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Grading the Gators after UF 34, Miami (Ohio) 12

GAINESVILLE -- Before we hand out grades from Florida 34, Miami (Ohio) 12, here's a link to my game story in Sunday's paper LINK! and here's a link to my story in Monday's paper. LINK! My post-game video report is attached to the first link, so watch that and leave a comment here on the blog if you want to give me some pointers or advice for the camera. I'll be doing post-game video reports after every game this season, so give me some feedback and maybe we'll change up the format next week.

OK, onto the grades ...

Florida's offense was painful to watch at times on Saturday and the offensive line played a big role in the misery. Starting left guard Carl Johnson was suspended for disciplinary reasons. James Wilson was moved from right guard to left guard but he went down with a knee injury. Center Mike Pouncey had trouble snapping the ball. Maurice Hurt looked shaky at right tackle at times. A bright spot, sophomore Jon Halapio made his first start at right guard and opened a huge hole for running back Jeff Demps on his touchdown run. It's worth noting that Pouncey showed great maturity after the game in answering questions from reporters about his mistakes. It was a pro move from a future pro.

-Upon further review (I taped the game and went through it on Sunday), I counted 14 shotgun snaps from Pouncey that were off target. For all you ledge jumpers out there who think UF should fire Steve Addazio or whatever (I've gotten at least a dozen emails), consider how difficult it must have been for John Brantley to focus on the offense when he had to direct his attention to something so trivial as a snap from his center. Florida's offensive line was supposed to be its strength this year and it still might be, but in the season opener a poor offensive line limited the offense.

-I, for one, don't believe all the nonsense being made about how UF coach Urban Meyer knew his offense was going to struggle in the season opener. I realize Meyer said this on Saturday, but again I don't believe it. If you're Meyer, you don't think your offense is going to struggle against a Miami of Ohio team that won only one game in 2009. Meyer said repeatedly over the offseason that it was his opinion that several great recruiting classes would allow UF to transition smoothly into life without Tim Tebow. Meyer specifically said that UF's 2010 team would be better than UF's 2007 team. In 2007, Florida won its season opener 49-3 and had 510 yards of total offense. Tebow threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns.

-If Meyer knew his center was going to ruin the offense with bad snaps for most of the game, then Meyer would not have allowed that player to play the position. Remember, Meyer said last week that he nixed the idea of Pouncey moving to right tackle (and Sam Robey playing center) because he didn't want the offense to resemble the Bad News Bears. 

-Meyer said on Saturday that he expected Xavier Nixon to return to action this week but the timetable for Nixon's return for a game might be longer, based on the average time players need to heal following arthroscopic knee surgeries (about three weeks). Nixon might not be available until the Gators' trip to Tennessee. If I had to speculate on a Sunday night, I'd say this is going to be the Gators' starting offensive line against South Florida: left tackle Marcus Gilbert, left guard Carl Johnson, center Mike Pouncey, right guard Jon Halapio, right tackle Maurice Hurt.

-If I had to wager a guess, I'm betting this will be the starting offensive line against Tennessee: left tackle Xavier Nixon, left guard Carl Johnson, center Mike Pouncey, right guard Maurice Hurt, right tackle Marcus Gilbert.

-James Wilson might not be available against South Florida. Wilson injured his knee during the fourth quarter against Miami (Ohio).

Less than a week after it was announced that Earl Okine would be moving back to defensive line and no longer contributing at tight end, Okine was back at tight end during the Gators' season opener. Why? Meyer said it was for the Gators' goal-line offense but Okine was in the game when the Gators weren't on the goal line. That means either one of two things: 1. Okine had to play tight end because UF doesn't trust its hybrid players to block effectively; 2. UF was playing its goal-line offense (John Brantley under center) during the second half because center Mike Pouncey was having trouble executing his shotgun snaps.

It's my opinion that tight end is currently the biggest problem for UF's offense. On Saturday, UF used several players at tight end, H-back or fullback, including Okine, Trey Burton, Omarius Hines and T.J. Pridemore. What does that mean? It means UF's offense can do a lot things, but, for now, UF's offense can't do a lot of things well.

"You saw what I did," Meyer replied to me when I asked him about the importance of the tight-end position.

UF should get Jordan Reed (bruised knee) back this week to play tight end, but Reed is a redshirt freshman and former high school quarterback. He might take some time to get used to the position. Burton is a true freshman who is splitting time as the Gators' Wildcat quarterback. Hines is a converted receiver. Pridemore might turn into an important player if UF begins putting John Brantley under center more often.

The position grades out a C+ because there were some positives on Saturday. Hines had a touchdown reception and Burton rushed for a score as the Wildcat quarterback.

UF's receivers looked a little nervous on Saturday. Chris Rainey fumbled in the first quarter, Deonte Thompson missed an opportunity for a touchdown reception and Carl Moore dropped a pass. I'm not labeling Thompson's pass a drop because it appeared to be good coverage on the play. Most people are calling the play a drop but the camera angle on the replay makes it appear like the defensive back might have held Thompson's arm. Either way, you'd think a receiver from UF could get a little separation on a Miami (Ohio) cornerback.

Rainey, the converted running back, led UF's receivers with six receptions. Demps, a running back, had four receptions. Hines had three receptions, Thompson had three and Burton had one. So, if you're counting, only one traditional receiver caught a pass on Saturday for UF. Not good.

-Expect Frankie Hammond Jr. to see the field against South Florida.

-Andre Debose didn't play on Saturday. Meyer said Debose wasn't suspended; rather, Meyer said Debose was too young and not ready to play. Here's what I think, if Debose wasn't suspended then he was on DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION. Expect Debose to be involved against South Florida.

-Quinton Dunbar might be an option against South Florida with a good week of practice.

Two big plays provided most of UF's rushing yards. Jeff Demps led UF with 98 yards rushing but most of that came on his 72-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Mike Gillislee had six carries for 55 yards but most his production came in the fourth quarter on a 41-yard run. Emmanuel Moody had five carries for five yards.

The position grade takes a big hit because of all the fumbles. Who didn't fumble? Interested to hear what new running backs coach Stan Drayton has to say about this.

-UF's running game must improve. There is no other option. Tim Tebow is gone and Trey Burton can't run the ball 15 times a game out of the single wing. John Brantley has the ability to run the ball but that would be a bad idea. What if he got hurt? Could you image UF's offense right now without Brantley?

John Brantley completed 17 of 25 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns in his 2010 debut. Those are pretty good numbers but I've got to imagine Brantley isn't happy with them. His longest completion was for 25 yards. Only 25 yards? Against Miami (Ohio)? It was frustrating to watch for me and I'm an objective observer. I can't imagine what it was like for fans. Watching Brantley complete those little dump passes to Rainey, Demps and Burton was like watching a professional pianist bang out "Chopsticks" during a concert.

Brantley explained after the game that UF's offense was attempting to get the ball into the hands of its speedy playmakers. Last time I checked, thrown footballs travel faster than any player. If Florida doesn't trust its receivers enough to stretch the field vertically, then this offense is going to become predictable very quickly.

Brantley had a 10-yard touchdown pass to Omarius Hines in second quarter. His 25-yard touchdown pass to Rainey was a desperation throw on a four-and-21 scramble near the end of the game. Brantley just threw it up for grabs and Rainey got lucky and caught the ball off a deflection.

Brantley said last week that he was going to be nervous for the season opener. It probably didn't help his nerves that his center couldn't get him ball. He had a few bad passes but, to his credit, didn't throw any interceptions.

As you would expect, the Gators' defensive line dominated Miami (Ohio). The Redhawks had four yards rushing. Defensive tackle Jaye Howard was impressive. He had two sacks for minus-12 yards and five tackles. Defensive tackles Omar Hunter and Sharrif Floyd also stood out. Defensive end Justin Trattou was his usual steady self. He had three tackles. Linemen Ronald Powell, Duke Lemmens, Dominique Easley, Earl Okine, Lawrence Marsh and Brandon Antwine each had one tackle.

Jon Bostic played well in the middle in his debut. He looked excellent at times, including when he deflected a pass for an interception. Congratulations goes out to senior Lorenzo Edwards, who had four tackles on Saturday. It took four years for Edwards to earn playing time but he did well when finally given a chance. Jelani Jenkins had three tackles and started at weak-side linebacker. Brandon Hicks (limited with a hand injury) had one tackle. Strong-side linebacker A.J. Jones had three tackles, including a tackle for a loss of six yards.

Janoris Jenkins had a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown. He also had five tackles and three pass break-ups. Playing on a sprained ankle, Jeremy Brown had an interception in the second half. Brown entered the game when Moses Jenkins went down with an arm injury. True freshman Matt Elam had four tackles, including a tackle for a loss, as the Gators' nickel back. Elam showed plenty of promise.

Ahmad Black led the Gators with 12 tackles. He also had 1.5 tackles for loss for minus-4 yards. His interception and 40-yard return in the second quarter led to an easy touchdown for the Gators' offense. Redshirt freshman Josh Evans played tentatively at free safety in his debut. Evans received the start due to Will Hill's suspension. Evans had two tackles and watched Black make most of the plays.

Usually a strength for Gators, special teams was simply average on Saturday. Gillislee had the day's highlight with a 65-yard kickoff return. Demps totaled 56 yards on two kickoff returns. Rainey returned a punt for 15 yards. Kicker Caleb Sturgis missed a 44-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter. He later failed on a point-after attempt. UF punter Chas Henry had one punt for 27 yards, but he was kicking from the back of his own end zone. No blocks for the Gators' punt team. I expected at least one against Miami (Ohio).

The defense saved Florida on Saturday but you have to consider the opponent when making the grades. Miami (Ohio) is not Miami (Coral Gables). For three quarters on Saturday, it appeared the offense for the Gainesville High School football team was playing inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. That's harsh criticism but how else to describe less than 30 yards of total offense through three quarters.



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