Today's storylines: UF vs. Toledo
Published: Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 11:50 a.m.
The return of RoPo
For the veteran players, running out of the tunnel is still a cool experience, but it's nothing like the first time. For one older player today, junior outside linebacker Ronald Powell, it's going to feel like the first time again. Powell is making his return to The Swamp after missing last season following two ACL surgeries. His comeback story has inspired many of his teammates. Now, it's time for Powell to run out of the tunnel and play for the Gators again. “I'm kinda just excited right now. You know I walk in here on Monday and it's like it's close, it's here. It's like my dream is about to come true again. To run out there again. So I'm just kind of excited and ready for what God's got in store for me,” Powell said.
Driskel in the comfort zone
At this time a year ago, Jeff Driskel wasn't even the starter at quarterback yet for the Gators. He was still competing with Jacoby Brissett, and still in the early stages of his development in a new offense. Now, Driskel has no competition at his position and he's going into his second year in Brent Pease's offense. As a result, he's found a comfort zone he never really experienced last season. He's more comfortable leading, more comfortable reading defenses and getting the offensive front in the right protections, more comfortable going through his progressions and finding his second and third receivers. The coaches (and Driskel) are expecting him to be a much more poised and proficient quarterback in his second year as the starter.
Defending the rapid Rockets
Florida's defense, which is replacing its strong middle from a year ago — tackle Sharrif Floyd, middle linebacker Jon Bostic and safety Matt Elam — is going to get a potential breathtaking test from the Toledo offense today. Not only do the Rockets have experience at quarterback and the skill positions, but they run the kind of up-tempo, fast-break offense that is growing in popularity in college football. Florida's summer conditioning will receive a big-time test on what promises to be a hot, muggy day in The Swamp. The Rockets don't just go fast, they go behind quarterback Terrance Owens (2,707 yards passing in 2012) and tailback David Fluellen (1,498 yards rushing last season).
Freshmen of influence
Florida's freshman class is lining up to make a significant contribution this season. There are six true freshmen on the depth chart for today's game — wide receivers Demarcus Robinson, Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson, linebacker Daniel McMillian, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and safety Keanu Neal. All six freshmen are expected to see playing time today (and for the rest of the season). There are others that are not on the depth chart who very well could see the field today, including tailbacks Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane, defensive linemen Caleb Brantley and Jay-nard Bostwick, linebacker Alex Anzalone and linebacker Jarrad Davis.
Return of the Gators
Andre Debose was one of the SEC's top kickoff returners coming back for 2013, but after tearing his ACL in the preseason, the Gators find themselves in need of a proven returner. Today, with Loucheiz Purifoy suspended, it could be Solomon Patton or Valdez Showers. Florida will need to find a consistent threat among them, or perhaps go further down the depth chart.
If the Gators want to get their passing game going, they might have found the perfect opponent in the Rockets. Toledo returns only four starters from a unit that ranked 109th in total defense and 116th in passing defense last season. Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease faced Toledo two years ago while with Boise State and his offense was able to rack up 500 total yards in a 57-14 rout.
What can Brown do for UF?
With Matt Jones sidelined, redshirt junior Mack Brown makes his first start at running back for the Gators. With the Gators still looking to run the ball and grind down opponents' defenses, Brown should definitely be in for a career day. His best effort as a Gator so far was a 31-yard day against Kentucky last season. He rushed for 102 total yards in 2012, and could surpass that today.
With both of Florida's starting safeties from a year ago (Josh Evans and Matt Elam) in the NFL, Marcus Maye and Cody Riggs will open this season as starters today. Toledo may want to test the Gators deep early to see if the position is a strength or a weakness. Riggs and Maye will definitely want to keep track of Rockets receiver Bernard Reedy, who had 1,113 receiving yards last year.
Today's game questions
1.The Gators won the fourth quarter last season, but were notoriously slow starters. Will UF get off to a quick start today or will it be more of the same?
2.There has been an emphasis on trying to make more big plays in the passing game. Will we see some today?
3.The UF defense is anticipating having a stronger pass rush with Ronald Powell and Dante Fowler Jr. coming off the edges. Will the Gators get to the quarterback today?
4. What will the Florida running game look like minus No. 1 tailback Matt Jones and two starters on the offensive line (Jon Halapio and Chaz Green)?
5. On what should be a hot, muggy day in The Swamp, who wins the fourth quarter?
Click back to Gatorsports.com for Andreu's Answers