UF notebook: 2017 recruiting class contributes in opener

Florida linebacker Cristian Garcia (43) blocks as cornerback CJ Henderson (5) returns an interception for a touchdown Saturday against Michigan in the first half in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Florida Gators entered the season expecting their top-10 recruiting class to have an impact this season, and it was obvious Saturday that it will.

Of the 23-member class, 17 made the trip to Arlington and dressed out for Saturday’s game, with one — cornerback Marco Wilson — starting the game.

The Gators got a glimpse of their future early in the game, with four true freshmen (Wilson, cornerback C.J. Henderson, safety Shawn Davis and tackle Kyree Campbell) playing. All four played throughout the game.

Overall, the freshmen results were mixed in the secondary.

There were some mistakes, but also some promising play by Wilson, Henderson and Davis.

Davis got out of position and was beaten for a 46-yard touchdown pass from Wilton Speight to Tarik Black late in the first quarter.

But early in the second quarter, Henderson intercepted an overthrown pass and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown that gave UF a 17-10 lead.

Wilson was pretty consistent throughout, breaking up a pass in the end zone in the first half.

“I didn’t think they did bad,” McElwain said of the freshmen defensive backs. “And yet they (Michigan) took advantage on some big throws and they did what any normal coach would do. As soon as Nick (Washington) went out, they went after the new guy in the game (Davis) and that’s kind of what you do. And yet in saying that, those guys will learn a ton from this. The good thing is we’ve got some real guys back there.”

“I think a bunch of those young DB’s, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with. And this was a good football game for them. It was a physical one, it was one where they needed to be able to cover deep balls. They did a pretty decent job.”

Overall, it looks like this top-10 class is going to be a major contributor this fall.

The only true freshmen who did not make the trip are the four under suspension (offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort, linebacker James Houston, linebacker Ventrell Miller and wide receiver James Robinson) and the two who are injured (linebacker Nick Smith and tight end Kemore Gamble).

Tough day up front

It was an all-around bad day for the Florida offensive line, which is supposed to be a team strength but was a glaring weakness in the 33-17 loss to Michigan.

It was bad enough on the field, then tackle Martez Ivey had to answer questions about McElwain saying the line was physically whipped throughout the game.

Ivey said things are not as bad as they may seem right now on the line.

“We’re still confident, that’s for sure,” he said. “I know how well we’re going to be if we do our jobs and execute and do what we’re taught. It wasn’t anything they came up with that we couldn’t block. We just stick to the fundamentals and the basics. It wasn’t really there where people we couldn’t block, it was just the little things.

“Just doing simple blocks. Communication. That was a big key to the game. We’ve got to have that. Otherwise I wouldn’t say it was an issue. I wouldn’t say that.”

Ivey was asked about how physical Michigan was and if the Wolverines whooped their butts like McElwain said.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Next question.”

Rare miss for Pineiro

Place-kicker Eddy Pineiro’s first miss after 14 consecutive field goals made turned out to be a big one Saturday.

After Garrett Stephens blocked a punt early in the second quarter, the Gators had a 17-10 lead and all kinds of momentum — and the ball on the Michigan 37-yard line.

After the offense went three-and-out, Pineiro had a chance to give the Gators a 10-point lead. But his 47-yard field goal attempt faded wide left. The Wolverines then drove for a field goal to make it a 17-13 game at the half.

“Coming up empty after the blocked punt, I think that was a huge momentum swing for them,” McElwain said. “And that was an opportunity.”

Once the Gators lost that momentum, they never came close to recapturing it.

The Wolverines outscored the Gators 20-0 in a dominant second half.

Traveling Tebow

Tim Tebow has always been known to go the extra mile if necessary to get the job done. And that’s what he did for the SEC Network.

After playing in a 12-inning Florida State League game in Port St. Lucie on Friday night, Tebow hopped on a private jet provided by the network and was in Dallas in time to appear at his other job, as an analyst on SEC Nation.

After the show, Tebow was back in the air, flying back to Florida, where he played in a game for the Port St. Lucie Mets in West Palm Beach on Saturday night. Tebow and the Mets play their final game of the season today, so making it to SEC Nation for the rest of the season should be a little easier for Tebow.



    • But Mac’s quotes are “cool.”
      “I thought we had a good plan,” coach Jim McElwain said, “but as it turned out, the plan was pretty well foiled by getting whooped by big, strong guys…”
      I cringe EVERY time that guy opens his mouth.
      What a weirdo.
      He’s GOTTA GO!!!

    • Ivey says what the coaching want him to say. Period. How he views Nussmeier’s play calling personally might be completely different. But we will never know how he truly feels about this offense and the play calling.

  1. “Otherwise I wouldn’t say it was an issue. I wouldn’t say that.” – Ivey.

    Are you freaking kidding me? This is denial in pure form and it shows had badly the O-line really is. If they don’t take this seriously and use this as motivation to improve themselves, then this is going to be a long, bad season. What a dang shame. This from the leader of the Line. SMH…

  2. Onecoguy. Those third and long plays were not Shannon’s fault. The calls were fine. The execution by the players were not. The defensive end went too far up field on his pass rush. The LBs did not cover the edge, and the defensive backs missed on tackles. Shannon cannot go down there and execute plays for them. Shannon is an excellent defensive mind. I wish we had a similar mind calling offensive plays.