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Florida Football

Florida Football 3-2-1: Davis is back to his old self

September 5, 2021
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After a quick start to the game led to a 14-0 Florida lead over Florida Atlantic, the season opener went into the fourth quarter before the Gators were able to put the Owls away.

It may not have gone as expected, but it was a win in the end.

Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction as the Florida Gators come off a 35-14 season-opening victory over FAU and prepare to face South Florida this coming weekend.

THREE OBSERVATIONS

Malik Davis is back to his old self

The redshirt senior running back was both explosive and shifty in his 2021 debut. He racked up 100 yards for the first time since his breakout game against Vanderbilt as a freshman in 2017. He sped around corners and made guys miss on the interior to break off huge runs regardless of how well blocked the play was. He had three of Florida’s 13 runs over 10 yards, with each of his going at least 15. He regained his form as a runner. Combine that with his pass-catching ability and opposing defenses better watch out.

Zachary Carter could very well be a problem this season

The big defensive end led the charge at the point of attack. He had three of Florida’s six sacks and bullied an opposing offensive lineman on multiple occasions from two different alignments. After the Gator defense relinquished a first down near the end of the first quarter, Carter exploded off the edge, flew by the left tackle, and used his big hands to get a strip-sack on N’Kosi Perry. Gervon Dexter recovered it to give the offense good field position, but the play was all Carter. Granted he’s going up against FAU and the real test will come in two weeks’ time, but Carter looks poised to show out this year.

The Gators are still searching for their CB2

After Jaydon Hill went down with an ACL injury, the CB2 job opened back up. Avery Helm walked through the door and got the job for Week 1. He led the three contenders for the job in snaps with close to 45. The next was Jason Marshall Jr. with around 25 to 30 while Elijah Blades saw around 10. But we saw Marshall sub in for Helm on several series. And for how good they might become down the road, on Saturday each one had lapses. Helm ended up with a receiver behind him on a few deep routes, Marshall committed a pass interference that extended a drive and Blades grabbed a receiver’s facemask on a corner route. The way the splits happened, as each guy had a meaningful series, it’s apparent this is a position still in flux and will continue being a discussion heading into the upcoming weeks.

TWO QUESTIONS

Could we see more usage of Anthony Richardson than we originally believed?

Emory Jones had plenty of runs when he was the backup to Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask. He was a change of pace guy but Dan Mullen was often random with his usage of him. Between Jones and Richardson, both seem similar with how they can be factors. Will that allow for more flexibility with his usage of the Gators’ backup whether it’s as a QB or otherwise?

Is Xzavier Henderson the permanent guy at punt returner?

Entering camp we heard of a guy like Fenley Graham as a possible punt returner. Guys like Kaiir Elam and Jacob Copeland were listed on the unofficial depth chart at punt return. But is second-year wideout the true returner Florida needs? He took all three of Florida’s punt returns and actually had one great return and a good one that both set the Gators up with good field position.

ONE PREDICTION

Emory Jones will rebound but Richardson isn’t taking a back seat

The redshirt junior did not perform up to people’s or even his own expectations Saturday night. But one non-amazing night won’t get him benched. Feleipe Franks had plenty of non-descript outings as a starter. If he got a long leash, then so does Jones. He seemed adamant in his postgame availability that he needs to and will improve. However, Richardson showed enough electricity against FAU to where it’s hard to argue against him seeing the field more often than a backup usually does. Even if Jones comes out and lights it up against USF, Richardson is going to get his snaps.

Florida Football 3-2-1: Davis is back to his old self

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