Breaking down the Gators

Being part of a great network, we have a chance to share expertise across the network with the great folks that cover the different team sites. Bob Redman joins us from FightinGators.com to bring you his perspective on the Florida team that will square off Saturday afternoon with LSU at Tiger Stadium.

Bob Redman has been covering the Florida program since 2004 and before that worked 10 years on staff with the Gators. He has a unique insight into what goes on in a football program even if he is two head coaches removed from Ron Zook who was his last boss at Florida. Here is what Redman has to say about the current Gators before their match up with the No. 1-ranked Tigers.


Jeff Driskel: Ready for the challenge of facing No. 1 on the road?
Quarterback: Jeff Driskel (6-4, 235)

Strength:Let's get something straight, there is no one on the team with better physical qualifications to play the position than Driskel. With John Brantley down, he will assume the helm at quarterback vs. LSU and has some tools that will really help. As a senior in high school he threw for over 1800 yards as a senior, but he also ran for over 1300 yards. He had back to back games where he rushed for over 260 yards.

He hasn't done a lot in his first year on campus but has played in four of the first five games. He also enrolled in spring to get a head start on playing this year. He can make every throw and has a gun for an arm.

Weakness: The weaknesses are obvious> Experience is so critical for a quarterback and while he has some, he doesn't have nearly enough for going on the road against the number one team in the country.

A lot of folks think he played scared against Alabama but at that point in the game they were putting on a ferocious pass rush and he had little time. He has been willing to try and make plays and it has cost him a couple of interceptions already in this early season.

Coming on Strong: Jacoby Brissett (6-5, 240)With Brantley likely out, Brissett will likely lose his redshirt. He has looked good in practice but has had very limited snaps until this week. He did not come in during spring, but enrolled at Florida in June. He is more of a pocket passer than Driskel is, but actually has great mobility and was a division one talent in basketball coming out of high school.

Running Back: Chris Rainey (5-10, 180); Jeff Demps (5-9, 190)

Strength: Fastest tandem in college football without a doubt. Rainey is ultra-crafty with the ball in his hands and in the open field will make absolutely anyone miss. Demps is more of a straight line runner and an NCAA national champion 100 meter guy with a recorded 9.96 second time in the event. Both can take it the distance with the smallest of creases.

The two have combined for 739 rushing yards and 318 receiving yards in five games. They have a total of 1,057 yards of the 2,069 offensive yards so far this season or 51% of the total.

Trey Burton (6-3, 240) will play at running back some and may eventually become the big running back this offense is lacking. He has skills too and should be a running back but plays fullback / tight end/ H-back for Florida and will play professionally someday. He has a total of 135 yards and four touchdowns on offense. Don't be shocked to see Burton play a little ‘Wild Cat' quarterback in this game to take some pressure off of Driskel.

Weakness: Size for the two top guys is less than desirable. This became an issue against Bama when Florida could not get any penetration on the Tide's defense. Backups Mack Brown (6-0, 208) and Mike Gillislee (6-0, 205) are very capable runners but have not been able to grasp blocking schemes and so they have been relegated to run only situations and mainly play late in games.

Fullback: Trey Burton; Hunter Joyer (5-11, 245)

Strength: Burton can be a real playmaker from the position allowing for two of those in the backfield at the same time when he is out there. Hunter is going to take over allowing Burton to be in a spot more conducive to him making plays. Joyer is a beast of a blocker and has shown he can carry the rock in short yardage situations, at least against lesser teams.

Weakness: Joyer is still learning although he has a pretty good grasp of most of the offense. He will be a good one and should almost be there in his knowledge of the offense.

Receivers: Quinton Dunbar (FR, 6-3, 189); Frankie Hammond (JR, 5-11, 188); Deonte Thompson (SR, 6-0, 203); Andre Debose (5-11, 190)

Strength: They are a solid group that makes most catches thrown their way. Each has shown flashes of being a quality receiver. They are fast as a group and also make catches in traffic. They seem to run solid routes which wasn't a given having come from such a different offense last season. Debose has emerged as the biggest playmaker and caught the 65 yard touchdown to begin the game against Alabama.

Weakness: They need another playmaker and for Debose to be consistent there. Thompson has started to show signs, but still has a drop here and there.

Coming on Strong: Debose is really stepping up and it started happening for him about midway through fall camp. Some kind of light came on and he is starting to do some of the things they recruited him for.

Tight End: Jordan Reed (SO, 6-4, 250); Gerald Christian (SO, 6-3, 235)

Strength: Reed is a play maker and excellent with the ball in his hands. He can stretch the field and has size and strength to go up and make a big play. He missed the game with Kentucky but is expected back. Christian started to make noise against Kentucky scoring on a 35 yard touchdown reception.

Weakness: Reed lacks the physicality to be an in-line blocker and that is something they will look to for the other guys, which inevitably gets his play making ability off the field more than they would like.

Coming on Strong: A.C. Leonard missed the first two games of the season due to a camp injury and has been seen sparsely in the last three. However, he should be a big time player before all is said and done and a guy that will be a mismatch for defenses. He has three full weeks of practice behind him now, so expect him to do something sometime soon.

Offensive Line: LT Xavier Nixon (JR, 6-6, 300); LG Dan Wenger (SR, 6-3, 295); C Jonotthan Harrison (SO, 6-4, 300); RG Jon Halapio (SO, 6-3, 310); RT Chaz Green (FR, 6-5, 300)

Strength: Wenger is a transfer from Notre Dame and has maybe been the single biggest influence on the offensive line since his arrival in early summer. He really corralled the line and has been a leader in the cohesion of the unit. He is a bonus the team never expected and landed in their lap in May. The tackles are playing well right now and are probably two of the most athletic tackles anywhere. Interior play wasn't great in game one, but has played better. Halapio is a beast up front and the most aggressive player of the unit. The Gators have decent depth if they stay injury free.

Weakness: The interior line did not play well against Alabama and that set the running game back quite a bit. The guards and center have to improve and although Wenger played a big role in getting this group ready for the season, I can see him being replaced by a more physical Kyle Koehne in some games.

Coming on Strong: Matt Patchan (JR, 6-6, 295) would be starting if not for the excellent play of Green. Kyle Koehne (SO, 6-5, 300) has been a big surprise this fall and may be inserted on definite running downs with his ability to move the man in front of him. Koehne filled in for Halapio when Halapio went down (he is back now), but Koehne earned lineman of the week for his play against Kentucky. There is not a drop off if one of the guards go down, if two go down, that is a whole other question.

DEFENSE

Defensive Line: BUCK Ronald Powell (SO, 6-3, 245) DT Jaye Howard (SR, 6-3, 295); NT (SO, Dominique Easley (6-2, 282); DE Sharrif Floyd (SO, 6-3, 295)

Strength: you'll recognize a theme here, but "until last game" the run defense had been good to spectacular. That all changed with the beefy and strong Alabama tandem. However, I think most of the issues came elsewhere on the defense. The front is very quick and much bigger than last season. They have been stout for the most part.

They also have very quality and experienced depth with DE William Green (SR, 6-4, 255); DT Omar Hunter (SR, 6-0, 310); and less experienced NT Leon Orr (FR, 6-4, 310).

Weakness: They haven't been able to get much of a pass rush, although I don't know what that means with a guy like Jarrett Lee who gets rid of the ball very quickly anyway.

Coming on Strong: Orr is making a few plays with limited time in the game. BUCK Kedric Johnson (SO, 6-3, 235) has played pretty well, but has very little experience.

Linebacker: WILL Jelani Jenkins (SO, 6-3, 230); MIKE Jon Bostic (6-3, 240); SAM Lerentee McCray (JR, 6-2, 252)

Strength: This has been the strength of the defense and all three starters were playing well "until last game". Jenkins is coming off of a freshman All-American season and is the leader on the defense, although Bostic calls the plays. Those two are inseparable on and off the field and are first and second on the team in tackles totaling 55. Jenkins is a tackling machine that has a nose for the ball while Bostic is fighting through a slumping sophomore season and doing it in a big way, having a good junior campaign so far. McCray may end up rushing the passer way more than anyone anticipated and has been a real big positive for this defense early in the year.

Weakness: They dropped a notch against Alabama and had a hard time bringing down Trent Richardson, but more so just plain missed their assignments and gaps in the run game. It was a disappointing showing for the backers and they need to fight back.

Coming on Strong: Michael Taylor (FR, 5-11, 220) had a big game against Kentucky and an interception he returned for 30 yards. He plays the game with a nasty attitude and will likely start seeing more time. Dee Finley (6-2, 230) at WILL is the only other linebacker right now that seems to be getting any minutes.

Secondary: CB Marcus Roberson (FR, 6-0, 185); CB Cody Riggs (SO, 5-9, 185); Saf Matt Elam (SO, 6-0, 205); Saf Pop Saunders (FR, 5-10, 190)

Strength: The strengths would have to be the athleticism and instincts of the group. Two true freshmen start in Roberson and Saunders and both have been super this fall given their time on campus. Roberson is tall for a corner and opposite Riggs is very physical even with his smaller stature. Elam is the absolute leader of the bunch as a true sophomore. Elam has two interceptions on the year. The entire group had a strong game against Alabama against the pass.

Weakness: The experience of the group before this season was almost non-existent. Elam played a good deal last year as a true freshman but mostly in nickel situations and as a nickel playing in the slot. Roberson and Saunders were in high school last year and Riggs did get two starts at corner but his size scares you in this league. There is no experience behind them except for an unproductive senior in Moses Jenkins (SR, 6-2, 195). They also need to make more big plays having had opportunities for interceptions and missing on those opportunities. Saunders, the starter in the first four games, was suspended for a the Alabama game for breaking of team rules.

Coming on Strong: At cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy (FR, 6-0, 188) is a very speedy guy with length and can play, but it is his first semester on campus. He has been the star on special teams covering units. CB Jaylen Watkins (5-11, 190) has also come on strong and looks like a guy they will get on the field against bigger receivers. He has played well in the last two weeks and will get more reps as we move along.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Specialists: Punter David Lerner (SR, 6-0, 194); Kicker Caleb Sturgis (JR, 5-11, 183)

Strength: Sturgis is 12 for 13 on the season including 51 and 45 yard field goals and has only missed one from 52 yards. He's a really good one that was injured most of last season. He also performs kickoffs and has done an excellent job there so far, but will likely try and kick them out of the end zone this week against LSU.

Weakness: An untested punter is the biggest concern here and he has been fairly inconsistent, but not bad.

Returners: PR Chris Rainey; KR Jeff Demps, Solomon Patton, or Andre Debose

Strength: Rainey is dynamic whenever he touches the ball and they like to get it to him as a returner as well. He is electric. Demps and Debose find a crease and hit it hard. Debose tied a school record a year ago with two returns for touchdowns and had a 50 yard return last week. Demps took the opening kick of the season back for a TD, but it was called back erroneously by officiating. Patton has his moments as a kick returner, but has been a little inconsistent, he did well against Alabama.

Weakness: Not really too much here. Florida is loaded with speed guys and have a lot of options if need be. Florida has excelled on all special teams except kick coverage so far this season.


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