South Florida Review / Tennessee Preview

The Gator Nation breathed a sigh of relief, as Florida came alive on offense in the 2nd half and put USF back in their place.

Improvement was the focus the entire week of practice, and it showed, especially in the play of the OL.  The botched shotgun snaps were corrected, the running game came alive, and even the pass protection tightened up.  Of course, it helped that Carl Johnson and Xavier Nixon returned to the starting lineup……they were sorely missed.  Jeff Demps again showed why he is one of the most dangerous players in the country with another long TD run and big kickoff return.  Mike Gillislee ran hard between the tackles, and the OL imposed its will on the Bulls in the 2nd half.

The passing game is still a work in progress.  Brantley looked more comfortable this week in the pocket, and made some nice plays on some checkdown routes.  He still seems to favor throwing to Thompson, though, and more WRs need to get involved.  Moore did make some tough 3rd down catches, but some young guys like Debose and Clark need to start making plays.  Jordan Reed showed in limited snaps why he can be a big help to the passing game at TE, getting open for the last TD of the day.  The RBs are available in the flats, and Brantley needs to take advantage of this more often.

Once again, the defense carried the day until the offense started to find a rhythm.  They generated another 5 turnovers, the biggest of which prevented USF from taking the lead in the 3rd quarter and re-taking momentum.  The run defense did get gashed somewhat due to the ball-handling and elusiveness of BJ Daniels, but that can get corrected, as the Gators will not face another QB with that mobility until LSU.  The one disappointing unit was the LBs, as they did a poor job of overrunning holes and not shedding blocks better.  The young guys – Bostic, and Jenkins – both areas need to improve markedly, and soon. 

Janoris Jenkins is playing at an A-A level so far.  His coverage and technique is excellent, and he is a tough tackler.  He may have inherited the PR duties as well for the time being, given the poor performance of Rainey, to go with his off-the-field troubles.  Ahmad Black is not far behind.  Once again, he was always in perfect position to make plays, and is the surest tackler on the team.  Even some of the young CBs like Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs made some decent plays in coverage.

Special Teams is a little ragged right now.  Caleb Sturgis fought through a sore back, but he has to make FGs from inside 40 yards, and has to stop kicking off out of bounds, giving the opponent the ball at the 40-yard line.  The initial kickoff coverage is good, but the gunners are overrunning their lanes inside the 20, letting returners get extra yards that should be closed off.  They need to slow up a little and break down in position more soundly.  Another solid week for Chas Henry, both from deep in his own territory and putting the ball inside the 20.

Time to travel up to Rocky Top to face a Tennessee team nearly in crisis mode.  They hung around for one half against Oregon last week, but their lack of depth and speed were exposed as they were run off the field after halftime.  It’s difficult to see where they can generate any consistent offense from right now.  While they still have 2 decent RBs in Moore and Oku, the OL is mediocre, with no depth.  Simms has little experience at QB, and looks uncomfortable under any pressure at all.  Luke Stocker at TE is probably the most consistent player the Vols have on offense.  WRs Da’Rick Rogers and Gerald Jones have some talent, but have shown no consistency yet.   Combined with the QB situation, that’s practically a no-win scenario against a quality SEC defense.

The same story applies to the Volunteer defense.  Decent first team, but no quality depth.  They have some playmakers with DL Montori Hughes and with Myles, Janzen, and Teague in the secondary.  They wore down noticeably last week, and I expect the Gators to keep pounding away at them, even if the game is close entering the 2nd half.

More in-season turmoil, with Chris Rainey suspended indefinitely for utter stupidity.  This puts Omarius Hines in the slot, and gives Debose and Clark a chance to make an impression on the coaching staff.  Hines will improve the edge blocking, and is a dangerous mid-range target that could help the passing game.

Derek Dooley will surely throw everything he can at Florida to try and steal a win, but I have to believe the Gator defense has too much ability and leadership to struggle an entire game.  The unknown factor is how will Brantley and the young receiving corps perform on the road against a loud SEC crowd.  I really do not believe the passing game is ready to win a game by itself if needed yet, but they certainly can take advantage of particular matchups and make some big plays to keep things on schedule for the offense.  Thompson and Moore can really show some leadership this week with solid games.  I like the development of the draw play and misdirection calls in the running game, and the combination of Demps, Gillislee, and Moody needs to control the flow of the game.

Prediction – Florida 27      Tennessee 14