FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
- The Stock Report: Mullen trending upwards
- ITG Intel: An in-depth look at Gibson, Phillips, and more
- Four-star Gibson has decided
- Recruit Reaction: 'It was a huge win by the Gators!'
- Flipping Out: Florida flip candidates
This Saturday evening in Lexington, Dan Mullen’s Florida football squad takes on Kentucky.
Inside the Gators has the very latest on the match-up in this Game Week Breakdown.
Allen Barney spoke with Barkley Truax of the Kentucky Kernel and Shane Shackleford of SB Nation (A Sea of Blue), in order to break down the Wildcats with his answers to five burning questions as well as previewing five UK players Gator fans should keep an eye on this weekend.
Five Kentucky Wildcats to keep an eye on
Chris Rodriguez Jr, Running Back, Junior
- The Skinny: Rodriguez enters week five as the leading rusher in the SEC at 513 rushing yards and has an impressive 6.04 yards per carry. He may not be the fastest or strongest running back, but packs a punch at 5-foot-11-inches and 224 pounds. Rodriguez broke onto the scene in 2020 with 785 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns and was on PFF’s first-team All-SEC at running back. Rodriguez did not play in the team’s 34-10 loss in the Swamp in 2020 and will be looking to run rampant against the Gators defense. I would expect Rodriguez to get a healthy dose of carries on Saturday night as Kentucky’s offense looks to play ball control and limit the number of possessions for the Gator offense.
Wan’Dale Robinson, Wide Receiver, Junior (Transfer from Nebraska)
- The Skinny: Electric and versatile is a perfect description of Robinson’s skill set. The Kentucky native played for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 2019 and 2020 while amassing 580 rushing yards, 914 receiving yards and 1,725 all-purpose yards. In 2020, Robinson led the Cornhuskers with 51 receptions and 461 receiving yards in just eight games. According to Barkley Truax, Robinson can play anywhere on the field and make an impact. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when he breaks a big play and Florida has to be weary of that,” Truax said. With his speed and big-play ability, Todd Grantham and the defense are going to have account for Robinson on every play.
Deandre Square, Inside Linebacker, Senior
- The Skinny: Square has been in the starting lineup since his freshman year in 2018, where he earned freshman All-SEC honors. Square is experienced and has seen it all in his 36 career games played and 22 starts and will have to play a vital role in stopping the Gators dominant run offense. After finishing third on the team in tackles in 2020 with 60, he is tied for the team lead this season with 24 and tied for the team lead with 5.5 tackles for loss. Square will be near the line of scrimmage all night as he looks to create havoc on run plays and force Emory Jones to throw to move the ball downfield.
Darian Kinnard, Offensive Tackle, Senior
- The Skinny: Kinnard is the prototype right tackle at 6-foot-5-inches and 345 pounds, he is a perfect fit to the identity of the power run game that Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has created in Lexington. Kinnard has a long list of accomplishments to his college career including Second-Team All-American by CBS/247 sports in 2020 and Third-Team All-American by the AP in 2020. Phil Steele, AP and PFF named Kinnard to the First-Team All-SEC in 2020 and is on the Outland Trophy Watch List in 2021. With 26 consecutive starts at tackle, Kinnard has seen a wide variety of pass rushers in his college career. He will have his hands full with Zach Carter and Brenton Cox on Saturday night. If the Wildcats want to pull the upset, Kinnard will have to play a huge role and be a road grader on the right side. I expect Kentucky to get a few successful runs to his side because of skill level and focus on technique.
Yusuf Corker, Free Safety, Senior
- The Skinny: Corker, like a few of his teammates in this article, has a ton of experience with time in 37 games and 24 consecutive starts. Corker is tied for the third on the team with 21 tackles and leads the Wildcats with 6 pass breakups. In 2020, Corker made it on to Phil Steele’s Second-Team All-SEC and finished second on the team with 77 tackles. Based off his stats, Corker is a ball-hawk safety with wide range to cover the whole field. Corker does have a tackle for loss and a sack and it will be interesting to see if Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White will bring Corker in to support the run defense or keep him back to defend the deep shots that Jones will aim at Jacob Copeland and Xzavier Henderson. Regardless of where the coaches put him, expect Corker to be near the ball on every play.
Five Fast Facts
- This will be the 72nd time that Kentucky and Florida will meet on the gridiron. Florida leads the overall series 53-18 and is 22-10 in Lexington. Kentucky’s last home win against Florida was on Nov. 15, 1986.
- The Wildcats are 4-0 for the first time since 2018, when they broke their 31-year losing streak to the Gators. They are seeking to go 5-0 for only the fourth time in the past 70 years with the previous three times being 1984, 2007, and 2018.
- Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops is the second-longest tenured head coach in the SEC, only trailing Nick Saban. He is the first head coach in school history to lead the Wildcats to five consecutive bowl games. Stoops is second on the all-time wins list for head coaches at Kentucky with 53, he only trails the legendary Bear Bryant, who has 60.
- Kentucky is 4-34 all-time against ranked Gator teams with their last win over a top-10 team in 2010 vs then #10 South Carolina, that game was in Lexington. A quick fun fact: Kentucky is 17-4 under Mark Stoops when wearing all blue uniforms.
- Kentucky’s defense has allowed an average of 260 offensive yards per game in 2021, which is ranked ninth in FBS. They are allowing 87.3 rushing yards per game, which is good enough for 21st in FBS.
Five Game Day Storylines
Will the hostile Kentucky crowd affect the Gators communication between players and coaches?
- The Gators have had the fortune of playing at home in three of their first four games and the one away game against USF in Tampa was essentially a home game because of the Gator contingent on hand. This will be the first SEC road start for Emory Jones. Jones’ focus will be key as the Wildcats’ crowd will look to rattle him and force the offense into false start and delay of game penalties. A big key will be how the young Gators handle the raucous environment. It is a different ballgame being public enemy #1 compared to having most of the stadium supporting the players.
Can Kentucky lean on their strong running game to chew up the clock and limit the possessions of the Gator offense?
- Under Mark Stoops, the Kentucky offense is mostly known for its success in the run game and having a tough, physical front that imposes it’s will on opposing defenses. Kentucky sits near the middle of the SEC at sixth with 202.25 rush yards per game and seventh with 5.15 yards per carry. The Gators run defense allowed a few gash plays against Tennessee and Stoops will look to Chris Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke to carry the load and both may get 15+ carries each as they try to wear down the Gator defense.
What is the strength of the Kentucky defense?
- According to Truax, the linebacker group is full of experienced and talented seniors who have been the glue to hold the defense together through the first four weeks of the season. The group is loaded with DeAndre Square, Jacquez Jones, Jordan Wright and JJ Weaver. This group will have to play a smart game and fill the gaps to be able to stop the Gators’ strong running game. The defense has only allowed two rushing touchdowns in the first four games of the season.
What makes Will Levis different compared to past Kentucky quarterbacks?
- “Levis has mobility, and he doesn’t slide either. He lowers his shoulder and plows his way through you.,” Truax said. Kentucky has had quarterbacks in the past with big arms (Patrick Towles, Drew Barker) and mobility (Terry Wilson, Lynn Bowden Jr). According to Truax, Levis brings both aspects to his game, and Gators defensive tackle Antonio Valentino can vouch for Levis because they played at Penn State together before transferring. “He is very good with his legs. He can air it out when he needs to. He is playing in an offense he is comfortable in and has weapons around him.,” Valentino said at the Monday press conference. The knock on Levis so far has been the number of turnovers he has committed but make no mistake about it, playing on national television at night in front of his home crowd could motivate Levis to take his game to another level.
Which Kentucky team will show up on Saturday night?
- The Wildcats started the season with a blowout win of Louisiana Monroe and followed it up with an emotional conference win against Missouri. Over the past two weeks, the Wildcats have looked flat with a close win over Chattanooga and a defensive slugfest against a rebuilding South Carolina program. The interesting question is if Kentucky has been sandbagging in preparation of facing Florida, LSU and Georgia in the next three weeks. According to Shane Shackleford of SB Nation (A Sea of Blue), the team came out flat in their effort and the play selection was very vanilla. “In years past the Cats lose both of those games. This group knows how to win.”, Shackleford said.
Florida 31, Kentucky 27