The No. 10 Florida Gators defeated the Towson Tigers 38-0 and that game’s over with, let’s move on because it’s finally THE week. No. 7 Auburn is coming to town for a Top 10 matchup with ESPN’s College Gameday on campus for the CBS Game of the Week. Since the first kickoff of what would become a 5-0 win streak for the Gators, it’s all been leading to this. So with that in mind, let’s dispense with the Towson topics and start looking towards this coming Saturday. Here are your watercooler topics to prepare for the Auburn matchup.
Engage Full Strength
The Gators should be back at near full strength (minus offensive tool guy Kadarius Toney) for this all-important game. Corner CJ Henderson, defensive end Jabari Zuniga, linebacker Ventrell Miller, wide receiver Freddie Swain and safety Shawn Davis missed Saturday’s game against Towson and Henderson, Zuniga and Miller have missed parts (or all) of the last three games. Head coach Dan Mullen says everyone should be back this Saturday and that there were no significant or lasting injuries suffered against Towson. The only person still missing will be Toney who is still recovering from a shoulder injury sustained against UT-Martin. Mullen said on Saturday that Toney should be back after the bye week, which would place his return for the Georgia game, as Gator Bait first reported. For now, all of those defensive guys returning can directly help with the next point.
Glass Case of Emotion
Watching this Gators defense is like being in a glass case of emotion. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s crew is first in the country in red zone defense, second in sacks (24) and ninth in total defense…but 70th in 3rd down defense. Anyone who’s watched Florida play a first half this season isn’t surprised by that stat. Grantham makes incredible halftime adjustments though. As frustrating as it has been for fans to watch teams move at will between the 20’s, the middle of the field open enough for a semi to drive through while everyone is blitzing, the Gators have stood tall in the redzone and subsequently, only given up 17 points in the 2nd half of all five games. What is cause for concern though is that if Grantham plays this style against Auburn in the first half, the game will get too far out of hand for the 2nd half to make a difference. Plus the Tigers—this weeks and the following week’s of LSU—don’t need to even get beyond the 20-yard line. They can just hit explosive plays to score. It will be interesting to see if Grantham calls Saturday’s game differently to account for a more prolific offense.
Emory Can Quarterback
Quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson told Gator Bait last week that he trusts redshirt freshman Emory Jones to run the entire offense; that when he comes in to play, Johnson doesn’t feel tied to just call a subset of plays that utilize Jones’ legs and ignores more reads, but that he can open up the entire playbook. The Towson win was a good example and great practice for Jones as he was given more responsibility than just quarterback draws and keepers. He dropped back, he lined up in the shotgun, he made easy screens and followed his reads to take shots downfield. Now Jones has a much larger repertoire that Auburn will have to prepare for so when he does check in for his packages, the defense can’t just play short to stop the run…leaving him run to do so.
Trask Timing Vs. Awareness
From the moment he entered the Kentucky game, one of the things that stood out the most about Kyle Trask was how quickly he got the ball out to receivers. Within 1.5, 2 seconds tops, he was releasing the pass. Feleipe Franks was apt to hold on longer and go through some more progressions but it could also lead to pass rushers having more time to get through, flushing him from the pocket and letting plays fall apart. The offensive line has done well on pass protection so Franks was justified in doing this; but still, it was nice to see how quickly Trask would get the ball out of his hands, a key skill heading into the meat of the SEC schedule with it’s tenacious defensive ends.
However, to play devil’s advocate, there are so many options in Mullen’s offense that sometimes you want your quarterback to hang back an extra half a second to survey how the play is unfolding and choose the best option. Trask has started to do that, but it goes back to the point with Franks that sometimes that gives rushers more time to get past the offensive line. We saw this happen Saturday three times when Gator tackles missed blocks/assignments and Trask didn’t feel the pressure coming. It’s a vicious cycle and I’m even talking myself in circles. The point being, Trask has had incredible pocket presence. Now he just needs to work on his pocket awareness.
Kyle to Kyle
Kyle Trask to Kyle Pitts has been magical. Pitts, the receiver/tight end utility guy, says he spent all summer in the playbook, learning it backwards and forwards: “Last year I was kind of, I mean I knew it, but I didn’t know it like the back of my hand, so this year I really took the time to study hard, which I feel makes me play more loosely and confident.”
Pitts is tied with running back Lamical Perine for a team leading three touchdowns. All of Pitts have come the past two weeks from Trask. It’s a connection the duo says they’ve developed with chemistry through practice and now on the field, Trask admits he just looks to where Pitts is on the field. “Any time you see him out there with a matchup you just have to get it out there in front of him.”