Here are Five Fast Thoughts after Florida's 42-20 road win over South Florida. Included is a look at what was a tale of two halves offensively, improved play from the offensive line and Jacob Copeland living up to his billing.
I write the outline for this as the game is being played and then go back in and fill in the blanks post-game. Thus some ‘takes’ might seem a bit dated or perhaps even over the top as I write my thoughts ‘in the moment’. Plus, this is a bit more of a ‘raw’ update in that I write what I write and really don’t go back and check the game tape or even worry about grammar or punctuation before publishing the article.
1) Florida football is fun again, or maybe not. It was definitely a tale of two halves. As I stated above, I write these observations as the game unfolds, and with the way the Gators were walking up and down the field in the first half it took me back to the days of Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer, when an opponent such as South Florida would be dispensed of by halftime and UF would cruise to a 40-50 point win. However, reality set in in the second half when Emory Jones' struggles ended any thought of the Gators blowing the Bulls out of the water. If you include the drive where Anthony Richardson marched the team down the field but Jones took over when Richardson lost his helmet, Jones was 0-for-6 leading the team to scoring drives in the second half while the Bulls actually outscored the Gators 17-7. Yes, UF racked up 666-yards of total offense (the fifth-highest total in program history), but what started off as a blowout, turned into a closer score than many anticipated, even though Florida was in control throughout.
2) Though some may have classified him as a receiver because of how versatile he was as far as where he could line up, Kyle Pitts is and was a tight end. You can argue that all you want, but he won the Macky Award, given to the nation's top… tight end. Through the first two games of the season Florida's tight ends, who have only been targeted twice, haven't recorded a catch. For the sake of comparison, through the first two games, last year Pitts and Keon Zipperer (well, mostly Pitts) combined for 13 catches for 238-yards and six touchdowns. With the way the position has evolved over the last several years, offenses need that big body, normally matched up against a linebacker or bigger safety, to work the middle of the field and utilize in the red zone. In the course of two games, Florida has gone from TEU to tight end who.
3) While most of the talk during and after the game these first two weeks has been centered on a potential quarterback controversy, what has to be even more concerning to the Florida coaching staff is the glaring need they have at the cornerback spot opposite Kaiir Elam. After allowing receivers to get behind him several times in the opener against Florida Atlantic, Avery Helm only looked marginally better on Saturday. After getting the majority of the snaps opposite Elam last week, he gave way to Jason Marshall getting more time against South Florida. They are both young and inexperienced, but what's problematic for Florida is that they aren't seeing the marked improvement needed at CB2 that they would need to see to feel comfortable putting them out there against receivers as talented as what they will see in the Swamp next weekend against Alabama.
4) Though you may not feel as good about the depth at cornerback after the first two games, on the other hand, you should feel a whole lot better about the offensive line. Okay, I'll admit that they haven't exactly faced the Fearsome Foursome in the first two games, but still, they have only given up one sack in 60 pass attempts and that sack was due to Jones holding the ball too long. Now, Alabama is going to be an entirely different experience, but the linemen certainly have gained some measure of confidence through the first two games. You don't complete long passes at the rate Florida did on Saturday without ample protection upfront. And as an added benefit, unlike during the first game when the outcome was still in question in the third quarter, by jumping out to an early lead on Saturday Florida was able to freely rotate the offensive linemen in and out of the game. Michael Tarquin and Josh Braun got in on the third series and 10 different linemen saw action during the game.
5) A Five Fast Thoughts back during the 2019 season was headlined 'The only thing that will stop Copeland, is Copeland'. That was never more evident than during today's 5 catch, 175-yard, two-touchdown performance. There was never any doubt about his talent level, the questions surrounded the consistency of his hands (I don't think he has had a drop this season) and his dedication to getting the most out of his given talent. Those questions have been answered. In the first two games, he has been a down-the-field threat, but he has the skillset to lineup all over the field and have them get him the ball in multiple ways. It wouldn't be surprising if they were holding back some of how they want to use him until the Alabama game.