TIGER OPPONENT PREVIEW: FLORIDA GATORS
On Saturday (3:00 P.M., SECN), the Missouri Tigers (2-3, 0-2) travel to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators (4-1, 2-1).
Missouri's had a week off following their embarrassing 42-7 defeat at LSU, while thanks to Hurricane Matthew, Florida was able to dodge LSU. At this current juncture, that Florida-LSU game has not been rescheduled.
In conference, Florida has lost at Tennessee, and beaten Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Under first-year Head Coach Jim McElwain, the Gators are better on offense than they were the last couple of years, and they’re still nails defensively.
On Monday, McElwain said that 6’1” 211-pound red-shirt sophomore Luke Del Rio will return from injury to start at quarterback against Missouri. In three games season, Del Rio is 62-101-2 (61%) for 762 yards and 6 TDs. He’s been very efficient as a passer (140.40), which is a contributing factor in Florida’s league-leading turnover margin (+5).
During Del Rio’s absence, 6’4” 240-pound red-shirt senior Austin Appleby performed very well at QB. He too, has completed 61% of his pass attempts. There doesn’t appear to be a huge difference in the effectiveness of the two QBs, but clearly the Florida staff would like to have Del Rio at the offensive controls.
Florida’s leading receiver is 6’4” 244-pound junior tight end DeAndre Goolsby, with 22 receptions for 175 yards and 1 TD. He’s joined by 5’11” 197-pound sophomore WR Antonio Callaway (20 receptions, 371 yards, 2 TDs) and 5’9” 184-pound junior WR Brandon Powell (19 receptions, 168 yards, 2 TDs).
Missouri Head Coach Barry Odom said of Callaway and Powell, that they “keep you up at night”. Both are dynamic with the ball in their hands, elusive, and extremely fast.
Goolsby was just named to the John Mackey Award Midseason Watch List.
Florida’s offense is not really prolific, but it’s much-improved from recent years. They have a number of skill position players with big-play ability, but their offense is fairly conservative. Offensively, the Gators are close to the middle of the pack nationally and with respect to the conference. In the SEC, Florida is 8th in scoring offense (28.4 points/game) and 9th in total offense (407.2 yards/game).
The Florida offense is balanced between run and pass, with just the slightest emphasis on the run. Despite that emphasis, the Gators are a little more efficient passing than they are running the football.
Florida utilizes a trio of quality running backs in 6’2” 237-pound red-shirt junior Mark Thompson (47 carries, 197 yards, 2 TDs), 5’10” 213-pound sophomore Jordan Scarlett (55 carries, 274 yards, 4 TDs), and 5’11” 221-pound freshman Lamical Perine (37 carries, 194 yards, 1 TD). All three can go the distance at any time.
Defensively, Florida is as elite as you can get! Even with the absence due to injury of a couple of their top defensive linemen, the Gators are still loaded with talent and athleticism up front. They’re not the biggest defensive front, but they are very athletic, and they average 3.8 sacks/game. The Gators also have a terrific secondary, which combined with their pass rush creates an elite pass defense, a pass defense which is ranked 4th nationally and is #1 in the SEC. They’re also tops in the SEC in total defense (230.4 yards/game, #2 nationally) and in scoring defense (11.6 points/game, #3 nationally).
At 6’1” and 261 pounds, sophomore Cece Jefferson is listed as the starter at right end, but also as a back-up at both defensive tackle positions. The Gators feel good about moving Jefferson inside because 6’3” 245-pound red-shirt freshman Jabari Zuniga leads the Gators, and is tied with Tennessee’s Derek Barnett for 4th in the SEC, with 5 sacks on the season.
Florida leads the league with 8 interceptions, and also has 18 pass-break-ups on the season. Starting corners Jalen (Teez) Tabor (3) and Quincy Wilson (2) have 5 of those 8 interceptions. The Gators lead the nation in completion-percentage defense. Opposing QBs have completed just 39% against Florida.
Tabor, whom Coach Odom described as a guy who “shuts down one side of the field”, is considered to be an NFL first-round pick.