Gators may get reinforcements, but Florida will still be in for a test vs. Colorado State

By Adam Silverstein
September 13, 2018
Gators may get reinforcements, but Florida will still be in for a test vs. Colorado State

Image Credit: AP

There is no excusing the performance or result last Saturday, but looking back on the Florida Gators first loss to Kentucky in 32 years, it is worth noting that the hosts played the game far from full strength.

In fact, once the first quarter ended, Florida was without its best defensive lineman, best linebacker and best defensive back. The latter, sophomore cornerback Marco Wilson tore his ACL early in the game and is now out for the season. The other two never suited up at all, though for vastly different reasons.

Senior defensive end Cece Jefferson has missed the first two games of the season for disciplinary reasons that have been revealed to be related to academics. Head coach Dan Mullen was non-committal about Jefferson’s availability for Saturday’s game against the Colorado State Rams, but he did say Jefferson “should be back this week,” presumably if all goes according to plan.

Junior linebacker David Reese has also been out the first two weeks while dealing with a knee injury. He remains questionable to play Saturday, but Mullen appeared optimistic that Reese would see the field. For a unit that remains excruciatingly thin and lacks quality talent, Reese is the straw that stirs the drink. After missing the entire offseason program ahead of the 2017 season while getting surgery on both wrists, he started every game for Florida and ended the season as the team’s leader in tackles (102) with 10 of those for lost yardage.

But that hole in the secondary created by Wilson’s absence remains. The potential injury return of redshirt sophomore C.J. McWilliams would give the Gators an additional body in the defensive backfield, but Wilson was a lock-down corner who will not be easily replaced. Sophomores Brad Stewart Jr. and Brian Edwards, along with freshman Trey Dean III, will all get opportunities, but Mullen said Monday he may also look for reinforcements elsewhere — in other words, on offense.

The problem for Florida is that any move it makes to the secondary will only be plugging a hole, not permanently fixing it.

That’s not the best news for UF considering Colorado State will enter Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday with the No. 10 passing offense in the nation at 369.0 yards per game. And while Florida is No. 2 nationally in passing yards allowed with just 77.0 per game, it has only seen opponents throw the ball 32 times in two games. CSU, which just came from behind to beat Arkansas 34-27 last Saturday after dropping its first two games of the season, averages 46 passing attempts per game with quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels completing 64.6 percent of his balls for 1,102 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions so far.

The Rams struggle massively on the ground (3.0 yards per carry), but it may not matter if the Gators secondary is porous throughout the game.

First thing’s first, though. Let’s see who Florida actually lets dress and play at Florida Field on Saturday.

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