FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
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- Four-star Gibson has decided
This Saturday at noon in the Swamp, Dan Mullen’s Florida football squad takes on Vanderbilt.
Inside the Gators has the very latest on the match-up in this Game Week Breakdown.
After talking to Chad Bishop, Associate Director of Communications at Vanderbilt, and Bryce Smith of the Vanderbilt Hustler, here is the take 5 preview as the No. 20 Gators face-off against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Five Vanderbilt Commodores to keep an eye on
Chris Pierce Jr., Wide Receiver, Redshirt Senior
- The Skinny: Pierce was a thorn in the Gators side in the 2020 matchup with 4 receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns. At 6-foot-4-inches and 235 pounds, Pierce offers a matchup advantage for the Commodores based on his size alone and the possibility that All-American cornerback Kaiir Elam could miss his third consecutive game. Pierce leads the team with 290 receiving yards and is second with 24 catches. Whichever Gator defensive back that is matched up with Pierce will have their hands full, the big question will be if the quarterback will have time to get the ball to him.
Daevion Davis, Defensive Tackle, Junior
- The Skinny: The numbers for Davis in 2021 do not jump off the page with 16 tackles and half a sack, but his technique and ability to disrupt the middle of the line will force the Gator offensive line to double team at times if Dan Mullen wants to pound the ball up the middle. According to Chad Bishop, Davis is arguably the top player on the Vanderbilt defense and is a leader of the unit. “Davis has proven game-in and game-out to be a disruptive force.”, Bishop said.
Ken Seals, Quarterback, Sophomore
- The Skinny: Seals was thrust into the starting role as a true freshman in 2020 and did admirably well considering there was a pandemic going on. Seals carved up the Gator defense in 2020 to the tune of 22 completions, 319 yards, and 2 touchdowns. If Vanderbilt wants to have any success moving the football against the Gator defense this Saturday, most of the pressure will fall on Seals to make accurate, well-timed throws and audible out of bad scenarios. He has had trouble with turnovers and has thrown an interception the past three games but has a rocket arm that could create big plays for the Commodore offense. “Seals has proven more often to be able to make accurate throws as well as lead his team to two victories this season.”, Bishop said.
Anfernee Orji, Linebacker, Junior
- The Skinny: When speaking with Chad Bishop and Bryce Wright, one of the first names on defense that came up was Orji, and for good reasons. Orji led the Commodores with 66 tackles in 2020 and made his way on to Phil Steele’s preseason ALL-SEC 4th team at linebacker. He is currently second on the team with 37 tackles and lead the Vanderbilt defense with 6.5 tackles for loss. According to Bishop, Orji can make tackles (in run support) and defend the pass. I would expect Orji to be around the football on every play and make a name for himself against a ranked opponent.
Ethan Barr, Linebacker, Sophomore
- The Skinny: Alongside Orji in the middle of the Vanderbilt defense is another tackling machine in Barr. The sophomore leads the Commodore defense with 40 tackles and has an interception in their loss to Georgia. The key for the Vanderbilt defense will be stopping the Gator run game and forcing Emory Jones into passing situations, that strategy worked for Kentucky last week and Vanderbilt will lean on Barr and Orji to enforce punishment in run support.
Five Fast Facts
- This will be the 55th meeting between Vanderbilt and Florida. The Gators hold a 42-10-2 advantage in the series, including a 7-game winning streak dating back to 2014.
- The Commodores have not won in Gainesville since the first matchup of the series in 1945. That win, by a score of 7-0, remains as the only time Vanderbilt has won in the Swamp. Before their win in 2013, the last Commodores win against the Gators came in 1988.
- Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea is one of 10 Power 5 head coaches to lead their alma mater. Lea was a fullback on the team from 2002-2004. The Vanderbilt assistant coach's average age is 38.6, which is the second youngest assistant coach age among Power 5 programs.
- The Commodores' last SEC win came against Missouri on Oct. 19, 2019, and their last SEC road win came against Arkansas on Oct. 27, 2018.
- Former Florida defensive lineman Malik Langham transferred to Vanderbilt after playing in only two games for the Gators in 2018.
Five Game Day Storylines
Will the Commodores come out firing and try to hit a couple of big plays early to catch the Gator defense on their heels?
- The slow-starting Gator defense was an issue against Alabama and Tennessee, so there might be a chance that Clark Lea takes a couple of big shots early in an attempt to create momentum for his team. In their last game against a ranked team (Georgia), the Commodores were down five touchdowns before they could even take a breath. It will be interesting to see if Vanderbilt will try to flip the script in the Swamp.
Which young Vanderbilt players could we see if the Gators jump out to a huge lead?
- “Highly-rated signees Marcus Bradley and Devin Lee have started to see time on the defensive line. There will likely be opportunities for them once this game gets out of hand.”, Smith said. If the Gators can get out to a big lead early, there is a possibility that the Vanderbilt fans will get to see some players who could play key roles on the 2022 and 2023 teams.
If Ken Seals struggles early, will backup Mike Wright come into the game?
- Wright, who is a sophomore like Seals, offers a different skill set compared to Seals. According to Bishop, Wright is more of a run-first quarterback and has enough speed and elusiveness to break a big play or provide a spark for the offense if things are looking rough in the 1st half. Bishop said that Wright has dealt with a minor shoulder injury that led to Wright not taking an offensive snap in two games. Every fan’s favorite player on the team is the backup quarterback. If Seals struggles early, will Lea make the change?
If a win is not going to happen for the Commodores, what is the next achievable goal for the team?
- Vanderbilt has early-season momentum with nail-biting wins against Colorado State and UConn but carries an ugly 62-point loss to Georgia on their resume. Not many people outside of Nashville have high expectations for the 2021 Vanderbilt team but moral victories can go a long way. “For a team still finding its identity, baby steps toward keeping the contest in question for four quarters is the next ultimate goal.”, Bishop said. A competitive game for four quarters could go a long way in the early stages of the Lea tenure.
How will the Swamp crowd affect the Commodores, specifically the younger players?
- Even though the Gators are coming off a soul-crushing loss in Lexington, there will be a good turnout of Gator fans as the team looks to move on and leave a positive legacy for the seniors. Vanderbilt played at home the previous three games and 4 of their first 5 games of 2021 have been at home. According to Bishop, the team should be able to handle the crowd noise because the upperclassmen have been to plenty of tough SEC venues the past couple of years, including the Swamp in 2019, and got a taste of a hostile environment when they traveled to Fort Collins to play Colorado State in week 2 of this season.
Florida 41, Vanderbilt 10