Fact or Fiction: Gators sack attack on the loose

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Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter (17) sacks Florida State quarterback James Blackman in the first half of the Nov. 30, 2019 game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

There are truths and untruths in the world of sports. And there are also opinions that are worth discussing. You may agree or disagree. Just do it with decorum. So continues this occasional feature as Pat Dooley and Robbie Andreu of the Gainesville Sun embrace the debate:

Item No. 1

Florida has more sacks returning than any other team in the SEC. The Gators will finish the season No. 1 in the conference in sacks.

Andreu: Even though 2019 sack leader Jon Greenard and defensive end Jabari Zuniga have moved on to the NFL, the Gators will continue to bring all kinds of heat and produce all kinds of sacks in Todd Grantham’s aggressive, blitzing defense. This is a defense that’s based on speed, and using that speed in a variety of creative ways to disrupt opposing offenses. Whoever ends up being the starter at that buck end position — probably either Brenton Cox or Jeremiah Moon — is going to pile up sacks, because that’s what the position produces in Grantham’s scheme. And it’s not the only position that does. Ends, tackles, linebacker and defensive backs are all involved in blitz packages. FACT.

Dooley: The way Todd Grantham coaches defense, it’s difficult to imagine the Gators will not lead the conference, even with the loss of Jon Greenard. Grantham loves to bring blitzes from all over the place which is part of the reason the Gators had 49 sacks a year ago, good for fifth nationally. The second best SEC team was LSU with 37. And a part of the equation of getting a lot of sacks is having a lot of leads that force the opposition to throw more. Considering Florida’s schedule, that shouldn’t be a problem. FACT.

Item No. 2

The SEC will have a quarterback among the top 10 vote getters for the Heisman Trophy.

Andreu: Kyle Trask is the best and most experienced SEC quarterback returning this season, and if he has the kind of bump that’s anticipated in his second season as the starter, he’s going to get enough votes to make the top 10. There’s certainly potential for other SEC QBs to get on that list as well. The Georgia Bulldogs are excited about Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman, who many are projecting to be the all-conference QB in 2020. Mac Jones will be surrounded by elite talent at Alabama. And Stanford graduate transfer KJ Costello could put up astronomical numbers playing the position for Mike Leach at Mississippi State. FACT.

Dooley: In the first place, quarterbacks in the SEC get a lot of attention. But we also know that the Heisman is a popularity contest and that you have to win at a certain level to be considered worthy. We could see a Florida-Georgia game that impacts the race or an LSU-Alabama game where the winning quarterback is considered a frontrunner. I’m not sure how good quarterback play will be in this conference, but there are enough good ones playing for enough good teams to — at the very least — get someone into the Top 10. FACT.

Item No. 3

Evan McPherson has made eight straight field goals coming into this season. He has made 34 of 38 in his career. This year he will break Bobby Raymond’s record of 17 straight made field goals. 

Andreu: He’s officially made 34 of 38 field goal attempts, but most will tell you that one of those four misses was a make in that loss to Kentucky two years ago. But, either way, McPherson’s accuracy has been pretty amazing. Breaking that record is going to be tough, and it’s not all on the kicker. To break a record like that, it takes perfection from everyone — kicker, snapper, holder, protection from the big guys up front. McPherson is going to make a run at Raymond, but. … FICTION.

Dooley: McPherson could easily finish his career as the best kicker in Florida history. He only has four misses in his two years at UF and one of them was questionable. Raymond was one of the most accurate kickers in UF history (trailing only Eddy Pineiro in career percentage) but also had the benefit of wider goal posts and a kicking tee. McPherson doesn’t have far to go to beat the record, but you never know if his first kick of the season is going to be a 54-yarder. Naw, Dan Mullen will go for it. FACT.