Football Recap: Florida Gators 20 – Texas A&M Aggies 17

We here at The Bull Gator propose the Florida Gators, their coaches, and their many fans adopt what has become our motto of sorts around here the last few seasons: just win. As we said last week, style points be damned; the current state of the program is one of which winning is of the utmost importance. It may not be pretty. It may not even rank as ugly at times. It may be downright rotten, but a win is a win is a win. It’s not the best way to think, but it has become what we lean toward. Florida Gators Football – Just Win! I think t-shirts are in order.

The first quarter wasn’t bad. Not really at all. Maybe that’s a positive, glass-half-full outlook that’s a little too optimistic than realistic, but I’ll go with it. The defense played tentative and looked like it had trouble figuring out exactly what the Texas A&M Aggies were going to do on offense, but it wasn’t time to sound the alarm. The offense put together a good drive during which Jeff Driskel looked improved and Mike Gillislee was Mike Gillislee. Yes, I’m basing that quote off of one game, but now we can put another game into it. Gillislee scored both of the Gators touchdowns in the 20-17 win and was again the offensive star.

Let’s just skip right over the second quarter. This was the tweet at the time: “FDALJFKDAFUINCEPAEPEUAHFENEUPHCIPEJAI…beer.” I stand by that comment. Just a whole big bucket of yuck.

The defense looked better during the second half. Better to the point that they didn’t allow a single point and allowed the offense the chance to get back into the game. The Aggies got their yards, but the Gators’ defense didn’t let them get their points. There are the same concerns – tackling, tentative play, allowing the run game to thrive in the middle of the field (especially on quarterback draws) – but right now for a number of reasons including beer (mentioned above) let’s go ahead and take zero points allowed over the final 30 minutes.

The offense wasn’t perfect in the second half. 10 points pretty much indicates that. But it did enough. Enough that helped get the win and push the Gators to 2-0 (1-0 SEC). That 1-0 SEC is enormously important. I’m not remotely thinking ahead to Atlanta – that would be crazy – but I will take comfort in 1-0 in conference play for now. I have an entire week before I have to start worrying about my poor heart again.

And finally there are the thanks that need to be given. I thank fake field goals, Jordan Reed, Caleb Sturgis’s foot, Jeff Driskel’s pass to Omarius Hines and, of course, Mike Gillislee. I thank the Florida Gators for pulling out a win that didn’t look like it was going to be a win. It didn’t resemble anything close to it at points. I won’t thank Will Muschamp though; that’s going to take a lot more. But I thank the rest and I move forward with my weekend with a deep sigh of relief. Go Gators! Just Win!

Omarius Hines Hoping For Big Final Season

Omarius Hines hasn’t had the career he dreamed of. Since committing to the Florida Gators, things haven’t turned out exactly as expected. Sure, Hines was on the roster in 2008 when the Gators brought home their third national championship, but he spent the season redshirting. Since then, he was moved from wide receiver to tight end, where he is currently listed despite the fact that very few consider him to be a true TE.

We’ve now come to the 2012 season – Hines is a redshirt senior – and his last chance to make his mark on the Florida program. As mentioned, he’s listed as a tight end, but he will also play wide receiver, fullback and even some running back. Hines has become a fan favorite in recent seasons and he will hear the cheers wherever he lines up. He has the speed to make the big play and the strength to lower his shoulder and run through defenders.

Unfortunately, without a true position, his time on the field remains to be seen. We want to believe Hines can be a jack of all trades and a weapon on offense, but more often than not, those types of players aren’t given enough time at any one position to make a difference. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease remains confident in his abilities and talents and so are we. Here’s to a big final season for Hines.

Will Muschamp to the Wide Receivers: "You Got to Get Open."

The Florida wide receivers have been a topic of discussion all season long. After 10 games, the Gators’ leading pass catchers are a running back – Chris Rainey with 335 yards – and tight end – Jordan Reed with 24 receptions. To make matters worse, the leaders at the wide receiver position are Andre Debose with 272 yards and Deonte Thompson with 17 receptions. 10 games have passed; you can do the quick math to figure out the somewhat pitiful averages.

Blame has been placed everywhere at this point. We’ve discussed the offensive line at length throughout the season and we’ve also mentioned the quarterbacks’ inability to get the ball to the receivers. But what about those wide receivers themselves? What can they do to become part of the offensive attack? Will Muschamp thinks the answer is right in front of them: they have to get open.

During Wednesday’s SEC press conference, Muschamp mentioned the receivers and a need for consistency from the unit. He also keyed in on two points: getting open and making catches. Muschamp discussed the need for the receivers to get seperation from man-to-man coverage and put themselves in a position to make plays. He said drops have hurt the Gators and he went back to the one word that could end up defining Florida’s season – inconsistency.

Maybe Muschamp is right; he is the head coach after all. The offensive line does need to hold up and the quarterbacks do need to get the ball out quicker, but without the wide receivers putting themselves in the position to make plays, it’s all for naught. Youth is not an excuse. Thompson, Frankie Hammond, Omarius Hines and even Debose have been around for long enough regardless of a new system. Quinton Dunbar is the youth, but much more was expected from the redshirt freshman. Inexperience can’t be blamed. It’s past the time for the receivers to step up; that was months ago. It’s now time for them to make a quick leap and a big one. With two games left – and possibly a third – eight wins can’t even be whispered in passing without this unit making plays. Seven may even be a stretch.

Gators Lose A.C. Leonard For 6-8 Weeks

On August 2, I composed a piece on this very website comparing the Florida’s 2010 tight ends with this year’s group and made predictions as to how I thought the 2011 unit would fair. In the conclusion of my piece, I gave the unit as a whole a B grade for the upcoming season but noted that depth could become an issue. Well guess what…depth has become an issue!
The rumors that A.C. Leonard had suffered an injury that would sideline him for some time started to pop up earlier this week. That injury was confirmed by Will Muschamp this morning. Coach Muschamp stated that A.C. tore his meniscus in a non-contact drill earlier this week and will subsequently miss the next 6 to 8 weeks. If my math is correct, that would mean that A.C. will probably not be returning to action until the end of September.
Some may not view this as a very big injury considering that the best team we play in the month of September is Tennessee and besides them we play three teams that we should beat fairly easily (fingers crossed!). But I think this could be a bigger blow for a couple of reasons.
First, by all accounts, A.C. was becoming the #1B tight end to #1A Jordan Reed. And with new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis almost certainly going with several two tight end sets in his offense, having two formidable bookends for the offensive line would have been a great weapon. Also, being a true freshman, the more playing time that A.C. could have received in the first few games, the more prepared mentally and physically he would have been when we hit the meat of our schedule in October.
The ripple-down effect could hurt the Gators. It is believed now that Gerald Christian will move back over to the offensive side of the ball to take over some of the tight end responsibilities that A.C. leaves behind. That in itself is fine with me as I think Christian could be one hell of a tight end in his own right, but I never like it when guys are constantly switched from one position to the other (in this case, from linebacker to tight end). It seems to me like these guys start to be a jack of all trades and a master of none.
In addition, Clay Burton will likely move from his defensive end position to a full-time tight end, at least at the start of the season. My biggest fear with this move is taking a freshman away from the position he will most likely be playing at going forward and therefore taking away his chances of increasing his skills at that position. There was a chance, albeit maybe a small one, that Clay would have redshirted this year. That chance probably goes out the window with A.C.’s injury.
Finally, there is also some thoughts that Omarius Hines could pick up some of the slack at tight end in A.C.’s absence. Again, on the surface this looks fine as Hines has the hands and the size (well, maybe he is a little small but that’s ok) to be a very serviceable tight end. But it’s not like the Gators have a closet full of good wide receivers right now that they can open up and pluck one out when need be. Our WR unit is one of the thinnest unit’s on the team and if Omarius is playing tight end that means one of our best WRs isn’t lining up at his normal position.
In the end, the old adage that injuries are part of the game is certainly true. I just hate to see one like this so early in fall practice and at a position which the Gators are already fairly thin. On the other side of the coin, I guess it’s better to happen now than in the third week of the season.

Florida Gators Wide Receivers – 2010 vs. 2011

Part three in a series where One Eyed Willy and I go over the Florida roster differences position by position from this season to last and what to expect in 2011. Check out the quarterbacks here and the running backs here.
2010: Carl Moore – RSR, Justin Williams – RSR, Chris Rainey – RJR, Deonte Thompson – RJR, Frankie Hammond – RSO, Omarius Hines – RSO, Josh Postell – RSO, Stephen Alli – RFR, Andre Debose – RFR, Robert Clark – FR, Quinton Dunbar – FR, Chris Dunkley – FR, Solomon Patton – FR
Preseason Rating: B
Postseason Rating: D
Going into the 2010 season, you would have been excited to see what this unit could do. You had a senior that was a highly-touted recruit coming out of junior college, a junior moving into the role of receiver in hopes of sparking a Percy Harvin-like transformation, two sophomores who would get a chance to really make a difference, and five freshman – all of which brought something special to the game.
13 games later you would have let out a sigh and looked forward to the 2011. We will go ahead and run through the numbers:
12 – The total number of passing touchdowns.
9 – The number caught by wide receivers.
1 – Wide receivers with more than 27 receptions.
38 – The number of receptions Deonte Thompson had to lead the team.
1 – Wide receivers with more than 349 yards on the season.
570 – The numbers of yards Thompson had to lead the team.
10 – Receptions on the season for all-world prospect Andre Debose.
5 – The number of games “slash” player Chris Rainey missed due to…well…you know.
3 – The number of wide receivers that appeared in every game.
51 – The longest reception on the season.
15.0 – Highest yards per catch average on the team by, you guessed it, Thompson.
1 – 100-yard receiving games by wide receivers. It was Thompson.
And just for fun:
40 – The number of receptions Harvin had in 2008 to lead the team. We will give the wide receivers a pass that season though. After all, they were part of a national championship team.
2003 – The last year a Florida team did not have a single pass catcher with at least 40 catches. This team was coached by Ron Zook. What does that tell you?
1989 – The last Florida team to have a leading receiver with less than the 38 receptions Thompson had in 2010. This was the last team before Steve Spurrier arrived. What does that tell you?
It all tells you 2010 was not kind to the Gators wide receivers. A great deal of it had to do with two things beyond their control: shaky play calling and inconsistent quarterback play. Still, that does not change the fact that from a group of very talented players, no one stepped up. Rainey actually set a pace that, if eligible to play in every game, would have made him the receptions leader. And that is from a player who split his time at running back.
2010 is over and that is a very good thing. This is a program that saw eight-straight seasons with at least one 1,000-yard receiver during Spurrier’s time at the helm. Since that time, there have only been two 900-yard receivers. Despite bringing two national championships to Florida, Urban Meyer never had a single receiver with over 920 yards. That could be attributed to Meyer’s desire to have a large numbers of receivers on the roster, but it also never truly allowed any one to shine. That is not such a bad thing when you are going 13-1. When you are going 8-5, it is a very different story.
2011: Deonte Thompson – RSR, Frankie Hammond – RJR, Omarius Hines – RJR, Stephen Alli – RSO, Andre Debose – RSO, Robert Clark – SO, Quinton Dunbar – SO, Solomon Patton – SO, Ja’Juan Story – FR
Preseason Rating: C
As much as I hate to give another unit a C, I just have to do it. And it is because of the promise of a Charlie Weis offense that I even give them that. There are three reasons:
1. The offense is new to the program.
2. Until we see different with our own eyes, we have to expect the same inconsistent quarterback play.
3. This unit lost three bodies completely, two more to position changes and only gained one – Ja’Juan Story.
Therefore, it is very hard to expect much out of this unit. It all hinges on the first two of those items above. How long will it take for the offense to click? And how will whichever quarterback turns out to be the right one adapt? If a passer can get the ball to the receivers more often and on longer routes, we may no longer be talking about low receptions and yardage numbers. If the Gators can consistently move the ball up and down the field, we may see one wide receiver haul in nine touchdowns, not the entire unit collectively.
There is plenty to hope for when it comes to the wide receivers, but we not seen it yet out of any on the roster. Omarius Hines had flashes, but only totaled six catches over the last five games. Thompson’s best day was against Florida’s weakest opponent – Appalachian State. Debose was rumored to have problems with the playbook and was rarely seen on offense. That cannot happen again in 2011. Thompson is the lone senior and the time is now for Frankie Hammond and Hines to no longer have just “potential.” Debose needs to become a big part of the offense and Quinton Dunbar needs to live up to the hype he generated in the spring.
The talent is there. The performance has yet to be seen. Every single member of this unit needs to step up in 2011.

Florida Gators 48 – Kentucky Wildcats 14

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Trey Burton  of the Florida Gators scores a touchdown as he is brought down by safety Winston Guy Jr.  of the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida. Florida defeated Kentucky 48-14 for head coach Urban Meyer
Florida beat Kentucky 48-14 on Saturday night.  But you could also say Trey Burton beat Kentucky 36-14.  Or that the Florida eights defeated the Kentucky eights by a score of 7-2.  Whichever way you look at it, the Gators beat the Wildcats by a good enough margin to get fans excited about the offense for at least a few days.
The world has now been introduced to Burton, who switched his jersey number before the game, got some sort of supernatural power out of the #8, and the proceeded to set a Gator record by crossing the goal line six times.  That’s one more than Tim Tebow’s previous school record.  Burton almost passed for a touchdown as well, but Omarius Hines mysteriously tripped on his way down the field.
Or was it all that mysterious?  The game saw nine touchdowns.  All nine were scored by players wearing the #8 on their jerseys.  Hines wears #82.  If he had kept his balance, he would have caught it from a #8, but clearly that wasn’t good enough for the football gods.  They had made their decision on exactly who could score TDs earlier that night and it just wasn’t in the cards for Hines.
Burton’s final stat line was something of legend.  10 total carries and receptions, six touchdowns, and that 42-yard completion to Hines for good measure.  His five rushing touchdowns came on only five carries, almost like you were controlling him in a video game trying to prove you could score on each and every carry.  Have to believe the Gators have a good red zone option for the next three or four seasons.
And Burton wasn’t the only bright spot.  John Brantley finally broke the 200-yard passing barrier and ended the night with 248.  Jeff Demps proved that maybe 26 carries in one game isn’t the best way to use him.  Emmanuel Moody looked like he could be the power runner.  Carl Moore was great and could be becoming the go-to receiver.  And Andre Debose finally got touches, something fans have been desperately waiting for.
On the defensive side of the ball, Duke Lemmens and Justin Trattou continued to overachieve.  Jaye Howard is proving to many that he could be the best player along the line.  There’s not enough to say about Jon Bostic.  And Jeremy Brown made sure the #8 was well represented on the defensive side of the ball as well.
It was a definite step forward for the Gators.  After three games there were plenty of question marks and there still are, but it’s a step.  A step right toward the #1 team in the nation and Alabama.  One that brings along a renewed hope heading into the next game.  The defense continued to impress and the offense seemed to stabilize.  Hopefully it wasn’t an aberration and was what will become more of the norm.
Florida did a lot right against Kentucky and could have some carried over momentum heading into that matchup with the Crimson Tide.  The first quarter of the regular season is over and the Gators are 4-0.  Now Florida heads to the proving ground.  Bama, LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia.  There’s still a long road ahead, but the victory over the Wildcats was reflective of what a top 10 team should be doing.  Again, a step forward.

4th and 1: Trey Burton, Florida’s Trick Plays, USF and Bowling…

A treat for you.  4th and 1 without a Chris Rainey mention.  Well, besides that one.

1st.  Trey Burton is a big admirer of Tim Tebow and the true freshman seems to excel in one of the areas the former Florida star did: effort.  Burton’s efforts in practice have led to him playing a variety of positions during games.  He’s the backup quarterback, but has also seen time at fullback, tight end, wide receiver, and on special teams.
Burton’s unique talents have allowed him to compete and play at each position, but it presents a bigger question for the Gators.  Is Florida lacking depth at those positions?  Seeing Burton run the ball after taking snaps as a Tebow-like quarterback is what everyone expected.  Seeing him on the field as much as he is at other positions could be a concern.
Not to take away from what Burton can do at those other positions, but where are the players the Gators need to step up.  Who exactly is the tight end?  Where has Andre Debose been?  What about the stable of receivers Urban Meyer and staff have collected?
Burton is gaining valuable experience, but he’s also one hard hit away from being on the sidelines in street clothes.  He can take the punishment, but without a definitive #2 at QB, the Gators need to be careful with him.  There is talent at those other positions.  Unfortunately, no one else has really stepped up.  Burton will continue to see the field and that could be a good thing, but Florida may need him at quarterback sooner or later.  Hopefully he’ll be ready and healthy when that times does come.
2nd.  Omarius Hines.  I’m not sure I can express how utterly amazing Hines is more than I already have, so I’ll let his play speak for itself.
Thanks to Hines – and some gutsy play calling – Meyer’s Gators are now eight-for-eight on fake punts.  Part of it is because of the surprise Florida’s opponents never see coming and part of it is due to execution.  The Gators executed it to perfection against Tennessee and Hines instantly became one of the heroes.
Had a blast watching Omar Hunter out there lead blocking, even if the big defensive tackle didn’t touch anyone on the play.
3rd.  USF has played all of two games this season and the bowl projections have already started.  Right now, it appears as if there are two possible destinations in the Bulls’ future – the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl or the Liberty Bowl.  And three possible opponents – Kentucky, Louisiana-Lafayette, or Southern Miss.  Not very exciting possibilities, but again, USF has played exactly two games.  A lot can change over the remainder of the regular season.  And a lot will.
4th.  Brandon Hanning, hero or idiot?
If you don’t know who Hanning is, here’s the brief recap.  Hanning was the Ohio Bobcat.  Emphasis on was.  After essentially attacking the Ohio State Buckeye on Saturday, Hanning was banned from being involved in Ohio athletics.  The reason goes beyond the obvious attack.
It was Hanning’s goal to attack the Buckeye and he admitted as much.  He claimed to have only tried out to become the Ohio mascot with the intent of tackling Brutus the Buckeye.  Hanning accomplished his goal, got his 15 minutes of fame, and now is no longer a member of the mascot community.
And 1.  Rest in peace Kenny McKinley, Denver Broncos wide receiver and South Carolina’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards.

Florida Gators 31 – Tennessee Volunteers 17

Just win.  How much easier would the life of the average Florida fan be if that was the typical feeling?  Think of all the schools out there where that’s all it really is.  Arkansas, Auburn, Michigan State, Wisconsin…all of their fans woke up on Sunday morning with a smile on their faces ready to look ahead to the next opponent.  Most Gators fans woke up thinking the offense still wasn’t right and the defense blew a few assignments.  They’re thinking “just win by 35,” not “just win.”

I propose a change in the mentality of the Gator fan.  When your team heads into the home of one of your biggest rivals and comes out with a two-touchdown win, be happy.  Be ecstatic.  There are alternatives.  Bad ones.  Like getting beat on a trick play in overtime.  Or having your returner get tackled at the one as the first half ends only to find out that one yard really would have made the difference.  Or like any number of teams so far this season, losing to a FCS opponent.
Florida hasn’t done any of those things.  The Gators are undefeated with a win over an up-and-coming instate program and a victory on the road against a SEC East rival.  And, oh yeah, no game has been decided by less than 14 points.  That’s three wins, zero losses, and a 20-point margin of victory.
It also includes a quarterback that has shown some definite growing pains, but has yet to throw an interception; a running back with breakaway speed who apparently has the ability to carry the ball more times in a game then we ever expected (which despite the low yards per carry average, is good to know); a defensive line that continues to improve; a turnover generating defense; and some definite plusses on special teams.
There were points in the game where frustration easily could have set in, but consider what’s at play.  John Brantley was starting his first road game in front of one of the largest crowds in the entire nation.  The offensive line is still trying to find the ideal lineup.  And you know what?  The Gators still won.  Florida still beat one of the teams you love to hate.
Room for improvement is obvious.  Brantley needs to continue to ease into the role he has inherited.  The jitters need to go away.  When he’s on, he’s deadly accurate and has a rocket for an arm.  But he’s still off from time to time.  With experience he’ll learn that he can go through his progressions and find the open man.  No need to force it and then overthrow the ball.  Perimeter blocking by the wide receivers will also help in opening up the field for Jeff Demps.  We’ve already seen some improvement in this area, but there is definitely more room to get better.  The defense also needs to keep its head on straight for the entire game.  No easy scores.  Make the opponent work a little harder for those.
On the positive side, great play call on the fake that sent Omarius Hines rumbling down the field.  Again, although Demps didn’t have the yards per carry numbers we would like to see, it’s great that he can get the ball that many times.  And the defense has to receive praise again.  Jon Bostic is becoming a star right before our eyes and who knows what would have happened if he hadn’t been there to ruin what should have been a scoring drive for the Vols.
What makes Florida fans most nervous is probably that the Gators are now less than two weeks away from Alabama.  October 2 is no longer a month from now.  It’s 12 days away.  Watch the Gators play and then watch the Crimson Tide do the same and you’re dreading that matchup.  But at least let it play out first.  I’m nervous too.  I’ve watched the same Florida team you have.  But look ahead to Kentucky first.  One game at a time.  Just win.

4th and 1: Chris Rainey, the 2005 Heisman, Weslye Saunders…

In the spirit of the formerly spectacular Morning Reading comes 4th and 1.  College football snapshots.  Morning?  Maybe.  Afternoon?  Could be.  Missing for days at a time?  Highly likely.

1st.  Chris Rainey.  Sigh.  It remains to be seen what will come out of this, but one thing is certain, the Florida wide receiver did send the notorious text message.  He admitted as much to the Gainesville Police.  There are already Tennessee shirts available with the saying.  This is where I’d normally throw in something sarcastic like “stay classy Vols,” but considering the circumstances all I can do is sigh, again.
Where we’re at: the woman who was on the receiving end of the now famous text message has asked that Rainey not be formally charged.  How nice of her.  Not sure it’s completely her decision anymore.  In fact, the state attorney’s office will conduct an investigation to determine if they want Rainey to be charged.
Should I bring up the overall arrest problem?  Sure.  If the Orlando Sentinel is right, Rainey’s arrest is number 30 for the Gators under Urban Meyer.  That’s not a small issue.  It’s a large problem.  I’ve always been a believer that the staff can’t control everything all of the time.  You have a large group of kids from all different backgrounds getting into who knows what kind of situations when they aren’t in class or on the field.  It’s impossible for anyone to keep track of everyone.  But at this point something needs to change.
The big three in the state of Florida have a lot more in common than just a history of winning.  I’m not happy that the Gators seem to have taken control of the trouble crown at the moment.
2nd.  On the field doesn’t exist for Rainey right now and no one is sure when it will.  Meyer and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio have yet to say Rainey is no longer with the team, but they have said he’s “not part of the team right now.”  That means he needs to be replaced.
Initial thoughts would be either Robert Clark or Andre Debose, but the slot receiver position now belongs to Omarius Hines.  Hines has impressed when on the field and is, of course, a TBG favorite.  He’ll bring a different dynamic to the slot position than what Rainey offered, but should be able to perform admirably.  Hines has five catches, 55 yards, and one touchdown on the season.
Stepping in for Hines at tight end (if you can really call it that, the Gators use it in a variety of ways) is Jordan Reed.  Reed saw action against USF, but will now see more as the team’s number on TE.
3rd.  For months there has been debate on whether or not Reggie Bush’s Heisman Trophy should be stripped from the former USC star.  Along with that debate, there was discussion of where the Heisman should go if it was taken from him.  Vince Young – who finished second in the voting in 2005 – was the name mentioned the most as the individual who deserves the award.
None of those things will happen now.  Without being asked to return the trophy (yet), Bush made the decision to give it up.  The Heisman Trust had their decision made for them and no longer has to pursue the issue further.  They did however make a decision on where the trophy would go.  Nowhere.  The 2005 Heisman Trophy will not be awarded to anyone and will remain vacant.
Good decision here by the trust.  Bush was technically ineligible for that season, but five years later, the trophy shouldn’t be given to someone else.  What’s the point?  By passing it along to Young, too many assumptions of what could have happened are being made.  This isn’t Miss America.
4th.  Goodbye Weslye Saunders.  The South Carolina tight end has gone from suspended to dismissed.  On Wednesday, the Gamecocks announced Saunders was no longer part of the program.
Saunders was expected to be one of the vital parts of South Carolina’s offense in 2010, but hadn’t appeared in either of the Gamecocks’ victories.  South Carolina appears fine without him on the field, but the season is hardly over.  It is for Saunders though.  As is his college career.
And 1.  Thoughts go out to Minnesota wide receiver Connor Cosgrove and his family.  Cosgrove – the son of Gophers’ defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove – has been diagnosed with leukemia and is beginning chemotherapy.  As someone who has been affected by this horrible disease, I wish only the best for the Cosgrove family during this difficult time.

USF Bulls, Florida Gators…The Comparison Piece

This is one of those useful, but rather pointless position comparison pieces before the big game.  USF and Florida in this case.  You’ve read them before.  A writer (me) puts together his thoughts on how each position matches up for each team.  A reader (you) takes in the opinions of the writer and agrees with some and vehemently disagrees with others.  Once the game comes to an end, we all realize that what was discussed had no impact on the game whatsoever because no one could have predicted some walk-on fifth-stringer would block a field goal in the final seconds.

There you have it.  The purpose of this piece and the comparisons it contains.  For me to give my opinions.  Both surprising and obvious.  Take it all in because I’m an expert in the field of athletic analytics.  At least someone told me that once.  And, yes, that someone was me.
The Quarterbacks: Both teams consider the quarterback position to be a strength.  After week one, Gator fans aren’t so sure about that.  They love John Brantley and support him, but a shaky first start (for a number of reasons, many of which weren’t necessarily his fault) has some wondering how long it will take him to get into a groove.  In the green and gold, B.J. Daniels is the leader and biggest star the Bulls have.  He looked every bit of great in his first game of the season and was comfortable in Skip Holtz’s system.  Even if it was limited against Stony Brook.  Still, Daniels was everything he needed to be.  Based on his experience as a starter and Brantley’s less than desirable game one, the verdict is…Advantage: USF
The Running Game: USF’s running game looked solid in week one, but you have to question the opponent.  No offense to the Stony Brook fans out there reading this (there aren’t any), but you have to do your best to ignore almost any result against an opponent of that caliber.  So the Bulls were solid.  Moving on.  I’ll get this out of the way, Florida has the advantage.  Jeff Demps showed that at any point, he can break one.  He’s faster than any other player on the field in any given matchup.  That’s fact.  If given a slight break in the defense, Demps can and will exploit it and there’s six points.  With Mike Gillislee looking like he’s ready to claim the backup spot, that’s two Gators that can take it to the house.  Advantage: Florida
The Pass Catchers: Based on talent alone, I’d have to go with Florida.  Deonte Thompson, Carl Moore, Omarius Hines, Chris Rainey, Andre Debose.  These are all highly capable receivers.  Looking across the sideline, you find Dontavia Bogan and a band of individuals just trying to stay healthy.  But here’s the thing.  USF always seems to find a way to get receivers to perform.  If we’re looking at what we know, which is really just what came out of week one, then the gap between the Bulls and Gators doesn’t appear to be all that much.  In that case…Advantage: Push
The Offensive Line: I’ve said several times that we’re looking at what could possibly be the best group of offensive linemen the Gators have ever put together.  Does anyone still think that after game one?  There were snap problems, injuries and suspensions, and players stepping in that weren’t ready.  Because of all of that, we have no idea what we’re getting in game two.  USF on the other hand looked (and here’s that word to be used against FCS opponents) solid.  Advantage: USF
Now Bulls fans don’t get all uppity to the point you start drafting letters to your congressmen, but here’s where it gets a little ugly.  The defense.
The Defensive Line: The defensive line has been one of USF’s strengths in recent years and it should be again this year despite losing two NFL draft picks.  Terrell McClain is a beast in the middle who loves to get dirty and disrupt any offensive play headed his way, but Florida’s depth wins out.  While the Gators might not have a star at defensive end (yet, Ronald Powell is only one game into his Florida career), they have a rotation that goes three deep.  Whoever is in is fresh and that can create a serious headache for any offensive line trying to keep defenders out of the backfield.  At defensive tackle, the Gators have two great starters, two guys behind those starters that were former starters, and a true freshman who looked superb in his first outing.  Advantage: Florida.
The Men in the Middle: During the Stony Book game, USF had a rotation of sorts going on when it came to the linebackers.  During the Miami (OH) game, Florida had much of the same.  Here’s the difference.  The Bulls seemed to do so because they weren’t entirely sure who should be on the field.  The Gators were doing it because they have the luxury of depth at the position.  Staying fresh on defense is one of the most important aspects to the game.  Florida has the ability to field two full units at both DL and LB.  Advantage: Florida
The Secondary: I’ll always be nervous when it comes to the USF defensive backfield.  Always.  Great one game, Pop Warner-ish the next.  Even against Stony Brook, there were players grossly missing assignments early in the game.  The Bulls have talent.  They need consistency.  Florida’s secondary, on the other hand, looked good and Janoris Jenkins seemed to make the leap to great in one game.  The Gators possess ball hawks and hard hitters all with amazing catch-up speed.  Daniels can have a good day, but he’ll have his work cut out for him.  Advantage: Florida
The Special Teams: This one should be easy.  USF’s punt return unit looked anything but good.  Florida has the advantage because of the turnover potential, but that doesn’t mean the Gators were all that much better.  The best punter in the world punted only once, but managed a paltry 27 yards.  Add to that some questions in the kicking game for both schools and special teams could get ugly.  Advantage: Florida
So add it all up and come out with a guaranteed winner, right?  HECK NO!  Florida scored a five.  USF managed two.  And the lords of push took home one.  Does this mean the Gators will come out victorious?  No.  Does this equate to a superior advantage for Florida based on the five-to-two margin?  Of course not.  It only means what I think and what you choose to take from it.
On paper, shaky first week and all, the Gators are the better team.  On the field, historically, Florida is still the top program.  But who really has any idea what will happen on Saturday?  It’s that shaky start that has people giving USF a chance, even if it’s an outside one.  The powers that set lines think the Gators hold a two touchdown or more advantage.  Could be.  My guess would be somewhere around there.  But that doesn’t mean you should bet on it either.
All I know is that I’ve been waiting for this game since March 19, 2008 (the date The Bull Gator came to life) and now it’s less than two days away.