The Florida Gators will be making their first road trip of the season to Lexington, Kentucky this Saturday, The Gators are coming off of a close contest against Tennessee where they were really banged up and sick on offense. The flu is a concern in Gainesville this week, but some have learned to fight through it. Here is run down of the Gators from FightinGators.com.
The Florida Offense
The Gators return three line starters, Tim Tebow at quarterback, Jeff Demps at tailback, Riley Cooper at receiver, and Aaron Hernandez at tight end from their national championship team. Against Tennessee, the Gators were really banged up at receiver with starter Deonte Thompson out with a hamstring pull, Cooper getting a pinched nerve in his neck on the first drive, and Thompson's replacement David Nelson getting banged up a little during the game.
The Gators are expecting to have just about everybody back at 100% this weekend with Thompson being the one they are optimistic on, but just don't know. With Thompson and Cooper on the field the Gators are very fast on the edge, without them, they aren't.
Still, the Gator defense starts with the running game and their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tebow. The Gators are averaging 289 yards a game on the ground led by Tebow and the three headed tailback unit of Demps, Chris Rainey, and Emmanuel Moody. There is not a faster group of running backs in the country.
Hernandez and slot receiver Brandon James will be key in the match up as they have their own talents and the Gators look to isolate them on defenders that will be a mismatch.
The Florida Defense
The Gator defense returns in tact from a year ago, all 11 starters. However, competition has been tough with the recruiting depth and at least one starter from every level of the defense has been challenged for his spot.
The heart of the Gator defense had it rough against Tennessee. Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes sprained his achilles tendon on the Wednesday before the match up and limped around at the game on Saturday. He is recovering fast and should be much better this weekend. When he wasn't out there, Senior linebacker Ryan Stamper moved over from the weak side and played well leading the defense in tackles. The Gators are deep at linebacker and my opinion is that they would be better off substituting than playing their All-American when hurt that bad.
The Gators have talent along the front and I would expect them to really challenge the Wildcats this weekend. All-American defensive end Carlos Dunlap has not gotten untracked yet while senior defensive end Jermaine Cunningham played very sick last week and should be a force this year. The rising star at defensive tackle is Jaye Howard, he is a play maker inside and took the starting spot away from last year's starter Terron Sanders.
The secondary went from goat to hero between the 2007 and 2008 seasons. This year they are all back and Will Hill is pressing to start or play significantly more minutes at safety. Led by All-American cornerback Joe Haden, Janoris Jenkins was also a freshman All-American last season. This group plays tough and presses most of the game.
The Florida Special Teams
Brandon James returns as America's most dangerous return man,returning kicks and punts for the Gators. He is the all-time leader for Florida in yards in both categories and had more touchdowns returning the ball than anyone in Gator history.
The place kicker returns from last year, Jonathan Phillips missed only one field goal a year ago. However, he has missed a field goal and an extra point already this season and Caleb Sturgis started against Tennessee and made three of three field goals and an extra point. It appears that Sturgis will get the nod again although there will remain competition between the two.
Punter Chas Henry is an All-American type of punter that hasn't had many chances this season. He is very consistent at punting the ball inside the 20 when the opportunity arises.