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
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.
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.”
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.”