FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
- Florida-Alabama Visitor List (Running Updates)
- Five Fast Thoughts: A tale of two halves
- Parental Perspective: Perseverance Pays off for Wells
- Top 100 target has four visits in mind
- Inside the Gators: Mock Signing Class 5.0
- Former Florida Football Players Preseason Roundtable
- Florida's Terrific 10 Targets
- One-on-One with Steve Spurrier (Audio added)
- Where are they Now: Shane Matthews talks Florida Football
The ‘exhibition season’ is over as big boy football takes center stage this Saturday when No. 1 Alabama visits the Swamp to take on No. 11 Florida in an SEC interdivisional matchup.
Here are three observations, two questions, and one prediction ahead of this weekend’s game.
Wide receivers showcase big-play ability
After just one catch against FAU, Jacob Copeland led all receivers with a career-high 175 yards on just five catches including two over 40 yards that went for touchdowns. Xzavier Henderson was next with four grabs for 68 yards and a great touchdown catch one-on-one. They accounted for six of Florida’s seven big plays through the air (completions of 15+ yards). Also, Rick Wells and Justin Shorter combining for over 40 yards on three catches.
The offensive line looks markedly better in the run game
Last year Florida couldn’t run the ball if the world depended on it. Now, they have two straight games of over 350 yards on the ground. Yes, the 70+ yarders by Anthony Richardson help. But Florida’s line sprung several big runs like Dameon Pierce’s 20-yard scamper that set up his touchdown on the Gators’ second drive. Richard Gouraige and Ethan White along with Keon Zipperer sealed the edge on the sweep play to the outside as Pierce dashed down the sideline. They’ve definitely got some maulers on the LOS.
Diabate took over at mike with Miller sidelined
Dan Mullen said starting middle backer Ventrell Miller “got a little banged up” on Saturday. So, they moved Mohamoud Diabate into his spot and Ty’Ron Hopper slid into Diabate’s. He tallied a team-leading seven tackles including four solos. Hopper actually had five solos for the game as he flew to the line filling gaps. If Miller’s still banged up for the Alabama game, Diabate will really have the opportunity to showcase just how much better he is at the position. The secondary continues to be an adventure also so a weak spot at linebacker would be less than ideal for Florida.
Can a healthy Anthony Richardson recreate these big plays against the Tide?
Obviously, Richardson possesses one of the world’s most-watched hamstrings right now. We’ll see later this week just how much it tightened up on him although Mullen doesn’t really like to reveal injuries. The hometown kid grabbed everyone’s attention with his big arm, maturity, and crazy athleticism for his size. That said, if he’s healthy, can he make the same dazzling plays from these last two weeks against one of the most talented teams in the nation in Alabama?
Did we overestimate the tight ends’ involvement in the passing game?
Florida’s tight ends went without a catch in a game for the first time since 2018 in the first week of 2021. They didn’t have a single catch against USF either with not very many targets between the two contests. The last time Gators tight ends went without catches in back-to-back games was the Georgia and Vanderbilt games in 2014. They’re getting snaps as they’ve been quite involved in the run-blocking schemes and can be seen split out wide in trips formations too. Florida hasn’t really worked the middle of the field these last two games. Could that be the reason?
Florida will find out if it’s getting closer to or farther away from the elites against Alabama
In 2020, with one of the best offenses in its history, Florida came within one score of the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship. Now, a lot of players are gone and most of the guys on roster are Mullen’s. This is a huge game. Florida’s emerged victorious in its big-time home games against ranked SEC West opponents. But this isn’t Auburn or LSU. And as Alabama continues its reign as the death machine of college football, how Florida performs could show just where it ranks when we compare this game with how the last game between these two teams finished.