After a sloppy start in the week zero matchup against Miami, the Gators began taking steps to polish the rough edges during their bye week. They will continue their efforts on Saturday night as they take on the UT-Martin Skyhawks. Florida enters their home opener as a 41-point favorite.
The Skyhawks will present a unique look for the Gators offense, as they operate out of a 3-3-5 base package on defense. I expect a large portion of the offensive workload to be lumped on the running backs and the offensive line. This is a perfect opportunity for the Gators youthful line to build some cohesive depth.
As a whole, the unit performed fairly well against a very good Miami front seven, but they must continue to improve in the running game. Florida managed only 57 yards rushing in week zero, a number that will have to get much better for Florida to achieve its season goals.
The positions that I will pay close attention to on the Gators offense are the tight ends, the running backs (behind Perine), and the offensive line. Of the three units, it is surprising that the line had the best performance in their debut. The tight ends were consistently out of position and whiffed on several big blocks.
Perine was efficient in his performance, but behind him, I expected a lot more. To be fair, some of the struggles were caused by poor run blocking by the tight ends and the line, but the overall play of the backs was underwhelming.
On defense, I am really just looking for tackling to improve, and maybe clean up some of those pass interference penalties. The defensive front should continue to disrupt and dominate, hopefully creating a few turnovers along the way.
Against an outmatched opponent such as UT-Martin, Dan Mullen should be able to provide meaningful reps for a lot of the younger players, while also fine-tuning the play of the veterans. I don’t expect any surprises on Saturday. Florida should have this one well in hand by the halftime break.
The Gators host the Skyhawks at the Swamp at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. on ESPNU.