Five on the Spot: Williams emerges as a difference-maker

Five on the Spot

by Rafael De Los Santos
0 comment

Please Read: Welcome to the new-look Inside the Gators

Here are five Florida Gators football players who are in the spotlight, and on the spot, to perform this week against Kentucky.

Jordan Castell

The safety position has been one of the most consistent points of improvement ever since Napier landed in Gainesville. Sure, Rashad Torrence II and Trey Dean might have never reached the potential they came to Florida with, but the excitement of Kamari Wilson’s recruitment was the pinnacle of what Gator nation expected of the former Louisiana head coach.

But just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any better, in came Jordan Castell.

Currently listed at 6-foot-2, 204 pounds, coming out of Orlando, Castell was noted for his willingness to be physical with opposing wide receivers or even smaller tight ends.

Moving well for someone of his size, Castell has shown solid instincts on how to find the ball, and when given the chance, the ability to mix in the physicality of power safety like Dean when he trucks opponents.

Castell has truly come in and been rock solid for the Gators on the back end of a defense ranked in the top 25 third down conversion percent defense.

The freshman has taken more snaps than anyone on the defensive side of the ball, and is PFF’s second-best Gators’ defender among guys who, to this point, have taken at least 80 snaps.

Micah Mazzccua

Micah Mazzccua missed Florida’s 22-7 victory over Charlotte on Saturday finishing his suspension after the brawl against Tennessee in week three.

Though the Gators came away with the win, Mazzccua’s absence was more than apparent.

With Mazzccua on the sideline Charlotte’s defense recorded three sacks against Florida’s makeshift O-line featuring center Jake Slaughter, true freshman guard Knijeah Harris, and fellow transfer tackle Lyndell Hudson II.

The Baylor transfer will be a welcome addition to Rob Sale’s unit against Kentucky on Saturday.

Florida’s front five has allowed nine sacks in just four games so far this season and the Wildcat pass rush should be no easy test. Kroger Field will fuel a Kentucky pass rush ranked 33rd in the country in sacks.

Trey Smack

The storyline for Smack this game is simple: keep doing what you’re doing. Everything that’s gone right for the Gators must continue to go right if they are to leave Kroger Field with what would be a huge win over the Wildcats.

It was always apparent that Trey Smack had a cannon for a leg. Beyond his fitting name, Smack ranked both a five-star rated kicker and punter by Kohl’s Kicking Camp before committing to the Gators in 2022.

Since then, Smack has been one of the revelations of the season, earning SEC Special Teams Player of the Week after converting on all five of his attempts against Charlotte. Smack accounted for 15 of Florida’s 22 points on the day. His 54-yard field goal was a career-long make for Smack and was a season-long for the Gators. It also stands tied for the seventh-longest field goal in Gators history.

Though Florida will hope for a more productive offense than the one that featured against Charlotte, Smack will be expected to be anything from a much-needed consistent presence on the scoreboard to a game-winning field goal kicker.

Graham Mertz

Graham Mertz drove the Gators right down the field for a touchdown on Florida’s opening drive against Charlotte. At that moment, all was well in the Swamp, the Gators had picked up right where they left off, the fans were in for a scoring fest…until reality set in and Florida scored zero touchdowns the rest of the game.

Charlotte showed that in year two under Napier, the Gators are able to move the ball in short bursts, but sometimes struggle in the red zone. But there are positives woven into Florida’s struggles.

There’s certainly been a lack of a deep ball threat from Mertz so far, but after completing 20 of 23 passes on Saturday, he is now at 77.78% on his completion percentage and 80.5% in his three home games.

Mertz got smacked around pretty good to boot, but Florida should be able to afford the Wisconsin transfer more protection in Lexington in what will be a battle of transfer quarterbacks.

UK’s Devin Leary ranks 13th of 14 SEC starting quarterbacks in completion percentage (59.3%) and has thrown the second-most interceptions (five) in the league. Mertz ranks 10th in the SEC in yards passing per game (237.8) and has thrown just four touchdowns.

Mertz will look to be Napier’s trusty game manager we saw in the upset of Tennessee where he threw for just 166 yards. His only game with more than 24 passing attempts was the loss to Utah (44).

Scooby Williams

Whether it’s Austin Armstrong’s system or just general offseason growth from Scooby Williams, the redshirt sophomore is emblematic of the turnaround Florida’s defense as a whole has had in the first month of the season.

In Week 2, Williams showcased his impressive closing speed and newfound confidence from a diagnosis standpoint to account for the Gators’ first sack of the 2023 campaign. He continued the promising start to the year in Florida’s upset win over Tennessee on Saturday, compiling a career-high eight tackles.

While Shemar James may be the standout on defense, Williams’ game has complemented the rise of James on Austin Armstrong’s revamped Gators defense.

Against Charlotte, Williams received his highest grade ever for run defense and overall tackling. As he continues to better under the defense, Williams can finally grow into the player Florida fans hoped for when he originally committed.

Go to discussion...

Related Articles


Leave a comment

Please log in to your forum account to comment

Community platform by XenForo® © 2010-2022 XenForo Ltd. Style and add-ons by ThemeHouse