Friday Final: Florida confident, prepared for UT

By Adam Silverstein
October 3, 2014

In this week’s Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com tackles the team’s confidence entering its third Southeastern Conference game, the emergence of a young offensive lineman and a look at the unofficial depth chart ahead of the contest.

The Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) hit the road for the second time this season when they face the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. The game kicks off at noon and will air live on the SEC Network.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Will Muschamp previews Tennessee, talks injuries and support
Notebook: Kurt Roper keeping Florida offense calm, focused
Story: With support, QB Jeff Driskel focused on improvement not criticism
The Silver Lining: QB Treon Harris not ready for prime time
Notebook: Muschamp, D.J. Durkin looking to fix Gators secondary

GOOD TIMING

According to players on both sides of the ball, Florida’s off week came at an opportune time for the program, just as it was coming off a devastating loss on the road to Alabama. It’s not that the Crimson Tide simply defeated the Gators while hosting them in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but rather that the victory was a dominant one which appeared to show that UF still has a long way to go to truly be competitive this season.

Simply put, not all of Florida’s players saw the gap as that wide.

“I think we should have beat them,” said junior running back Matt Jones. “We had them. We should have executed better. On third down we didn’t convert like we should’ve. That was a very beatable team, and they just pulled away from us.”

Regardless of his thoughts on the game itself, Jones said the bye week helped the Gators mentally, allowing the team to draw back together in a foxhole mentality coming out of a game where there was plenty of criticism flung around, especially at redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel.

“It’s been tough. It’s been tough for him and definitely us because he’s getting things thrown at him and we know it’s a team effort,” he explained. “When you’re the quarterback, you got to take the heat of the whole thing. That’s why we got to try to lift him up … so he can pull it back together and know we’re not against him.”

So how confident is Florida going into this Tennessee game?

“We’ve become one defense. We’ll be one of the top defenses in the country,” declared senior safety Jabari Gorman.

Added junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.: “Our job is to go in there, handle business and get up out of there.”

RISING STAR

The Gators’ offensive line has not been a truly reliable unit for a couple years now, but the group appears to have improved under the direction of position coach Mike Summers.

Even though Florida lost junior left tackle D.J. Humphries for two games, the offensive line was able to go on without missing a beat due to the presence of redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson.

Praised throughout the offseason by head coach Will Muschamp, Johnson lived up to the hype over the last two weeks as a replacement for Humphries. In fact, he was the best-performing offensive player in the Alabama game, according to Pro Football Focus.

Humphries said Wednesday that he has helped Johnson recently by teaching him how to be level-headed, passing on knowledge he acquired from redshirt senior right tackle Chaz Green and former UF tackle Xavier Nixon.

“Rod has stepped up big time. I tell him every day [that] I’m proud of him. He’s like my little brother. So, I tell him every day how proud I am of him,” explained Humphries.

“He listens, you know what I mean? Rod wants to be great. He’s going to be a good player at UF because he wants to be. He listens to the old guys when we tell him what to do and how to do certain stuff. We’re super proud of him.”

UNOFFICIAL DEPTH CHART NOTES

A couple of interesting changes have been made to the unofficial depth chart provided as part of the Gators’ pre-game notes for Saturday’s contest, so think of the notes below more as a starting off point for Florida rather than a definitive list of position changes ahead of the game.

– Sophomore Demarcus Robinson is now listed as the starting X wide receiver, replacing redshirt senior Quinton Dunbar, who is now taking over for sophomore Ahmad Fulwood as the starting Z receiver.

– Whereas Green had previously been listed alone as the Gators’ starting right tackle, he is now in an or situation with Johnson. The same goes for redshirt juniors Trip Thurman and Tyler Moore at left guard.

– Jones, sophomore Kelvin Taylor and redshirt senior Mack Brown have been listed as ors in regards to the starting running back job all season with the order being Taylor first then Jones then Brown. Brown is no longer part of that triumvirate, and Jones is now listed ahead of Taylor despite the or designation.

– Despite the coaching staff insisting that it would be shuffling the secondary in order to help fix some of its ills, the unofficial depth chart remains unchanged at cornerback, nickel, dime and safety.

– With redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr (knee) out for the game, junior Jonathan Bullard is listed as the starter inside, while redshirt sophomore Bryan Cox Jr. takes over as the starter at end with freshman Taven Bryan backing him up.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Gorman on freshman defensive back Duke Dawson: “He’s a guy that’s got tremendous ability and he’s very athletic. One thing about him, he can make a lot of plays for us. Guy like him, get him more in the film room and that’s what will make him a better player.”

» Sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III on the shuffling of the secondary: “For the most part we’re all on the same page now. We all understand the defense. We broke some things down, talked about what we messed up and now it’s just about getting it going again.”

» Sophomore linebacker Jarrad Davis on Florida’s defense getting by without one or two starters: “That’s going to be a big thing for us, but at the same time we have a lot of younger guys … We can all step in and fill the role. We’ve all done the same things, taken the same amount of reps during fall camp. We know the game plan this week. I don’t think we’ve taken a step back yet.”

24 Comments

  1. Dave Massey says:

    Sure hope they used the off week well and can get going in the right direction. I won’t be checking the box to notify me of follow up comments because I don’t want to hear all of the the negativity again about how bad everyone thinks the Gators, Muschamp, and Driskel are.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      “I won’t be checking the box to notify me of follow up comments because I don’t want to hear all of the the negativity again about how bad everyone thinks the Gators, Muschamp, and Driskel are.”

      Anticipating poor play from the team on Saturday, are we?

      • Michael Jones says:

        I don’t think that’s what he meant, Gatorboi. I believe he was referring to pre-game negativity.

        • Gatorballdude says:

          All you who wish for Muschamp to hit the road be careful what you ask for. Who the hell better is there out there right now who wants to come to UF!?!

  2. 1974Gator says:

    We’ve heard all this before. This is a must win. Time to execute. Can’t remember a must-win game where Driskel was instrumental in winning or at least not losing. The secondary needs to be “all on the same page now” because from what I have seen of Vols’ QB Worley he is playing with a lot of confidence, has a variety of throws and is very accurate. I say the keys to the game are : not giving up the big pass plays/TDs; pressuring the TN QB; maintaining our positive turn-over numbers; the coaching staff using the timeouts effectively and not letting the D get gassed; Driskel making his throws to keep the TN defense honest; and the receivers not dropping the easy passes.
    Nothing to it!

  3. sjkoepp says:

    I definitely agree re: the offensive line and their improved performance. Maybe it’s just a sign of good health and depth? I’m actually fine with running the ball a bit more and mimicking the 2012 team, although that ridiculous defense carried us through a lot. With all of the athletes we have on offense, I feel that we can come up with decent production without having to rely too much on Driskel.

  4. gatorboi352 says:

    “Sophomore Demarcus Robinson is now listed as the starting X wide receiver, replacing redshirt senior Quinton Dunbar, who is now taking over for sophomore Ahmad Fulwood as the starting Z receiver.”

    I take this to essentially mean a demotion for Dunbar (FINALLY) as Fulwood isn’t on the field even as much as Pittman.

    My question Adam: Who is the new starting receiver in Robinson’s old spot?

  5. Gatorballdude says:

    I’m also tired of the negativity. I’m not naive to our issues but blasting the coach and team relentlessly isn’t going to help. I still have faith we can turn it around this year. GO GATORS! Keep the faith!

  6. g8ter27 says:

    Confident? Prepared? We shall see. We lose tomorrow and Champ is gone. Maybe not on Sunday, but he is out and the search will begin behind the scenes. Hope we win tomorrow and go on to win the east, but…..

    • G2 says:

      No question, this is a must win for many reasons! WM can get out the “For Sale” sign with a loss, no excuses will work here.

  7. Sammage says:

    Really hoping we turn things around. I’d love to hear a lot less of the negativity too. I can’t even imagine a recruit wanting to play for a team that has fans who eat their own as much as I’ve seen here recently. The last time the Gators were struggling like they are now at least the recruits couldn’t hear the fans being so nasty toward the coaches and players as easily (no message boards back in the Pell/Hall era you know).

    All kinds of weather. Some of us seem to have forgotten that. Now, Go Gators!!!

    • Ken (CA) says:

      You already forgot about the FireRonZook.com website that was up forever before he was fired? Actually, according to the ESPN rankings 2 of the top 3 recruits are leaning Florida and something like 7 of the top 50, I don’t remember exactly haven’t looked in a week or two. this is quite interesting considering all of the uncertainty, and I will be really shocked if WM is here after this season just on general principle even if very successful for the rest of the year. The vocal minority I think is quickly becoming the vocal majority.

      • Michael Jones says:

        I’ll never forget fireronzook.com. If there was ever a guy who got treated unfairly before he even had a chance, it was the Zooker. That was a dark and embarrassing low point in Gator fandom history as far I’m concerned. I was ashamed to be a part of arrogant and entitled Gator Nation.

        Muschamp hasn’t experienced anything like what the Zooker went through. Ron Zook is a class guy, too . . still doesn’t have a bad word to say about us, although it would be justified.

        • Ken (CA) says:

          I see your point on that, but I do have a bit of a different take. I understand the “how do you find someone to follow a legend” in the probable reason he actually hired the Zooker, but Zook was demoted by Spurrier in his coaching position, let alone try to be a head coach at one of the top 5 programs in the country. He was waaaay out of his depth from day 1 and never should have been there.

          I think he was hired to allow for a transition from Spurrier to a real coach (Meyer), who, unfortunately fit the bill but turned out to be not particularly upstanding or honest, so he won but left a bad taste. Should have been easy to find another superstar to follow Meyer after the way he ended, but for some reason Foley was fixated on Muschamp

          • Michael Jones says:

            Always enjoy your comments, Ken, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye. Insightful, intelligent and well-written. I think I know a little bit about Gator football but I tend to learn things, especially historical info, when I read your comments.

            My beef with fireronzook.com is that he never even got a chance. No matter how much anyone disagrees with a hire (and I wanted Dan Mullen instead of Muschamp from day one but really tried to support Muschamp), a guy should at least get the fans’ support until he’s proven he doesn’t deserve it.

            Hope everyone enjoys the game today.

            GO GATORS!!!

  8. Michael Jones says:

    It’ll be fun just to watch a football game. I don’t really care if other fans don’t like negativity. I hate being negative myself and I personally wish that there wasn’t so much to be negative about. I’m as big a Gator homer as there is, but what you see is what you see. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    But, in the final analysis, I’m a Gator, tomorrow is a Saturday in October, and I can’t wait to watch some football and cheer for my Gators!!!

    GO GATORS!!!!

  9. Bill says:

    Sammage, I wasn’t alive and neither was any recruit the last time the gators struggled like this.

    Ken,
    Muschamp has a history of “leading” with big time recruits, but finding a way to blow it before signing day. He can’t close.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      Yep, I have seen no big closes either, and Agolor for example was supposed to be a lock at the time among others. Just was pointing out that we are “in the running” for many top recruits for whatever that is worth at this point.

  10. USA says:

    Our offensive game plans has been “getting the ball in Matt Jones hands”. And that does not give us the best chance to win. Giving the ball to Jones is what creates that offensive predictability because he’s a north-south runner not a playmaker. I thought Taylor would be our starting rb this year not Jones. Taylor is way more explosive and gives us a better chance at scoring points. Once again, its all on Muschamp and his poor stubborn decision making. I still feel like Roper isn’t 100% in charge of our play-calling. But after looking back at Duke’s games last year Roper ran an uptempo spread offense but it was predicated on running the football in the power game mainly up middle. And I think that has confused a lot of Gator fans. When you mention the word “spread” and “tempo” people automatically think we’ll be throwing the ball more but that is not the case with Roper’s offense. His tempo offense is unique in that he doesn’t really take a lot of downfield chances. Its basically a pro-style offense except Driskel is in the shotgun. Most of our pass plays are 3 yard hitches to the WRs and 5 yard out-routes to the TEs. Roper’s offense in not an explosive passing offense it is a running offense, which is why Muschamp hired him because he wants to run the ball up the middle in the power game. We need to get the ball in our playmaker’s hands. Debose, Taylor, and Powell all should be be getting more touches. Other schools in the conference are getting the ball in their playmaker’s hands. I’d love to see Debose at QB in the wildcat with Taylor and Powell in the backfield with him using the zone read. I guess that is wishful thinking though, with Muschamp calling the shots.

    • ntcrze says:

      I don’t see the reason for all the fuss about kelvin Taylor. He’s not an explosive back. Todd Gurley is an explosive back. We were fed the propaganda in the preseason that Taylor had improved his quickness and speed. It turns out that was about as true as Jeff Driskel becoming a good quarterback. Taylor is just an average back, he’s not a threat to break one on any given play. The explosive back you seek is over in Tallahassee and his name is Dalvin Cook. Losing him was a big blow and it looks like he is starting to get some more playing time so it will become painfully evident what was missed.

  11. DJ Chemist says:

    Hiredanquinn.com

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