After over a month of road games, a bye week and a cocktail party, the No. 10 Florida Gators (7-2, 4-2) return to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium where they’ll play host to the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-6, 1-4) in a matinee Saturday afternoon.
Coming off a disappointing loss a week ago, the Gators will be looking for a much needed bounce back. They won’t just want to win, which against an inferior opponent is much expected. But they’ll want to look good in doing so and turn in a dominant performance.
The Commodores are in the midst of a rough season and will travel to Gainesville pretty banged up. The Gators should have no problem with this Vandy team and should have the chance to get reps for younger players.
Here are the five Gators on the spot this week against the Commodores.
- Richard Gouraige, Offensive Lineman
With the sudden transfer of Chris Bleich, offensive guard Richard Gouraige is now thrown into the fire of starting on the offensive line. However, it won’t be anything new for the redshirt freshman, as he’s played a key role on the offensive line already this year. But now in a starting spot, it will give really give Gouraige the chance to develop. He’s been good and a lot of people were wondering what took so long to just pull the trigger and place him fully in the starting lineup. Now he’ll get to really show what he’s capable of. He figures to be a key part on the offensive line the next couple of years and Saturday will be the first of many starts for Gouraige.
- Kadarius Toney, Wide Receiver
He may have dressed for the first time since Week 2 last week in Jacksonville, but Kadarius Toney didn’t play many snaps, thus not making much of an impact. He only received one touch a week ago, a carry that he couldn’t break past the line of scrimmage. This just figures to be a game where Toney breaks a few plays and gets his legs moving. It’s not a secret, Vandy isn’t very good. Their defense has been getting gashed this year to the tune of giving up an average over 450 yards a game. That to me smells like a recipe for success for a player like Toney, especially in the way Dan Mullen uses him. Screens, jet sweeps, etc., this is a game where he can be productive and get back rolling in this offense. We’ve still yet to really see him in the offense with Kyle Trask under center, so how they use Toney going forward is something to watch for.
- Dameon Pierce, Running Back
For much of the same reasons, Dameon Pierce could have a big game and break off some runs. He figures to likely get a decent amount of carries, given the Gators should pull ahead on the scoreboard and they may want to start getting him more work as he projects to be the feature back next year. As the backup to Lamical Perine, he’s been having a solid sophomore year. Pierce is averaging 6.8 YPC and has shown he can break the long run. As mentioned, Vandy’s defense isn’t all that good. They’re giving up 203 yards per game on the ground and the Gators may want to try to break loose a struggling run game. The most carries Pierce has gotten in a game this year was 11 against Tennessee. Against another struggling defense, he could exceed that total and get the chance to do some damage on the ground.
- Jabari Zuniga, Defensive End
The Gators star defensive end is worth keeping an eye on Saturday not because he’s needed for victory, but because his health has been a problem all year. He dressed last week and made an early statement by blowing up Bulldogs running back D’Andre Swift at the line of scrimmage, but Jabari Zuniga would only play limited snaps the remainder of the game and wasn’t on the field for key third downs. He won’t be needed for the defense Saturday, but there’s no question the unit is better as a whole with him on the field. The Commodores have an explosive running back in Ke’Shawn Vaughn, so setting the edge will be important. If he does play Saturday it likely won’t be the whole game, but it will still be a good sign for the Gators to see number 92 out there without any limitations.
- Emory Jones, Quarterback
The line for this game has now shifted to Florida being 27-point favorites. Should that type of spread come to fruition, the Gators should be given the opportunity to get some backups and younger players meaningful reps in a conference game. Of those who should get a handful of snaps, should and needs to be Emory Jones. It’s time to take the gloves off of Jones and let him get an extensive amount of work. When used in his packages, he’s been pretty effective and looked good in big games against Auburn and LSU. Saturday could serve as a great opportunity to give Jones the second half to really see where he is at in his development.