Take Five Breakdown: Florida-Vanderbilt Preview

Vanderbilt Preview

by Chris Will
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The Florida Gators look to rebound from a loss to the Kentucky Wildcats with a Homecoming win against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Inside the Gators sat down with Aria Gerson of The Tennessean to preview the matchup

Five Vanderbilt Commodores to Know

AJ Swann, Quarterback, Sophomore

  • Swann has had his fair share of ups and downs this season. His 11 passing touchdowns put him tied for second in the SEC. However, the seven interceptions are the most in the conference. “One has a very strong arm, and he can make some really good throws downfield,” Gerson said, “He’s more mobile than you’d probably think by looking at him. He’s not really a huge dual-threat guy, but he can evade rushers and evade pressure. The problem is two things. The first is that he’s been extremely turnover-prone. The other thing is that he’s been injured.”

Patrick Smith, Running Back, Junior

  • Smith leads the team with 238 rushing yards and two touchdowns. His talents are complimented by freshman Sedrick Alexander who has 180 yards and three touchdowns. “Their running game has not gotten off the ground, really,” Gerson said, “The offensive line has struggled a lot. They can get the yards, but the run game is just not explosive at all.”

Will Sheppard, Wide Receiver, Senior

  • Sheppard is second in the SEC with seven receiving touchdowns and sixth in receiving yards. He is the most dangerous guy on the offensive side of the ball. “He’s a really good contested catch threat, and he’s a really good deep ball threat,” Gerson said. No matter which quarterback is throwing the ball, Sheppard is bound to get targets.

CJ Taylor, Linebacker, Junior

  • He’s top five in the SEC with 40 total tackles and has added three sacks on his stat line. He’s the most disruptive player on the Commodore defense. “I think the best thing about [Taylor] is just how versatile he is,” Gerson said, “He plays what Vanderbilt calls the anchor position, which is like a hybrid, the linebacker safety, so he can rush the passer. He can drop into coverage; he can do pretty much whatever.”

De’Ricky Wright, Safety, Senior

  • With a team-leading two interceptions, Wright is one of the senior leaders of this Vanderbilt defense. “He’s definitely the best player in that secondary,” Gerson said, “He’s also been hurt a little bit, but I think he’s going to be good to go this weekend.”

Five Fast Facts

  • Florida wields a 43-11-2 series lead with wins in 30 of the last 32 meetings.
  • Vanderbilt has not scored in The Swamp in its last two visits (combined 98-0). The Dores last scored in Gainesville in 2017.
  • Vanderbilt’s lone wins in Gainesville came in the first-ever meeting in 1945 (VU 7, UF 0) and in 2013 (VU 34, UF 17).
  • HC Billy Napier is going for his 50th career victory including his 10th at the helm of the Gators. With a win, he would become the ninth coach with 50 or more wins since 2018: Nick Saban (66), Kirby Smart (65), Dabo Swinney (63), Lincoln Riley (59), Luke Fickell (57), Brian Kelly (57), Jim Harbaugh (51) and Josh Heupel (50).
  • Florida vs. Vanderbilt features a matchup of two of the top net punting teams in the nation: Florida’s 47.0 ranks 12th in the FBS and third in the SEC, while Vanderbilt’s 50.9 mark paces the country.

Five Game Day Storylines


  • It’s the 100th Homecoming celebration for the University of Florida which means there is pressure for the football team to perform in front of the Florida faithful. The Gators have been solid at home and hope to use that advantage to get back into the win column. “I mean they haven’t won a lot of games in general, but a lot of the games they have won have been on the road,” Gerson said.

Last Year

  • When these two teams met in Nashville last year, Vanderbilt walked away with the 31-24 victory. That win was against a top-five pick of a quarterback in Anthony Richardson. “I think [Vanderbilt] just need to not beat themselves like they have been,” Gerson said, “And that’s where they might be able to make it a closer game.” Much like Kentucky’s recent success against the Gators, this gives an extra edge to flip the script against the Commodores.

Midseason QB Battle?

  • The saying goes “If you think you have two quarterbacks you really have none.” And the Commodores are amidst a QB controversy. AJ Swann has been the guy, but his turnovers have been costly. Ken Seals has thrown for four touchdowns and just one interception in Swann’s absence. Now, with injuries looming over Swann, nobody really knows who is playing on Saturday. “Clark Lea won’t tip his hand,” Gerson said, “There’s really been very little available on what is going to happen with the quarterback situation. And it might partially depend on where AJ Swann is at with the injury situation. You really don’t want to send the quarterback who’s injured on the road. That’s not a recipe for success.”


  • Lots of question marks for both teams at just about every level of the game. Florida running back Trevor Etienne was listed as questionable on the two-deep. Offensive linemen Kingsley Eguakun and Austin Barber were also listed as questionable.

Special Teams

  • “Vanderbilt has one of the best punters in the country,” Gerson said. Matthew Hayball averages over 50 yards per punt which leads the nation. “When they’re playing clean, their special teams can really be an asset in terms of winning the field position battle,” she said.


  • Aria Gerson: Florida 34-24
  • Chris Will: Florida 24-14

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