After a somewhat enjoyable win over Miami, I wanted to look at some things I’d like to see for this weekend’s game against UT-Martin. I’m excited for UF football to be back after the bye, and those in attendance will be celebrating George Edmonson – aka Mr. Two Bits – after his unfortunate passing this offseason.
Establish the Run Game
This is a prime opportunity to go for 200+ yards rushing against an inferior opponent. The run game was lackluster against Miami’s stellar defense, and we should see improvement from the O-Line and backs. Perine was not the back we expected (at least in the run game), Malik Davis fumbled, and Dameon Pierce struggled as well. Some blame could be put on the O-Line, as they struggled run blocking for most of the game. This should be a feel-good game for everyone involved, and I expect all backs to get some carries.
Different Combinations in the Trenches
Same idea, different unit. I’d love to see some different faces in the trenches alongside the first team. It’s no secret UF lacks O-Line depth, but this is a perfect time to get game reps. Offensive lineman aren’t exactly known for their incredible ability to avoid injury. The trenches, especially in the SEC, are ruthless. I’m personally keeping an eye out for Ethan White and Michael Tarquin, two freshmen that could find themselves playing valuable minutes if an injury does occur. Getting them mixed in with the ones is very important for depth and chemistry.
This is in all caps for a reason. Our safety play was abysmal against Miami, with the only positives being Shawn Davis’ play in the second half. I still believe Davis should start over Donovan Stiner, but Ron English gonna Ron English. I’d like to see Brad Stewart play, as he has been a question mark throughout the offseason for off-field issues. He has incredible potential, but just needs to put it all together on and off the field. Ideally, I’d start Stewart and Davis side by side over Taylor and Stiner.
We’ll see how much each safety plays, but there are two issues with HOW our safeties play – angles and tackling. Jeawon Taylor (somewhat) has an excuse – he seemed hesitant to make contact after a shoulder injury. All the safeties, especially Donovan Stiner, struggled with pursuit, whiffing multiple times. These issues are correctable, but they must become better in order for Florida to compete with the best of the best.
The Young Guys
Games like these are supposed to be fun, and now that the NCAA has changed the redshirt rule, it’s all hands on deck for this weekend’s game. Jacob Copeland is one I’m most excited for, as he is finally healthy. He is a perfect fit for Mullen’s system, and should be a starter next year with 4 senior receivers leaving. I also would like to see some reps from former Lakeland TE Keon Zipperer. Zipperer is an offensive nightmare for opposing teams to cover, and Mullen will have some fun implementing him into the rotation after this season. Dameon Pierce is going to be a great back for UF after Perine leaves, and I hold the unpopular opinion that he may be better than Malik Davis. He should receive a good amount of reps this game, as Perine will be pulled if the Gators have a big lead.
Emory Jones is one many Gator fans have high hopes for, and he should be sharing reps with Kyle Trask. I want to see how much his passing game has improved, as he was putting in extra time with coaches back home in Georgia in the offseason. We all know he has the speed to run Dan Mullen’s offense, but I want to see how he’s progressed. Finally, I’d love to see the future of DBU, in Kaiir Elam, Jaydon Hill, and Chester Kimbrough. My personal favorite is Chester Kimbrough – his footwork is outstanding and combines with very good speed. Elam is another fan favorite and the nephew of former Gator Matt Elam. Jaydon Hill is coming off an ACL injury from his HS senior year, but many raved about him throughout Fall Camp.
UF has two important 2020 targets rumored to be in attendance – Xzavier Henderson and Timothy Smith. These two are very high on UF’s board, and the red carpet will be rolled out for both. Xzavier – the younger brother of C.J Henderson – should be in attendance this weekend to watch his brother play and check out the campus (again). There’s work to do, as UF trails Clemson for his services. It never hurts to get guys like this on campus, but he is likely going with his family to watch Chris play.
On the other hand, 4-star DT Timothy Smith coming back to the Swamp is big news if he does show. Gervon Dexter has been in his ear since Smith visited during FNL, harping on staying home and playing early. Smith is currently an Alabama commit; however, this would be his second time coming back to UF since he went public to Bama. I like the Gators’ chances, and this visit will give Smith time to get to know the UF commits and coaches further.