Thursday, October 25, 2007

Here is Jody's Preview of the WLOCP...

FootballWeek 8

Opponent: Florida Gators

Kickoff: 3:30 PM


The week off was well-timed. For once we’ll take a shot at getting the off-week heading into Jacksonville and see how that affects us. UF’s had the off week every year seemingly except for 2004 (hey, we wont that one) so hopefully we can parlay that to a win. As crazy as this college football season is, I’m afraid to make any statements about what I expect to see. It’s just too random. Onto the facts…

About the Vandy game

It’s kinda interesting sitting back and thinking about the Vandy game now, knowing that they followed our close loss with a win over top-6 South Carolina. At the time of the game, we were coming off a complete drubbing at the hands of a rested UT team and we were begging for a win over anyone, especially a SEC-east opponent. We eked out a win…one that looked pretty ugly. I’m not saying that it’s now pretty, I’m just saying I imagine SC would take a last-second FG win over Vandy right now.

Could the offense and defense have looked better? Certainly. There were plenty of good things to take away from that game though. After a sluggish first half, the defense played incredibly in the 2nd half with the exception of Vandy’s last drive, but even that ended with a forced turnover. Stafford, while by no means clicking on all cylinders, once again avoided any turnovers and managed to execute another game-winning drive. He’s coming along nicely and while he’s not an All-American by a long shot right now, you have to remember he’s only a sophomore. Hopefully he’ll be able to have a solid game this week because we’ll need a stellar game from him to give ourselves a chance.

UF Offense

· This is a very good UF offense. They’ve topped 45 points in 4 of their 7 games. They are a balanced offense, ranking in the top 3 in the SEC in rushing, passing, total and scoring offenses. They do a great job of getting the ball to their incredible athletes, and they have a QB perfectly suited to run the spread offense that Meyer favors. The only teams to slow them were Auburn and LSU, two of the tougher Ds around. We’ll have our hands full.

· At QB UF trots out the media sensation that is Tim Tebow. He’s a tough joker, and he has to be to take the pounding that Meyer’s offense calls for. Many thought that Tebow might not make it through the season running the ball as much as he has and it remains to be seen if he actually can. He certainly has proven he can throw it this year, entering the game with the nation’s highest passer efficiency rating. He’s a little banged up with a bruised non-throwing shoulder, but he claims he’s fine. Judging by the cringes he was taking towards the end of the UK game, I think he’s obviously experiencing some pain. Judging by how successfully he was slinging it around during that same game, I don’t know that it will impact him much. He’s thrown 17 TDs to only 3 INTs on the year. Impressive indeed.

· At RB, UF has Tebow. For all the hype, he’s averaging under 5 ypc. He’s carried the ball nearly twice as often as the Gators’ top RB, Kestahn Moore, who’s averaging over 5 ypc. Tebow’s a running QB, but he’s not the dangerous option QB most running QBs are. With a top option QB, they’ll string it out and make the DE or LB with responsibility commit before pitching. Tebow doesn’t do this very well, as it’s typically easy to read when he’s going to keep (most of the time) and when he pitches, usually it’s too early and the D player that had responsibility is still in the play. UF uses a lot of folks to run the ball, often utilizing motioned players. WR Percy Harvin is averaging nearly 5 carries per game and fellow WR Jarred Fayson is used as a RB as well. Harvin is typically used outside with Fayson getting some straight ahead runs more like (gasp) a traditional RB.

· At WR, the Gators have a bevy of options with Percy Harvin being the most dangerous. Last year Harvin was more of a gimmick, touching the ball a lot but not nearly as much as a true WR, and he often struggled catching the ball. He’s started to polish his WR skills this year and he’s emerged as a true threat everywhere on the field. He leads the team in catches and is averaging 16.6 ypc. Louis Murphy chimes in with 23 catches for over 350 yards. Sr. Andre Caldwell has battled injuries all year but returns to add a fast, physical presence downfield, over the middle, on end arounds, etc. He’s that prototypical UF WR that’s haunted us forever. Perhaps the most dangerous receiving option (and that’s saying something) is WR/TE hybrid Cornelius Ingram, whose 5 TD catches lead the team. He’s got 21 catches on the year for almost 15 ypc which surprised me some because I would’ve sworn I’ve seen him catch 30 balls and I’ve only caught a few of their games. He’s a former basketball player at UF, so that should tell you how athletic he is. He’s lethal on crossing patterns against a LB and in the redzone.

· The UF OL has done a good job of protecting Tebow. At least until he doesn’t want to be protected. He’s been sacked only 5 times on the year and UF is 2nd in the country in giving up sacks, behind only UT. Their typical OL features 2 seniors, 2 juniors and a true freshman, but an injury to Sr. RT Carlton Medder has had him on crutches all week, so look for more shifting their OL. They’ve had some injury issues there already, losing their preseason LT for the year prior to the season. The OL is large, with every starter weighing in over 310 pounds.

· Bottom Line: It’s tempting to say the UF offense is more than just Tim Tebow, as they obviously have elite level athletes all over the field but the fact remains that Tebow is obviously involved in all the passing plays and he’s far and away the most often used runner in their ground game. He’s the offense. Stop him and the Gators aren’t going to move the ball. The problem is stopping him, as he’s shown this year that he’s more than just the FB he was used as last year. He’s got a strong arm and while his strengths aren’t breaking a defense down sitting in the pocket, the Gator offense doesn’t ask him to do that. They do a good job of scheming to get the ball to their playmakers and they can score from anywhere on the field. Tebow is a freak of nature and he’s flanked by fellow freaks Harvin, Ingram and Caldwell. This is a dangerous unit that will move the ball, but if Tebow’s injury is aggravated during this game and he’s slowed as a result of it, that significantly alters UF’s attack.

· Key Matchup to watch when they have the ball: Teams have had some success spying Tebow. You almost have to. I don’t know that we’ll do so, but I think it’s safe to say that given the number of times he’ll run the ball and how well he runs through tackles, we’ll have to have improved play from our LBs. Watch our whole LB corps. UF puts some tremendous pressure on LBs (an area we haven’t exactly excelled) with Tebow and all the end-arounds they run with their WRs, not to mention their regular running plays. If we use a spy, Ellerbe seems perfectly suited for that role.

UF Defense

· The Gator defense is a young one and it has its flaws. They’ve struggled this season (albeit against some pretty good offensive teams) giving up both yards and points. They’re a little banged up as well now. They always seem to play us particularly well though, so you can pretty much toss the book out when this matchup rolls around. In recent years, these have been relatively low-scoring affairs on both sides of the ball.

· The UF DL returned only one starter this year, but he’s a good one. Many expected DE Derrick Harvey to declare early for the NFL after last year’s Fiesta Bowl where the Jr put on an absolute show on a national stage. At 6-4, he carries his 260+ pounds very well and looks skinny. His 6.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss lead the team in both categories. He has 18.5 career sacks. Opposite him at the other DE spot is GA native Jermaine Cunningham. Like Harvey, Cunningham is a lanky DE that is more of a speed rusher than a run stopper. He’s very slight for an SEC DE at 6-3, 229. His 8 TFLs including 4.5 sacks on the season are indicative of his talents. At DT, Javier Estopinan provides the leadership of the unit, with 9 years of experience between the two of them. They are both nearly identically sized at 6-1, 280-ish. Clint McMillan had been the other starting DT but got injured in the UK game and might be out (at least limited) this week. Look for super recruit Torrey Davis to get playing time in his place, as he played well last weekend against UK. He’s a future stud but he’s also a true frosh that’s learning the position.

· The Gator LB corps was completely decimated last year, losing all 3 starters. In their place have risen some pretty good players who are young and have had to learn on the fly. MLB Brandon Spikes was recruited by everyone in the country and has lived up to his billing, leading the team in tackles. At 6-3, 243, the sophomore has the size, speed and attitude you want in the middle. His 7 TFLs are 3rd on the team behind the 2 DEs. Dustin Doe is another sophomore starting at the WLB spot and he’s playing well enough to be #2 on the team in tackles. The SLB spot is manned by RFr A.J. Jones. Jones is a smallish LB at 6-1, 210 and has yet to do anything to really distinguish himself.

· The UF secondary has struggled this year after losing ¾ of the starting unit last year (sound familiar?). The lone returner is FS Tony Joiner. The senior played alongside The Eraser (Reggie Nelson) last year and has experienced a decent season, although he’s gained more notice off the field than on, where he came into focus for the infamous Tebow kiss on the sidelines during the UT game and again after getting arrested trying to remove a car from a tow lot. Joiner is one of the few experienced players on this whole unit, much less the secondary. He has 4 career INTs. Opposite him is the litte Eraser, Major Wright. If you’ve seen UF play this season, Wright is the one flying around like a missile knocking people all over the place. He’s not the biggest safety in the league at 6-1, 204 (he looks smaller than that) but he hits like it. Unfortunately for him, he’s got a broken thumb that required surgery and if he plays (doubtful) he’ll be wearing a club. His hard hitting has already forced 2 fumbles on the year to lead the team along with 39 tackles (good for 5th on the team) despite the fact he’s only started the last 3 games. Senior Kyle Jackson has some starting experience and will likely get the nod but he’s fallen out of favor with the current staff and hasn’t been a regular. At CB, the Gators sport more youth, where a true soph and true frosh get the nod at each spot. Wondy Pierre-Louis is a lanky sophomore at 6-1 and less than 180 pounds and he’s banged up as well. He has yet to record an INT. True frosh Joe Haden has been a godsend for this team, playing physically and being more than willing to stick his nose in there; He’s 3rd on the team in tackles and leads the team in pass breakups.

· Bottom Line: This is a banged up defense. They were young to begin with and the injuries have robbed them of some of their depth. The injuries won’t make them any younger necessarily but there’s a reason those other guys were starting. When you take several guys off a struggling defense, you can’t expect them to play better. The UF QB pressure is a strange bird. They didn’t record a sack against LSU or UT and recorded only one against Troy yet they somehow managed 6 against UK and 4 against AU. They are susceptible to the pass, marking a mere 95th in the country in pass defense. That coupled with their 15th national ranking against the run probably has as much to do with their ability to score in bunches forcing teams to come from behind. AU had some success running right at the UF front line, and that was before they got back Lester and before UF sustained all those injuries on their interior. I’d look for us to run at them some but work the pass in a good bit more than we’d expect due to our injury situation at RB.

· Key matchup to watch when we have the ball: This weekend it’ll be imperative to see some solid play from our OTs. The strength of the UF D is their DEs, especially getting after the QB, and given our young OL, specifically LT Trinton Sturdivant, we’ll have to keep them off of Stafford if we expect offensive success.

The UF Game Overall

This game in recent years has been marked with UGA not showing up until at least the 2nd quarter. We’ve come out flat or ill-prepared or whatever you want to call it more times in this rivalry than any others in recent years. We simply can’t afford that this year with this version of UF we’ll be facing. They are too good offensively and are more than capable of taking the air out of the ball with Tebow grinding it out for us to get down multiple scores. Add in the fact we’ve been a very inconsistent offensive team and I think it’s pretty clear an early hole could be devastating.

Obviously Stafford is the key to our offensive success, especially with out decimated RB situation. I think we’ll try and take some shots deep again, as that’s certainly been a vulnerability in the UF D. We’ve struggled connecting on that play this year, mostly because of poor throws, but with a few exceptions, we haven’t really seen our WRs make great plays on the ball downfield either. Don’t get me wrong, our WRs have played much better this year, but I’d like to see a guy make a play on a deep ball.

Don’t expect a lot of turnovers in this game. Both UGA and UF are near the bottom nationally in forcing turnovers. They are also both at the top of the country in turnovers allowed. With that being said, the way this season has gone, I suppose we should expect 5 turnovers from each team.

Look, it’s widely accepted that Tebow’s shoulder is banged up to some degree. It might not be enough to bother him at all and it might be that several solid shots might have no effect at all. We just won’t know. Whether that’s the case or not, I really hope that we don’t see some of our guys getting caught up in trying to knock the guy out of the game. Oh, and for all the UF folks crying about Tebow taking shots…blame that on your coach for running the guy so much. It happens.

Finally, I hope we take advantage of the off-week, and I mean that more than just getting rested up too. Two years ago Meyer utilized the off week to break out some significant offensive changes, adding a FB and TE to the spread and quickly marching down the field for two early scores. I want to see something different, something that puts UF on its heels, trying to react. I want to see the no huddle or something. Actually, I don’t care if it’s that different, I just want it to be effective. I want to see a fired up UGA team that looks prepared against a UF team that’s reeling a bit. Is that too much to ask?

Positional Notes

· The return of Marcus Washington to the MLB spot shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s a force and one of the guys with the bulk to hold up against a Tebow. We’ve missed his physical presence.

· I have no idea what the plan is for Caleb King. I know he’s making the trip and it appears he’ll play. I know the UF coaching staff has no idea what he’s capable of (same as the UGA staff for that matter), so if he causes them any issues with preparation, he’s done his job already. I will say that we’d probably feel better next year with a King with a few games under his belt than just Moreno, King and a bunch of freshmen.

· Brandon Miller looks like he’ll play but might not start. He’s an experienced guy that should help on the edge with all of UF’s pulling, etc.

· Haverkamp returns to provide depth. That’ll be interesting…having a backup interior OL other than the 6-8 Vince Vance.

· Goodman looked good again, but Tony Wilson was the real surprise last week, coming back in a big way to lead the team in catches including a huge grab on the game-winning drive. Of course, he almost cost us that last shot when he fumbled on that huge catch only to have it bounce directly back to him.

· Henderson appears 100% now and ready to take back his role returning punts. UF does a very good job of covering punts and have only had 2 (I think) returned all year and both of those were last week against UK.

Random Thoughts

· Your current BCS top 17 consists of the following teams: Kansas, South Florida, Kentucky, UVa, South Carolina and Hawaii. UConn makes an appearance at #23 and BC is #2. I can’t decide if those are more shocking than the fact FSU is so amazingly mediocre…again.

· How brutal is the SEC? Over half of the conference (7 of 12) is in the BCS top 25, and that’s without traditional power Tennessee. Other conferences? The “mighty” Big-10 has 3 (including a team that lost to a 1-AA school) but only 1 in the top 19 teams. The Big XII has 4. The Pac-10 has 4 with 2 being in the top 5 and neither being USC. The ACC has 3.

· Tougher person, Tim Tebow or Chuck Norris? Dude…tough question but considering Tebow’s absence of intimidating facial hair I suppose I’d have to go with Mr. Norris, pretty sure he never had a “bruised shoulder” either. That’s assuming, of course, that I can’t take Dalton from Roadhouse as played by the immortal Patrick Swayze.

· Be prepared for the Verne Lundquist – Tim Tebow lovefest to reach epic proportions this week with the shoulder injury subplot making him that much more appealing. I suppose this is what the rest of the country was subjected to during the Greene-Pollack years where every broadcaster seemed to be contractually obligated to point out that those two played Pop Warner football together.

· At what point do we just change the name from mullet to Gator? I probably got emailed 30 different pictures of mullets for inclusion in this writeup…all of which were UF fans.

· In the end the SEC really needed LSU to win that epic game last week. The conference (and the country for that matter) can’t afford for AU, a team that lost to USF, to start knocking off top teams on a regular basis. That just makes USF stronger to the computers. I suppose the rest of the country should all give a tip of the cap to Rutgers, again, for knocking off a highly ranked Big East team (last year they took out Louisville).

· I’m not sure who’s benefiting more from these late ESPN and ESPN2 SEC games, ESPN or the SEC. ESPN is getting great ratings and phenomenal games. The SEC is getting exposure so that the nation gets to see that teams like UK and Vandy are for real and not just gimmicks.

· Continuing the recent Steve Perry trend on here, I present you the following music video from the Journey catalog: Journey – Separate Ways. I figured given the high density of mullets in the video and the presence of Steve Perry it only made sense. How did Steve Perry never get into acting? Good luck figuring out what’s the most absurd part of the video. I think it’s the guy randomly playing the keyboard on the wall of the warehouse. I have no idea how Casey Kasem ties into the whole thing. The great thing about this is someone emailed it to me (that’d be you Jim Garland) back way before the Journey rant after the Ole Miss game.

Have a safe weekend,




SSI Dawg said...

We must find the Junkyard Dawg mentality tomorrow afternoon.

Erk defines the Junkyard Dawgs - "By our own definition, a Junkyard Dog is a dog completely dedicated to his task, that of defending his goal line. Further, he is very often a reject (from the offense) or the runt of the litter. Nobody wants him, and he is hungry. We had three walk-ons, four QBs, and three running backs in our original Junkyard Dog starting cast, which averaged 208 pounds across the front. In short, a Junkyard Dog is one who must stretch and strain all of his potential just to survive. Then he can think about being good."

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