Florida heads into the Miami game with not a lot of questions on offense, but still looking to improve from the first week’s play. The Gators were efficient and effective in the first half of the game vs. Toledo, but the Rockets shouldn’t have been much of a challenge from a defense that finished 109th in total defense a year ago and returned only three guys with real experience.
Junior Jeff Driskel (6-3, 235) looked sharp in the game completing 17 of 22 passes but for only 155 yards and a touchdown. Even more impressive was that two of the passes were dropped and two short passes were tipped, he should have been 21 of 22 and with another touchdown. The Toledo defense played deep quarters and totally took the deep ball away from the game plan and Driskel was right by attacking the middle of the field an mid-range passes. He looks much better at following progressions and getting to the open guy than he did a year ago.
He will see a lot of man-coverage this week and that will be a change for him from last game and the real test. Look for him to also run the ball on occasion as he is an exceptional runner with very deceptive speed at 235 pounds.
Driskel’s strength is his versatility and he needs to be allowed to use his legs more than they have done in the past.
Florida is very excited to have running back Matt Jones (SO, 6-2, 226) back from a viral infection that kept him sidelined for the entire preseason and up until the middle of last week. Jones ran for 275 yards last season and was the clear cut leader for the starting spot before his illness. He will of course be limited in terms of carries on Saturday.
Jones loss was Mack Brown’s (JR, 5-11, 215) gain. Brown started the game against Toledo and surprised much with his hard running and ability to churn out extra yards after contact. He also showed the staff that he is reliable when it comes to holding on to the ball. Brown ran a whopping 25 times for 112 yards on Saturday and showed some durability as well. He will be a nice compliment to Jones who has more speed and is a bit more elusive. Both are very good pass catchers coming out of the backfield. Jones is a better pass protector for Driskel.
The gators like a little change up at the position with speedy Valdez Showers. Showers was a safety just three weeks ago and into his third year on campus was finally moved to offense. He debuted on offense with four catches for 32 yards and two rushes for 31 yards on the day. It will be interesting to watch how much he is utilized now with the return of Jones who has good speed as well.
At fullback, the Gators have gotten some surprisingly good play from a position move with Gideon Ajagbe (JR, 6-2, 244). Ajagbe who is from Coconut grove in South Florida has really given starter Hunter Joyer (JR, 5-11, 240) a run for his money in terms of ability to play the position at a high level and has really taken advantage of an injury that Joyer has been slowly returning from and the former linebacker scored the only receiving touchdown last week for the Gators. Both will play a lot on Saturday and I expect Florida to use them to try and pound at the Hurricanes.
There is still a little bit of the unknown at running back for Florida and a couple of freshmen in Kelvin Taylor of belle Glade Glades Day and Adam Lane of Winter haven waiting in the wings.
The Gators leading man at receiver is Quinton Dunbar (JR, 6-2, 194) from Miami’s Booker T. Washington HS. Dunbar caught nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns worth of passes a year ago and is the real leader in the unit. Speedy Solomon Patton (SR, 5-9, 177) is more of a pss catching threat this year and can also be seen returning kickoffs for Florida. Two freshmen hve been the talk with Demarcus Robinson (6-2, 201) and Ahmad Fulwood (6-5, 196) expected to grow in their roles as the season progresses. Both will see the field early and often on Saturday. Senior Trey Burton (6-2, 225) is listed as a receiver but will do a bit of everything for Florida including playing a little ‘wildcat’ quarterback.
The tight ends have switched roles from a year ago when Jordan Reed was the leading pass catcher on the team. The group now is more of a blocking/ protection group, at least until the young guys can step up and learn the offense a little better. Juniors Tevin Westbrook (6-5, 255) and Clay Burton (6-4, 257) are the top two and will see the most time on the field. Freshman Colin Thompson (6-4, 258) and sophomore Kent Taylor (6-5, 220) are more of the pass catching threats.
The Gators are still looking to get more out of their receivers and tight ends.
Injuries have two starters missing the game for Florida along the offensive line. Starting right tackle Chaz Green is out for the year with a torn labrum. Right guard Jon Halapio will miss one more game due to an injured labrum as well.
The Gators have some quality experience up front despite the injuries. Senior Jonotthan Harrison is starting his third season at center and has been dominant this fall in practices and in game one. Sophomore starting left tackle D.J. Humphries (6-5, 285) had a scare in week one and sprained his MCL, but is back to practice on Wednesday and played a lot as a true freshman in 2012. Senior Kyle Koehne (6-5, 315) will man the right guard spot vacated by Halapio and is absolutely one of the most important guys on the line with his myriad of experience and ability to play all five positions.
Two transfers have started strong in their first year as Gators. Junior Max Garcia (6-4, 313) was an all-ACC player at left tackle for Maryland. He transferred in last year, sat out, and is playing well for the Gators. Sophomore Tyler Moore (6-5, 320) left Nebraska, didn’t play last year, but transferred in this spring. He is starting at right tackle in place of Green and was going to give Green a run for his money at the position any way. There is a little bit of depth along the line with sophomore Trip Thurman 6-5, 315), junior Ian Silberman (6-5, 306), and monstrous junior college transfer Trenton Brown (6-8, 360). Silberman and Thurman saw a lot of time last Saturday.
What was a very deep group has thinned a little and they can’t sustain too many more injuries. They are a really good run blocking unit, but are susceptible to the sack as happened twice against Toledo.