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Florida Football

Behind Enemy Lines: Familiar faces returning to the Swamp

November 8, 2018
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Each week this season we will connect with a reporter from the opposing team’s beat to learn a little more about the Gators foe and see how the lead-up is looking from the other side.

This week as the No. 15 Florida Gators (6-3, 4-3) prepare to face former coach Will Muschamp and the South Carolina Gamecocks (5-3, 4-3), we speak with Josh Kendall, the South Carolina beat reporter for “The State”.

Q: The Florida quarterback situation is still up in the air and Dan Mullen said on Monday that they might play two quarterbacks on Saturday, it would just depend on the game plan. Does the South Carolina defense have the pieces to adapt to whatever type of QB steps on the field—whether Franks who lives off RPO or Emory Jones who primarily runs—or would Florida have the advantage juggling all of their passers during the game? 

A: I'm not sure juggling quarterbacks will be of any advantage to the Gators. The Gamecocks have struggled with consistency on defense all season, but it hasn't been tied to a specific quarterbacking style. South Carolina has had trouble stopping the run and has had issues with communication in the secondary all season long. Both of those issues will be exacerbated by injuries this week as the Gamecocks are now without four of their top five safeties from the start of the season and may very well be without defensive end/Buck Bryson Allen-Williams due to an ankle injury. Florida may well have success moving the ball but I don't think it'll be based on the style of the quarterback.

Q: Florida's secondary has been exposed the last two weeks by quarterbacks who have been able to get the ball out quickly and over the middle of the field. Does Jake Bentley have the arm and receivers to take advantage of the Gators here? 

A: Yes. The Gamecocks love to work the middle of the field on slants off the RPO and their three best offensive players are wide receivers Deebo Samuel, Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith. First-year offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon has stayed committed to taking shots down the field even when dropped passes and poor throws have hampered the offense, and I wouldn't expect him to stop against a vulnerable Florida secondary. Bentley is coming off his best game at South Carolina and is a player who operates a lot on emotion so that momentum should help him.

Q:  This is the last year Muschamp will be facing former players at Florida. It seems like forever ago though that he was here. From your perspective, how has he changed his coaching and his program building? 

A:  I don't think he's changed that much honestly. Obviously we all get better at our jobs the more we do them in gradual ways but I don't think it's as if he's had an epiphany and finally figured things out. I think he's always been a pretty good head coach and did some very good things with the infrastructure at Florida. He's doing the same thing at South Carolina in terms of turning it into a more modern and competitive program off the field, and he'll get more time to turn that into on-field success here than he did at Florida. If there is one thing that I wondered about it was, 'Would he stick with the up-tempo offense even if it struggled at times?' And he's done that.

Q: Who is one South Carolina player that Gators will be talking about after this game?

A: Receiver Shi Smith. Most folks knew about Samuel and Edwards coming into the game, but Smith is the fastest receiver and maybe the fastest player on the team. He's a tough matchup in the slot and I wouldn't be surprised if he makes a big play Saturday.

Q:  Hypothetically says Gamecocks win; what will have been the difference maker? 

A:  A defense that doesn't allow any big plays and makes Florida move the ball down the field slowly and the wide receiving corps catching passes, which has been an issue at times.

 

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