The Gator offense has made a pretty quick adjustment to quarterback Tyler Murphy. Lucky for the Gators this won't be his first start on the road as he got that two weeks ago in Kentucky. However, trying to relate the crowd and talent in the Bluegrass State to that of LSU is wishful thinking at best. Still, the offense has gained a little bit of confidence under Murphy that was missing before. We will see how that translates moving forward.
Tyler Murphy (JR, 6-2, 210) will make his third start of the season after appearing in the second quarter of the Tennessee game (game 3) due to a season ending injury to Jeff Driskel. Murphy made his first collegiate pass against the Vols that day and has zero meaningful plays in his first three years on campus.
Murphy has settled in nicely and is currently third in the conference in passing efficiency. The Gators don't throw a lot, but they have been more effective in the passing game since Murphy took over and actually getting into the end zone. In the nine quarters Murphy didn't play, the Gators scored two touchdowns through the air, in the last 11 quarters that number has increased to five. He isn't burning the house down throwing the ball, but he has been more effective.
Outside of Murphy, we don't know what the Gators have at the position.
Matt Jones (SO, 6-2, 226) will start his fifth game after missing the first and all of fall camp with a viral infection. The infection made for a slow return to full speed which he should be at by now. Jones is 10th in the SEC in rushing at 80.9 yards per game, but his 4.3 yard average puts him below any of the top 15 rushers in the league. The Gators need more out of him in terms of racking up yardage. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and that is a weapon we will see more of as the season progresses.
Mack Brown (JR, 5-11, 215) is a solid backup and good for short yardage plays. He's reliable and they will go to him fairly frequently. Valdez Showers (JR, 5-11, 190) is a converted safety that moved over in August from defense. He is the speed back on the team. He missed two games with injury but was back last week against Arkansas and scored on a shovel pass from Murphy. They need his speed to run outside.
Starting fullback Hunter Joyer (JR, 5-11, 240) and backup Gideon Ajagbe (JR, 6-2, 244) are becoming more steady, especially in the blocking game. Ajagbe has shown to be a weapon as a receiver, but they don't go to these guys often.
Starters Quinton Dunbar (JR, 6-2, 194) and Solomon Patton (SR, 5-9, 177) are both having their best seasons and catching many more down field passes than in the last few years. They have been reliable and have made the spectacular catches at times. Patton is coming into his own as a play maker and leads the team in receiving yards averaging 69.2 yards a game. He also has over half the receiving touchdowns on the team gathering in four of the seven. Trey Burton (SR, 6-3, 230) has also had a good year and joins the other two veterans to make the only trio in the SEC with at least 270 receiving yards each.
Freshmen receivers Demarcus Robinson (6-2, 201) and Ahmad Fulwood (6-5, 196) are waiting to bust out but have three catches among them. They are expected to be strong players in the future, but their time has not come yet.
The top two tight ends are Clay Burton (JR, 6-4, 257) and Tevin Westbrook (JR, 6-5, 255), both were moved from defense a couple of years ago. Both are mainly blockers for the Gators and occasionally get thrown to.
Left tackle D.J. Humphries (SO, 6-5, 285), left guard Max Garcia (JR, 6-4, 313), center Jonotthan Harrison (SR, 6-3, 310), right guard Jon Halapio (SR, 6-3, 320) and right tackle Tyler Moore (SO, 6-5, 320) will start only their second game in a row as a full unit. There is a lot of experience here led by Halapio as a four year starter, Harrison has three, Garcia is a transfer from Maryland and this is his third year starting in college. Moore started as a freshman at Nebraska in 2011 before transferring.
It is a veteran group that did not block very well against a seasoned and talented Arkansas defensive line last week. They have to perform better this week in order for Florida to have a chance.
Key reserves C/OG Kyle Koehne (SR, 6-5, 315), OG/OT Trip Thurman (SO, 6-5, 315) and OG Ian Silberman (JR, 6-5, 306) have seen a fair share of time this season, starting in some cases. Tackle Trenton Brown (JR, 6-8, 360) transferred from junior college and has been good in his time on the field so far as a Gator.
The three tackles looking to keep things going are Leon Orr (JR, 6-5, 302) Darious Cummings (JR, 6-1, 305) Damien Jacobs (SR, 6-3, 300). Orr and Jacobs have had more time on the field, but Cummings had his best game last week, was very active and is a guy that is expected to do good things at Florida.
The Gators are blessed with two of the best defensive ends in college football and both are only sophomores. Dante Fowler (6-3, 266) and Jonathan Bullard (6-3, 270) are both big enough to slide into different places along the line and both have continued to wreak havoc from a year ago where they earned freshman all-conference and all-American honors. Fowler is the starter at the BUCK position and could be displayed as a linebacker at times in the right defensive call. He had two sacks last week against Kentucky. He has already earned national player of the week awards this year. He's 7th in the conference in sacks (2) and 3rd in tackles for loss (7).
With Easley out, look for Bullard to slide inside a lot and especially on passing downs. He has the size, strength, and quickness to be a solid pass rushing 3-technique and allows Florida to get their best players on the field like mentioned above.
Ronald Powell (JR, 6-4, 240) is one of the better stories on this Gator squad. The top high school player in America coming from California in 2010, Powell tore his ACL in the spring of 2012. Just before he was expected to return late last season, he tore the same ACL. Now, he looks no worse for the wear. He is moving fast and does not seem to be favoring the knee at all. He has great size as a linebacker and blazing speed off the edge as a pass rusher. He hasn't notched a good deal of sacks but he continues to "affect the quarterback" as Will Muschamp likes to say. He did garner two late personal fouls against Arkansas and that is something he will have to change.
Antonio Morrison (SO, 6-1, 230) and Michael Taylor (JR, 6-0, 233) are as solid a middle linebacker duo as you will get. Taylor is playing way over his head right now and much better than in years past. Morrison, most will tell you is the best linebacker on the squad.
It is a bigger and probably faster unit overall than the 2012 version, these guys are playing well and have depth.
This is the position where the Gators just have riches to spare. Cornerback Marcus Roberson (JR, 6-0, 195) is an all-star candidate as is fellow starting corner Loucheiz Purifoy (JR, 6-0, 190). Roberson missed the last two games with injury but is expected close to 100% for Saturday. Purifoy won national defensive player of the week honors last week. Behind them is super rookie Vernon Hargreaves (FR, 5-11, 192) who was the top rated cornerback in high school a year ago and has three interceptions for the Gators already this season. Brian Poole (SO, 5-10, 205) is listed as the starting nickel and can also play cornerback.
With the emergence of Hargreaves and the steady play of Poole at corner, the staff decided to move Jaylen Watkins (SR, 6-0, 188) to free safety following the Miami game. It is a position Watkins played almost the entire fall camp before switching to corner the week before the first game. Marcus Maye (R-FR, 6-0, 206) had a solid spring and fall, but did get beat for a long touchdown against Miami and head coach Will Muschamp was notably upset about it making the move to Watkins.
Cody Riggs (JR, 5-9, 190) has had a great fall outside of a couple of bone headed plays against Tennessee. He lost his starting job for a week but regained it. He likes playing close to the line of scrimmage and is second on the team in tackles for loss. Jabari Gorman (5-10, 194) has played well whenever inserted into the game. He is a head hunter type and instinctual as well.
Place kicker Austin Hardin (R-FR, 5-10, 208) has struggled and was replaced during the last game with Brad Phillips (SR, 5-10, 195). Phillips made a short field goal early in the game then proceeded to miss the final extra point attempt. Muschamp is not happy about the kicking situation where the Gators are only 3 of 6 on the year.
Punter Kyle Christy (JR, 6-3, 198) is also struggling. After an All-SEC season a year ago in which he averaged 45 yards a punt, Christy is hitting at just 37 yards per punt this go around.
Punt returns have come from a quartet of players and all have had some success or another. The Gators actually employed two deep returners in the last game and they were trey Burton and Loucheiz Purifoy. But, they list Roberson and Hargreaves as the returners on the two-deep.
Solomon Patton is the main kick return man. He has been solid so far this year.