to go up 16-3.

Senior wide receiver Louis Murphy of course was cold then hot, that has been beaten to death. I was impressed and surprised that Meyer and company kept going back to him, but in the end it was a good decision to do so. I don't know if the issues were mental early in the game, but he was wide open and his drops also killed some drives.

The receivers blocked well and that was huge on a few plays including junior Percy Harvin's touchdown run. You could also see the excellent blocking from the receivers on a couple of Tebow runs. Unfortunately nothing the backs did amounted to anything the receivers could block down field for.

It was a nice breakout game for sophomore tight end Aaron Hernandez and he did some nice things other than just catching the ball and running with it. He had a couple of nice blocks as an H-back that went unnoticed because someone else blew an assignment, but Hernandez should be quite a force for the Gators this year.

It is hard to pin anything on the running backs when they are getting hit in the backfield due to missed assignments up front. However, I will say that a dose or two more of sophomore transfer running back Emmanuel Moody and his size and strength may have helped with being able to do something. Of course there is no way of knowing that for sure now. I have a hunch we will see a lot more Moody during the next game.

In the end the offense stuttered and puttered through the game until they started making plays and using what the defense was giving them. At no time did they look out muscled or out talented on the day, they just played down to the level of Miami for three quarters. This can be fixed and maybe it is better to get it out there in a 23 point win than to have it in a close loss like it was at Auburn last year.

They need to reevaluate their stance on the running game and what they will do there until the blocking for the backs gets better. Maybe that means putting someone else like Harvin or Moody in there, I don't know? They would have been much better off Saturday just hitting quick outside passes and play action than the many times they tried to run between the tackles, who knows it may have opened up for them later if they tried that more often early.

They must get the ball in Percy Harvin's hands as much as possible in big games. Bar none he is the most explosive player on the team and that says a lot.

Defense

I think most would agree that the Florida defense played very well. They gave up a total of 140 yards. They allowed 11 first downs and only one drive with more than two first downs. They had seven drives with one first down or a three and out.

The line provided pressure all night long and it was obvious that the Miami staff was just going to let their freshmen quarterbacks get them beat by putting them in situations to make plays. It was almost all short and safe passes and roll outs designed to either run for short yardage or complete short passes. Miami freshman starting quarterback Robert Marve threw the ball deep three times all game and the receivers were all covered.

Junior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and sophomore defensive end Carlos Dunlap accounted for four more sacks on the day and the defense had eight tackles for loss and a ton for two yards or less.

Amazing to me for the second week in a row is that one of the starting defensive ends did not show up on the stat sheet yet again. Last week, Dunlap started and supposedly played well, but didn't have a tackle, pass defensed or any other stat to show up on the stats sheet. This week it was sophomore Justin Trattou's turn to start and again he disappeared when it came to stats. Something has to give there, but Dunlap played well when he was inserted for Trattou.

Sophomore defensive tackle Terron Sanders also did well finishing with 1.5 tackles for loss, but he muscled up well with the huge linemen from Miami and really pushed them back at times. His partner up front sophomore nose tackle Lawrence marsh also had some push and the combination again was something the Gators never had last season at any point in time.

After watching the replay I thought the linebackers played well. There were a couple of missed tackles by all of the starters, but all of them were playing full speed and really mixing it up inside. Junior All-American Brandon Spikes was big in his return and led the team in tackles with only one missed tackle that went for a first down that I saw. I thought junior Ryan Stamper again played very well even with a broken thumb. He just finds the ball in my opinion

Sophomore cornerback Joe Haden again is the fastest player on the field on defense, even when playing close to the line of scrimmage he flies to the ball carrier and they use him often in blitzing the backfield. The corners played great and even junior cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis who jumped a pass to Miami wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and allowed him to catch it, made a good decision on the play and just missed the ball. Give Marve some credit for that throw, but jumping the pass like that is something the Gators never did last year in coverage.

Sophomore safety Ahmad Black was in on a lot of tackles and he could end up being the surprise of the defense when the season ends. The little guy is just a football player and knows what he is doing both in space and when it comes time to make a tackle.

So far the defensive play has been much like 2006. They have been very aggressive, even with the game much in balance late into the third quarter. The secondary has played tough and has blanketed most receivers. The year of maturity across the board on defense has just caused a confidence boost not only in the players, but also in the staff to be more aggressive. With the physical talent they have on the field, they look like they may be able to surpass the expectations I placed on them before the season started.

Special Teams

Every facet of special teams played well on Saturday. Kickoff coverage was much better than the week before, although I would still like to see more touch backs and kicking it out of the end zone. Sophomore Chas Henry continues to be a weapon punting the ball although he shanked one. Junior Brandon James is most likely the nation's best kick and punt returner although he couldn't avoid the kicker twice for returns that would have been touchdowns.

Special teams are a team strength and should be with the way Meyer has recruited skilled and athletic players for his team.

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