Kneauxing the Enemy
Record: 6-0, 3-0 in SEC
Florida comes to Tiger Town with a nine game winning streak. The Gators are undefeated for two reasons, a strong defense, and an offense which does not make many mistakes.
The defense had injuries to key players through the first five games, but they were nearly full strength last week against Auburn .
The Gator defensive line, unsurprisingly, spends a lot of time in their opposing teams' backfields. After six games, the Florida defense has 26 sacks. This is tied for third in the nation. They are ahead of their 2018 pace, when they needed 11 games to garner 25 sacks.
The sack leader is graduate student, and Louisville transfer, Jonathan Greenard, who has four. Greenard is a very fast player who is a defensive end. He plays the buck position, where he lines up as a defensive end. He can play on either side of the line, and is a dangerous speed rusher. Senior Jabari Zuniga has three sacks for the season. Zuniga did not play against Auburn, but will play Saturday. Tiger fans may remember Zuniga from last year. He spent a lot of time in the LSU backfield. Zuniga is a long armed, versatile player who can play any position on the defensive line.
Florida has at least five players, including Greenard and Zuniga, with at least two sacks. Backup junior defensive end Jeremiah Moon and sophomore linebacker Ventrell Miller have two sacks each for the season.
The Gators have 50 tackles for losses (tfls), tied for fourth in the country. Greenard is second in the SEC with 6.5 tfls.
Senior David Reese starts at one linebacker position. Last year Reese had 11 tackles, one solo, against the Purple and Gold. Miller is the other starting linebacker.
Florida plays man-to-man pass defense. Their cornerbacks, junior C.J. Henderson and sophomore Marco Wilson, were healthy for the first time in awhile, against Auburn last week. They will be the two primary defenders tasked with trying to slow the Tiger passing game.
The Florida offense has been solid if not spectacular. In game four, against Kentucky, the Gators lost starting quarterback Feleipe Franks to a season ending leg injury. They have kept winning. Kyle Trask, a junior, entered the Kentucky game, and helped the Gators to an important road win. In four games as the starting quarterback, Trask is 66 of 92 passing, a 71 percent completion ratio. His completion percentage ranks him ninth in the country. He has been intercepted twice, and thrown six touchdowns since the Kentucky contest.
Trask has been sacked nine times since the Kentucky game, including four times last week against Auburn. Trask is not mobile, but he is very good at getting the football in the hands of playmakers.
Emory Jones, a redshirt freshman, is the backup quarterback, and is more mobile than Trask.
One playmaker is senior Freddie Swain, who has 301 yards in receptions in five games. Swain averages 21.5 yards per catch, on 14 receptions, with three touchdown grabs this year. Ten of his catches have been since Trask took over at quarterback. Senior Van Jefferson has 25 receptions and three touchdown catches for the season, averaging 13.6 yards per grab. He has 258 yards in catches. Sophomore tight end Kyle Pitts has 25 receptions and three touchdowns for the Gators. Pitts has 254 yards in catches. Junior Trevon Grimes and senior Josh Hammond are also very capable receivers.
The Gator rushing attack is led by senior Lamical Perine with 327 rushing yards for the season. Perine averages 4.7 yards per carry with four touchdowns. Perine is a grinding running back who does not tackle easily.
The Gator offensive line returned only one starter this season, senior center Nick Buchanan. They have been solid but not spectacular.
Florida did not have a sustained drive, last week, against Auburn for the entire game. Two of their touchdowns were on big plays, a 64-yard touchdown reception by Swain, and an 88-yard scoring run by Perine.
The Tigers have to keep the Gator defensive line off of Burrow to win this game. That is no secret. The offensive line, and Burrow, should be ready for blitzes and stunts. The Florida secondary has good athletes, but they are susceptible to big plays. The Florida defense will be the best defense the Tigers have faced, so far, this season.