Florida Gators Recruiting: Cornerback Jalen Tabor Flips from Arizona

If you want to shock the world, one way to do so is to switch your commitment at the last moment when few saw it coming. Five-star cornerback Jalen Tabor may have done just that, switching his commitment from Arizona to Florida with the intent on enrolling early.

Jalen Tabor, Florida Gators

The initial surprise came less than one week ago when Tabor committed to the Wildcats at the Under Armour All-America game. While shocking, it may not have been as much of a surprise as it seems. Tabor is close friends with high school teammate Jonathan Haden (remember the Hadens?) who has been committed to Arizona since May of last year.

This time around, he attempted to go bigger. Tabor committed to Florida and looks to enroll immediately. Coming in early, and with his level of talent, gives him a great chance to see early playing time. There’s a chance we could see Tabor as much in 2014 as we saw Vernon Hargreaves III in 2013.

Tabor’s commitment comes at a critical time for the Gators. With two of Florida’s top cornerbacks declaring their intentions to leave early and enter the NFL Draft—Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson—the Gators need to reload. Tabor is a perfectly acceptable way to do that.

The 6’1”, 182-pound cornerback is receives five stars from Rivals and four from the other major recruiting services. The 247 composite gives him a score of 0.9873 and puts him as the No. 24 player in the nation and No. 4 CB.

Marcus Roberson to Declare for 2014 NFL Draft; Cornerback to Leave Gators

According to Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun, Gators’ junior cornerback Marcus Roberson will leave Florida early and declare himself eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft. Roberson only appeared in seven games for the Gators in 2013, missing time due to injuries and suspension, but he is still projected to be selected in the first or second round of April’s draft.

Marcus Roberson, Florida Gators

Despite playing in just more than half of the Gators’ games in 2013, Roberson’s draft stock isn’t expected to be impacted. His coverage skills have been one of his greatest strengths during his entire Florida career and many believe he will only get better with time.

Roberson’s play does present some concerns as he is a frequent offender when it comes to pass interference calls. He has always played the game physically and it has haunted him at times. However, he is still a relatively young player and discipline could come with time and coaching.

Roberson becomes the second Florida cornerback to leave the Gators early for the NFL Draft. He joins fellow junior Loucheiz Purifoy who declared his intentions to bolt to the NFL almost immediately following the conclusion of the 2013 regular season.

While Florida still has talent at cornerback, it is largely young talent that split time with veterans such as Roberson, Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins. The Gators need to reload immediately and will be sure to look at any available prospects during the final month of recruiting. Florida appears to be in good shape with Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson and Quincy Wilson currently committed, but Jackson is wavering and all three will need time to develop.

We’ve Made It to August; College Football (and Hope) Commence

We wait far too long for college football to begin. The fan starts to wait the moment the national championship game comes to a conclusion. There are other sports to fill our time, but they don’t fill the void. They are stopgaps and as much as we love them, we always come back to college football. (Unless you’re a college basketball fan first, but then I can’t explain your existence.)

Jeff Driskel Florida Gators

There are countdowns upon countdowns–100 days, 50 days, 1 month. The real one begins in August. Fall camps have started and games are on the horizon. It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year. Or it would be if it weren’t for this infernal heat. I love Florida and all it has to offer (even its copious amounts of crazy), but even I have my limits when having to walk outside in a button-down and khakis. My Canadian blood curses me every time. (Insert obligatory Jesse Palmer mention here.)

So here we are–August. It’s full of practice reports, predictions, trash talk, and apparently appendectomies. You don’t want to enter August with the news that one of your players will miss a few weeks of practice due to the removal of his appendix. You don’t want that player to be your starting quarterback. You don’t want the quarterback to be the only one on the roster with experience because that other guy now calls one of the Carolinas home.

It’s an entirely different article in itself, but this is the year of Jeff Driskel. Not in a year of Chris Leak sort of way, as Leak had on his way to a national championship in his final season. But in the way that Driskel could be made or broken during this, his junior season. Driskel could be on his way to that Chris Leak year. He could also go the way of a, let’s say, Terry Dean. For those keeping score at home, 2006 Leak > 1993 Dean. So maybe just maybe it is in a year of Chris Leak sort of way, or maybe Driskel is one season away from that 2006-type run. On the other side of the coin, maybe there is a youngster in the wings waiting to pounce and take over.

(To be clear, Dean was not a bad quarterback by any stretch of the imagination. However, there was someone else on the depth chart that became the legend Dean did not. Driskel could end up with a historical significance very close to that of Dean’s–a serviceable QB on teams with heaps of talent. That’s not an awful thing, but it’s also not what we want and most likely not what Driskel wants. While the Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow spots are reserved for, well, Wuerffel and Tebow, Driskel has a shot at putting himself alongside someone like a Leak. It’ll take a leap of sorts and even more than the heaps of talent the Florida Gators may already possess, but let’s be clear that 2013 Driskel would much rather resemble 2006 Leak than 1993, or even 1994, Dean. It’s more than just the individual numbers, it’s the end result of the season.)

There will be others to watch on offense, and defense as well. The Gators are sure to produce a star or two or ten, but there is also the opportunity for disappointment. We don’t take disappointment well here in Gator Nation. We never have, but we used to be better at it. Actually, that’s not true at all. The truth is that we used to be quieter about it. All fanbases did. Before the Internet explosion and message boards and Facebook and Twitter, we complained to our close personal circle of family, friends, etc. Today, we live in a world in which we complain to everyone. Disappoint came against Georgia and again against Louisville last season, and we let the world know about it.

It could come again this season. While an undefeated season is a possibility, it’s not likely. I would venture a guess that no one out there fully expects an unblemished record. As much as we all may hope for it, we are realistic and think 11-2 is entirely possible again. If those two at the end of that record come, you’ll be sure we’ll talk about them. There’s nothing wrong with that–every fanbase does it (even if at times it feels like we may do it more)–but for now we ignore the possible disappointment. We ignore it because it’s August and we have hope.

Hope is a dangerous thing in sports, but it’s also what makes a fan a fan. Every season I have hope; some seasons more than others, but hope all the same. But look at it this way for a moment: I was 33 years old at the end of the 2012 season. In those 33 years, the Gators won three national championships. Not a bad percentage at all (unless you’re Alabama of recent years), but three ultimate prizes in 33 years. In that same time, FSU took home only two trophies and Tennessee managed only one. Yet, we fans have hope.

Hope despite a quarterback with a future that could go in either direction. Hope despite a largely new running game (although, let’s be honest, we’re all pretty excited about it). Hope despite a group of receivers that need to step up possibly more than any other unit on the entire squad. Hope despite plenty of new starters and faces on defense. Hope despite a talented kick returner lost for the season.

I, personally, hope for Driskel’s progression. I hope for big things from Matt Jones and an explosive rookie campaign from Kelvin Taylor. I hope for a go-to receiver or two. I hope for a dependable offensive line. I hope for a frightening defensive line. I hope for consistent tackling from the linebackers. I hope for All-American seasons from Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy. I hope to finally be able to spell Loucheiz correctly on the first try. I hope for 10 wins, at least. I hope for an SEC Championship Game appearance. I hope for a season to be proud of. I hope. We all do.

Monday Morning Driskel: Florida Gators Thoughts After The Win Over The Tennessee Volunteers

Another win, another new Florida Gators feature at The Bull Gator. The name is inspired by our quarterback Jeff Driskel and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback, which discusses a plethora of topics concerning the week’s NFL games. We hope to do something similar–but on a minor, more pertinent-to-us level. Don’t worry, it won’t be nearly as long. Let me know how you think this goes.

Also to take note: I AM NOT CRAZY. I know it’s Tuesday. Sadly, the idea came to me Monday night, so I figured why let a week go to waste?

Let me start this off by saying this was a fantastic college football week. The Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers in stunning fourth quarter-shutout fashion, and Florida moved up to No. 14 in the polls, just behind Lane Kiffin and USC, who, to top it all off, lost to Stanford 14-21. And if there’s one thing Tennessee and Florida fans can agree on, I think it’s the happiness brought by seeing Lane Kiffin fail.

Beyond that, there’s not a great deal the Volunteers would be willing to agree with us about, after our 37-20 win in the hostile Rocky Top-land. For the Gators, it was a tale of two halves. The first half was slightly ugly, which featured Mr. Muschamp screaming at the top of his lungs at a referee, and the second half was, as TBG said, “glorious.”

What We Learned

Jeff Driskel is improving, quickly: I don’t think we could ask for much more than what Driskel has given us so far, and he looks like he can be so much better. He was extremely accurate, and his touchdown pass to Jordan Reed with defenders surrounding him was a thing of beauty. I feel bad for Jacoby Brissett, but Team Driskel all the way!

Driskel, calm and composed: The knock on Driskel coming into this year was his composure level. After showing he can effectively control the football game, accurately facilitate the football to his receivers, and thankfully handle the football without coughing it up, Driskel would appear to have better composure tenfold. Seriously, you couldn’t ask for much more from a sophomore quarterback who was starting in only his second game.

Against the run, Tennessee is tough inside, extremely flawed on the outside: If you noticed a trend in Florida’s results from different run plays, you weren’t alone. The Gators busted out long runs, including an 80-yard run by Trey Burton by avoiding the middle of the Tennessee defense, which was stuffing Florida at the line all night. The Vols have a few kinks to sort out on the corners of their defense.

Trey Burton can be a factor running the Wildcat: Burton was potently effective Saturday, running for 91 yards and two touchdowns on only three carries. We knew Burton had a chance to make an impact from the Wildcat, but it’s been a while since he has made much of a difference.

Frankie Hammond Jr. looks like Percy Harvin: Hammond Jr. is nowhere near the athletic level that Harvin is, or was, but Hammond sure has looked explosive and surprisingly smart in the open field.

The defense is great in the fourth quarter: Not so great in the first half, but I think preventing opposing teams from reaching the end-zone in the fourth is somewhat impressive, especially against a couple pretty good offensive teams. Jeff Dillman’s conditioning probably has a lot to do with this.

The safeties are all over the field: Josh Evans was everywhere at once during the first two games, despite getting knocked out of the second. Matt Elam also seemed to be picking up the slack during the last game by leading the team with 10 tackles.

Our defense, Marcus Roberson can’t catch: Very disappointed by Roberson’s hands. He’s always there for an interception, only to find it just beyond his grasp.

Things We Already Knew That Proved To Remain True

Will Muschamp is somewhat of a hothead: Haha, TBG seems to be unhappy about this.

Gilly’s good: Mike Gillislee is continuing to live up to his role as the probable best player on offense.

The Vols would be very sad when they lost: I wish I could have found a picture of the fans crying when they realized there was no chance of a burnt orange win, but if you watched the game on ESPN, you know what I’m talking about.

Surprise Of The Day

Derek Dooley may also be a hothead: Spiking the ball down is not an appropriate reaction after his quarterback Tyler Bray delivered a perfect pass to the disgruntled coach.

Play Of The Day

Trey Burton’s 80-yard touchdown run: This was just great. The Tennessee guy took an awful angle, though.

Football Recap: Florida Gators 27 – Bowling Green Falcons 14

We’ll run through the quick recap and start with a positive: it was a win. Is it time to just start cheering for wins and not have a desire for any style points? The Florida Gators defeated the Bowling Green Falcons 27-14 in the season opener for both teams. The Gators won; that is true. Otherwise, it felt like a deflating victory that didn’t answer many questions.

We know the name of next week’s starting quarterback. It’s Jeff Driskel. Driskel and Jacoby Brissett took their turns in the first half and Driskel came out on top, leading the Gators in the second half. There were moments of joy and moments of doubt. This we do know: Driskel needs to become more aware of the field. Be that making throws on the run, hitting receivers in stride, or knowing where the sidelines are. Overall, his performance was serviceable and those on Team Driskel are happy he’s the guy coming out of the first game.

The defense looked like it can be a good one and even a great one. It also looked like tackling from the secondary needs to improve. Marcus Roberson is a dangerous cover corner and Jaylen Watkins had his moments, but they and their unit mates need to wrap up the first time and not allow any additional yards. The first hit must result in the ball carrier hitting the ground. Among things we like from the defense was the pressure from the line. During passing plays, the line got into the backfield. During some running plays, it was a different story. The defense was solid, but can clearly get to the level of being an impenetrable rock. There’s something special there that comes out in bursts. We need it to be apparent on every down.

And then there were the penalties. And the penalties. And the penalties. And the penalties. They need to not just be eliminated, but whatever stronger word for “gotten rid of” we can find.

The star was Mike Gillislee. His lofty prediction for the 2012 season he would have doesn’t seem so lofty now. He’s good and can carry the offense. Gillislee is cleary the primary running back and we’re all okay with that. The Gators will rely on him to continue to put out performances like that. He’s gets our immediate reaction game ball and there’s a good chance he’ll hold on to it when we reevaluate the game in a day or two.

For now, the Gators have won and the rest of college football Saturday continues. It’s been a while since we’ve been calm watching Florida games. Every time a pass play develops, we sit on the edge of our seats and it’s been that way for two-plus seasons. That may not end anytime soon and it does make us all nervous. But we can relax for a few days at least. Game one is over; game two is on the horizon. More analysis will come in the next few days, but at this moment your to-do list should include having a great long weekend. It was rough at times, there were signs of maybe a little progress during others; all-in-all, Go Gators!

Florida Gators Set Depth Chart For First Game Of 2012 Football Season

Be afraid Bowling Green. Fear the two-headed quarterback monster that is coming your way. Or go about your day in a regular fashion because not you, us, or even the Florida Gators seem to know what will work heading into the 2012 season.

On Monday, the Gators released their depth chart for that first game against the Falcons and it doesn’t answer many questions. We’re not surprised and you shouldn’t be either that it contains four “OR” entries; even if it is only one of those we’re all really focusing in on – Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel. It hasn’t reached the level of debate of those two teenage vampires in those movies (was one not a vampire?), but Team Brissett and Team Driskel have picked their sides and are ready to see how the season plays out. Enough talk, it’s time to see how these two perform.

The other “OR” position battles won’t get headlines, but could be vital to the outcome of the first few games. Backing up Frankie Hammond Jr. at the X wide receiver spot is either true freshman Latroy Pittman or superstar-in-waiting (is this the year?) Andre Debose. We have to think that’s just to get both on the two-deep depth chart. Realistically, they are different receivers and Debose could see plenty of time as a deep threat while Pittman has already proved himself as a tough WR willing to do the dirty work.

The other position(s) up for grabs are both cornerback spots. It’s a four-man battle between Loucheiz Purifoy, Cody Riggs, Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins. Purifoy is the only one without extensive experience, but has become something of a practice and workout legend during the offseason and has definitely implanted himself into the rotation. All four will play and we may see that rotation deep into the season to keep all the corners fresh.

So there’s the depth chart, mere days away from the first game of the 2012 season. Two quarterbacks – as we knew – and not a lot of surprises (if any).

2013 Football Recruiting: Vernon Hargreaves III Commits To Florida; Gators Add 5-Star Cornerback

Wharton (Tampa, FL) cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III made it official on Thursday when he committed to play college football for the Florida Gators. Hargreaves instantly becomes the Gators’ highest rated commit and boosts the overall ranking of the 2013 recruiting class. According to Rivals, Florida now comes in at fifth overall after making Hargreaves their first five-star commitment.

“I can officially say I am committed to THE University of Florida ! #GoGators CHOMP CHOMP” – Vernon Hargreaves III, 2013 Cornerback (via Twitter)

The recruiting services tend to agree on where to place Hargreaves and his elite level of talent. At the highest, he’s the nation’s No. 4 overall player (ESPN) and at the lowest he comes in at No. 15 (Scout). All four major services give him five stars.

Hargreaves is the type that has instant starter written all over him. Once he arrives in Gainesville permanently, Marcus Roberson will be entering his third year with the program and Brian Poole his second. While others such as Loucheiz Purifoy have made strides recently, Hargreaves will compete for playing time immediately. He’s of the instant impact type that recently included cornerbacks like Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins.

Hargreaves chose Florida over Clemson, Miami, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt. Look for more on him in the form of a recruiting report coming soon.

Confidence Could Be Loucheiz Purifoy’s Biggest Asset

The position battle at cornerback may be one of the most open on the Florida Gators roster. There’s experience, youth and youth with experience, but anyone could steal playing time at any moment.

Here’s the rundown of the returning cornerbacks that were on the roster in 2011:

Jeremy Brown, RJR, 0 games, 0 starts*
Loucheiz Purifoy, FR, 13 games, 0 starts
Cody Riggs, SO, 13 games, 10 starts
Marcus Roberson, FR, 10 games, 10 starts
Jaylen Watkins, SO, 13 games, 8 starts

*Brown received a medical redshirt in 2011 and will be a redshirt junior again in 2012. He appeared in 11 games and started 10 in 2010.

You can ask just about anyone and they will tell you Roberson will occupy one side during the 2012 season. Although his play was shaky at times during his freshman season in 2011, he is the most talented corner on the roster and should excel in 2012 with a better grasp of the defense.

The other side is up for grabs. The Gators aren’t sure what they have in Brown. Injured for much of his career, Brown is a talented player that just can’t stay healthy. Both Riggs and Watkins have gained experience while playing plenty, but neither is seen as a lock opposite Roberson and both may be better suited for the nickel back role. Then you have Purifoy.

A special teams standout in 2011, Purifoy was held back by a hamstring injury and didn’t get a chance to earn playing time in the secondary early. As the season progressed, opportunities increased and now he finds himself with a great chance to earn a starting nod. Of all the talents Purifoy possesses – speed being a big one – his confidence may be the most important.

A cornerback has to be cocky to a certain extent. Let’s be honest, all athletes have to be, but Purifoy plays one of those positions where you specifically are targeted. Not only is a quarterback throwing to a wide receiver, he’s throwing at you. He’s daring you to make a play. That doesn’t faze Purifoy and could be one of the key reasons why he could be lined up on the field for the opening snap of the 2012 season.

Florida needs help at a number of positions and cornerback is one. Purifoy has pushed Riggs and Watkins and will get pushed by incoming freshman Brian Poole. Anyone could come out on top, but the new No. 15 is making his case and doing it well.

Defense: Alabama Crimson Tide 38 – Florida Gators 10

First thoughts here. Offense here.

We knew the Alabama rushing offense would be a test for Florida. It was talked about all week. Actually, it was discussed much earlier than that. This was something debated since the schedule was first announced. The first real test for the Gators; one of the nation’s top teams coming to The Swamp to take on a team in transition. It could get ugly, but it was just the test Florida needed. Well, it did get ugly. Ugly in the form of Trent Richardson.

Everyone is aware of exactly how good Richardson can be, but with good, but not great numbers so far in his career, no one had really seen greatness. There were plenty of great moments, but being a backup to a Heisman Trophy winner created an environment in which Richardson wasn’t going to be the primary option…until now.

The Tide running back started the season modestly enough. Three touchdowns against Kent State got people talking, but so did his average of 2.8 yards per carry. He went over 100 yards against Penn State, but still didn’t explode like many expected. Three weeks later and Richardson is the Heisman candidate everyone has drooled over. After five games (all Alabama wins of course), Richardson is only 129 yards away from matching his yardage total from his freshman year. He has already set a career-high with 10 touchdowns in 2011. Against Florida, he set a few milestones as well. 29 carries, a career best. 181 yards, also a career high. The numbers were great, but what impressed the most was the way he ran the ball.

The Gators’ defense knew what they had to do: meet Richardson at the line and take him down on first contact. Every member of the defense knew that was the key. Sure there would be plays where the Tide offensive line would open up holes and allow Richardson to get his yards, but on those the defense sniffed out, they had to bring the star running back down immediately. And there you have the problem. Richardson is a classic “fall forward” back. It’s almost impossible to hit him and knock him back. Falling forward is a great ability to have, but Richardson takes it one step further. Against the Gators, he wasn’t falling forward for an extra yard or two; he was doing so for an extra four or five. Richardson was shaking off first contact and getting to the second level of the defense. It was hard not to be impressed. Sure the Florida defense struggled to make tackles, but how much of it had to do with Richardson’s ability to keep plays going? This was an eye opener for the Gators on many levels, but also a display of just how good Alabama’s go-to back is.

Throughout the night, the Gators could do nothing to stop the Tide rushing attack. There were very few big plays, but enough consistency in the Tide moving the ball that the defense looked worn-out in the second quarter.

Florida held Alabama to a field goal on their first drive, but Richardson started his work early with carries of five, seven, nine, 11, and three in that series. Only three points for the Tide, but five carries for 35 yards for Richardson. Drive number two resulted in a score for no. 3 and five more carries for another 25 yards. When you saw his first quarter numbers flash on the screen – 10 carries, 60 yards, one touchdown – you knew it was going to be a long night for the Gators…and it was.

The second quarter started well enough for the Florida defense. Down 17-10, the defense needed a stop to avoid letting the game get out of hand. Bama managed a first down on the first play of their first drive of the quarter, but couldn’t get another and were forced to punt. It was a victory for the defense, but one that would be short lived.

The next drive was a mix of Richardson in the run game and the pass game and the Gators just didn’t have an answer. They couldn’t tackle and started to come undone. On consecutive plays, Florida was flagged for roughing the passer and a personal foul (we’re guessing Jon Bostic doesn’t swing at anyone ever again; Will Muschamp had just a little to say to the linebacker when he came off of the field). With the defense looking lost, Alabama was able to make it 24-10 before the half.

Things brightened up for the Gators in the second half briefly. Florida’s defense seemed to tighten and forced Alabama to punt on three-straight drives, including two three-and-outs. While the defense did it’s best to keep the Gators in the game, the offense couldn’t move the ball. The teams combined for six-straight drives under 3:36 in length. With the defenses coming on and off the field rapidly, you could sense signs on Florida slowing down.

The defensive improvement in the third quarter quickly came to an end in the fourth. On consecutive drives, Richardson and Eddie Lacy ran in scores from 36 and 20 yards out. Alabama would run on their last 11 offensive plays. The Gators’ defense was worn down and couldn’t do anything to stop the Alabama backs. Get pressure in the backfield and the running back already seemed to be past the line. Meet the back at the line and he drug defenders for another four yards. A rough night for Florida and a test with many questions still to be answered.

On the bright side, the Gators didn’t allow A.J. McCarron to look like anything more than an average quarterback. He made a nice throw or two, but was kept in check for most of the night. There was a fairly serious problem though and one that Muschamp harped on consistently during practice before the season: communication. On several plays, an Alabama receiver would go in motion and you would see a Florida defensive back jumping up and down waving his arms trying to capture the attention of the DB on the other side of the field. That DB – more often than not Marcus Roberson – never saw the signals. Muschamp said as much talent as the secondary has, it’s young and has trouble communicating with each other. Five games into the season, that problem came to the forefront and looks like it could be a serious issue. Roberson plays on an island and has shown moments of how good he will be one day. He has also shown moments proving that he’s only a true freshman and has a lot to learn. Saturday night was one of those moments. He needs to be aware of the entire field and not just the receiver he’s covering. That will come with time, but with the schedule Florida has ahead of it, that time is now.

If you want a silver lining, it’s that Florida knows exactly what it needs to work on after that game. Just a few items are: tackling, linebackers filling the gaps, tackling, composure, tackling, communication in the secondary, and tackling. This team has talent, but that talent broke down in situations against one of the nation’s best. It’s not necessarily a surprising loss, but with Florida facing teams of that caliber consistently through the season, it’s something that can’t continue to happen.

Coming next: special teams.

Preview: Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Volunteers – Saturday, September 17, 2011 – 3:30pm

Preview time and an extra special one because it’s rivalry week. Rivalries don’t fade. It doesn’t matter if one team takes control of the series and puts together a streak of five or even 10 wins. There’s still an aura surrounding the entire experience. Florida and Tennessee are rivals. They’re conference rivals. They’re divisional rivals. They’re whatever name you want to put on it. It’s a great, albeit nerve-wracking, week all around. This is why we love the game though. It’s rivalry week.
The Facts
Opponent: Tennessee Volunteers
When: Saturday, September 17, 2011 – 3:30pm
Where: Gainesville, FL
Broadcasting: CBS, Gator Radio Network, GatorZone
Records: Florida: 2-0, Tennessee: 2-0
Point Spread for Wagerin’ Folk: Florida –9.5
Over/Under for Those Mentioned Above: 51
Betting Score That Would Calculate To: Florida 30-21
Scoring Offenses: Florida: 40.0, Tennessee: 43.5
Scoring Defenses: Florida: 1.5; Tennessee: 19.5
Our Gators’ Win Factor (See Here): TBG: 75, OEW: 70
Where We’ll Be Watching: The TBG Corporate Office
10 Things About Tennessee From Wikipedia
The section of the preview where you learn a little something about the school and not the athletics. Well, that’s not entirely true; there are typically some athletics thrown in there. For football-like stuff, scroll ahead.
1. What became the University of Tennessee was established in 1794. That’s older than, well, anything you know pretty much.
2. In that time, it has been called Blount College, East Tennessee College and East Tennessee University before being what it is today.
3. The chancellor, Jimmy Cheek, spent 34 years at Florida as a faculty member and administrator. Cheek received two of his three degrees from future SEC member Texas A&M.
4. Tennessee’s enrollment is somewhere in the ballpark of 27,000 with more than half of that coming from instate.
5. In 2008, PopCrunch rated Tennessee’s student body the 25th most attractive. USF, Miami, Florida, and FSU all ranked higher. Yes, we love our state. The Gators were 4th.
6. The student newspaper is The Daily Beacon. I personally prefer The Alligator, but I might be biased.
7. Lane Kiffin
8. I’ve got nothing and plenty with no. 7, but it’s there and always be. Since you came here for 10 different facts, here’s one you better already know: Peyton Manning never beat the Gators.
9. In 1953, a contest was held to help choose the hound that would become Smokey. An advertisement in a local newspaper stipulated it must be a “Houn’ Dawg.” You can’t spell Citrus without the U and the T, but you can spell hound without the D apparently.
10. Notable alumni: Dixie Carter – there your first and only Designing Women callout; Kurt Vonnegut – a favorite of one Jonathan Moxon; Scott Abbott – one of the inventors of Trivial Pursuit; and obviously a whole bunch of athletes.
When The Gators Have The Ball
Here we go. What we’ve been waiting for and possibly fearing at the same time. It’s a real, live, living, breathing SEC defense. A defense that will be faster and, yes, better than those the Gators have faced thus far this season. It will be a test and one we all want to see.
From what we’ve heard, Charlie Weis only uses the offensive plays he needs to. Fans have been clamoring for John Brantley to take more shots down the field and work the deep passing game into the offense, but it hasn’t been needed and if it isn’t needed, Weis stays away from it. Part of it is not wanting to show your hand and part of it is controlling the game. Weis does what he needs to do to win and after two weeks, we shouldn’t complain. BUT…we do want to see more. Against the Vols, we will (we think). If Tennessee makes a game out of it, Florida will need more offensive firepower and we’ll all get a chance to see exactly what Weis brings to the offense.
Brantley and the offensive line are where it all begins. The quarterback’s composure is perhaps the most important part of the offense, but the line will keep him in the right frame of mind. Keep the pressure off of no. 12 and he can do wonders (again, we think). We saw glimpses against UAB. There were plays that came together exactly as drawn up where the line formed the ideal pocket around Brantley and he was able to stand strong and fire passes to his receivers. It showed us all the potential Brantley has when given the chance to set his feet and use his arm to his advantage. It’s his responsibility to play to his ability, but it’s also the line’s responsibility to allow him to do so.
The running game was two: Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Against UAB – with Demps limited – it became one: Rainey. All cylinders will have to be going against Tennessee as this is the obvious strength of the Florida offense. And – let’s get a drum roll going here – after the last game, we’re much more comfortable about that two becoming three and even four. After fall practice, there was concerned about a lack of consistent play behind the co-starters. Neither got going during the win over FAU, but Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown saw extensive time against UAB and gave us all a little more confidence in the entire running game from starter to third string. Don’t be surprised if rushes are plentiful against the Vols. Weis wants to control the clock and can do just that if he can keep the rushing average up and the chains moving.
I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it: there needs to be a go-to receiver. We’ll go ahead and give the Gators a pass for the first two games because Florida just hasn’t needed one yet, but they will and this could be the game. There’s talent – you’ve been told that a million times by now – but who will step up when Brantley needs someone to rely on in a close game? I could name every receiver on the roster that has ever made a play, but I won’t. Sooner or later one will step up and it could be against Tennessee. This is the first real challenge the Gators face and one that can’t be taken lightly. A receiver will have to make a big play in a clutch situation.
When The Volunteers Have The Ball
Sure it has only been two games and sure the opponents were FAU and UAB, but let’s do the rundown. 1.5 points allowed per game, which just happens to be best in the nation. Opposing quarterbacks have a combined rating of 89.0 and have only passed for 248 yards. The Gators have held opponents to 50.5 rushing yards per game and an average of only 1.9 per carry. Those are impressive numbers regardless of who the opponents were, but you’d think they meant nothing with Tyler Bray coming to town.
Bray is a good passer that had a solid first year in which he showed flashes of becoming a top-notch quarterback. To open the 2011 season against Montana and Cincinnati, Bray had eye-popping numbers: 698 yards, completing 78.5% of his passes, seven touchdowns to zero interceptions, and a rating of 204.2. Those are good numbers. Those are great numbers. From everything we’ve heard, you’d think Bray was a Heisman candidate. He isn’t, yet. That would be similar to ranking Florida no. 1 because they’re undefeated. Bray is good and will be one of the better passers the Gators face this season, but he’s coming into a hostile environment. Bray went 2-2 on the road last season with those wins coming against Memphis and Vanderbilt. He’s not Jonathan Crompton (that’s for sure), but he’s not Peyton Manning either (who as you read above just so happened to never beat Florida). Bray is a young quarterback facing the toughest road test of his career. He’ll have some success, but he’ll also be tested by the defense, the crowd and the aura of The Swamp.
The Gators need pressure and lots of it. Bray will be blitzed, but the front four needs to pressure him without the help of a linebacker or defensive back. That’s where we’ll all look to Sharrif Floyd. Floyd will be playing in his first game after being forced to sit out of the first two for growing up without the privileges some of us take for granted. He’ll be angry and if you’ve ever seen Floyd that’s a very bad thing for anyone in his way. To say he’ll have a fire pushing him on for 60 minutes is an understatement. Hopefully he’s the missing link to the line and can help spring Jaye Howard, Ronald Powell and others into the backfield. If given time, Bray can be very dangerous. The Gators can’t give him that time.
Against Cincinnati, Bray had 405 yards with a long of only 33. That means he was working the intermediate passing game to near perfection. The Gator linebackers know this and will be the most vital part of the defense. Tennessee’s run game hasn’t done much – 127.0 yards per game which is good for 82nd in the country – but if the LBs are too focused on Bray, it can. Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins need to be the leaders of the defense and be everywhere on the field. This won’t be a game with a heavy rotation of personnel like the last two. Bostic, Jenkins and Lerentee McCray will play the bulk and need to stay energized and ready play after play.
Sticking with the “Bray will beat Florida” theme since that’s what plenty seem to think will happen, it’s time to move on to the secondary. After two games, you have to be excited about Matt Elam and Marcus Roberson. You also have to be worried…no that’s too strong…nervous…probably not it either…concerned…yeah, concerned…with the other half of the secondary. Talent is abundant, but consistency isn’t yet. But it’s not just about the other two. Because those two will be tested, it’s important that Elam and Roberson bring their A games. They can’t be the ones to let anything by them. They have to shutdown anything coming their way as the others ease into a game where they will be passed on constantly. This game will be a great chance to see exactly where the secondary is as an entire unit.
Special Teams
I miss Brandon James.
One Eyed Willy’s Detailed Analysis Of The Matchup
“I’m nervously optimistic. Is Bray really the second coming of Joe Montana? Let’s hope not!”
Florida is the favorite and should be. This entire game will flow differently than the previous two, but that may be a good thing. The Gators need to be tested. Will Muschamp, Weis and the rest of the coaches need to see exactly where their players are in terms of progress. Tennessee is a good, young team on the rise, but they still have question marks too. This is a level setter for both programs and, of course, it’s rivalry week.