Time for the DEs to Step Up

January 8, 2009

Watch these highlights of Texas DE Brian Orakpo against Oklahoma:

The left tackle he’s often going against is Phil Loadholt, a 6-8, 337 lb man/mountain. Even with Orakpo’s freakish strength, going through Loadholt is not something that is going to happen consistently.

What you do see in that video is that you can go around him if you’ve got the speed to do it. Something that Kirk Herbstreit gets cut off from mentioning is that Loadholt doesn’t have the best lateral speed/quickness, an understandable condition for a guy his size.

Sam Bradford leaves games without once hitting the turf more often than not. If Florida is to get the pressure it craves, the ends are going to have to create it because clearly it’s possible.

Jermaine Cunningham, Justin Trattou, and Carlos Dunlap all need to have good games. The success of the defense as a whole could depend on getting some heat on Bradford, and they’re the guys who will need to do it.

(video via Dr. Saturday)


Gators on the All-SEC Team

December 9, 2008

Normally today is the day where I tell you which Gators made the all-SEC team for the week. Seeing as how the season is over, the all-SEC team for the whole season came out yesterday.

Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, and Phil Trautwein made the first team. Percy Harvin, Jermaine Cunningham, Carlos Dunlap, and Joe Haden made the second team. There is no third team, but Brandon James, Jonathan Phillips, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey, Jason Watkins, and Ahmad Black made honorable mention.

Tebow was named Offensive Player of the Year.

It’s somewhat puzzling to see Harvin on the second team behind LSU’s Brandon LaFell and Georgia’s A.J. Green, but I guess the selectors were looking for traditional receivers first. It’s great to see Black on there, considering he wasn’t even going to start until he was forced to by injury. All he did was tie for the second-most interceptions in the country with six.

All told, 13 Gators were recognized for excellence by the conference. Four of the five offensive linemen were recognized, all except Carl Johnson who did not play a full year at guard.

One name that will certainly be on this list next year (barring injury) is Janoris Jenkins. Man, is that guy good.

Two More Get All-SEC Honors

November 18, 2008

Percy Harvin has been named SEC Offensive Player of the Week, and Jermaine Cunningham has been named SEC Lineman of the Week. This is the second time that Cunningham has won that award, as he also got it for his work against Miami. This is the first time this season for Harvin, a week after Tim Tebow won it. If anyone thought it would take until Week 12 for both Tebow and Harvin to get this honor, then you’re probably a lot braver of a prognosticator than I am.

This is also the second time Florida has had two guys get named player of the week as Jeff Demps and Maurkice Pouncey were honored after the Arkansas game. It also extends the streak of having at least one player named all-SEC after every win.

LSU Game Preview

October 9, 2008

I did this in conjunction with the LSU Football Community Leader on Bleacher Report, Justin Goar, and you can read his side of this here.

Game Preview:

This game is far more critical for Florida at this juncture of the season than it is for LSU. The unexpected loss to Ole Miss has made it so another conference loss prevents the Gators from controlling their own destiny in the East. Granted, Vandy won’t run the table and a loss for the Commodores will give UF that control back even with a loss to LSU, but the margin for error becomes razor thin with a defeat on Saturday.

It could have some significance in the court of public opinion as well. Some people, including Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel, have begun beating the “Urban Meyer’s shine is wearing off” drum. A win here would definitely help boost his image, even though it shouldn’t need it after producing a national championship and a Heisman winner in his first three years.

LSU on the other hand, has very little to lose in my opinion. A loss only jeopardizes the Tigers’ national title chances, and given how seldom teams win two in a row, a repeat was always doubtful in my mind. A loss on the road at night with a freshman starting quarterback falls squarely in the “understandable” category, and even then running the table from here would keep LSU right in the race for the crystal football.

The one catch is that LSU hasn’t looked all that great so far. The blowouts over Appalachian State and North Texas were nice. However they needed a dramatic comeback to beat Auburn, something that sounds less appetizing every day now. The win over Mississippi State was not overly impressive either given that the Bulldogs scored 24 on them whereas they didn’t manage a single point against those same Auburn Tigers.

Florida will win if: the Gators play “Florida football.” I put that in quotes because I mean it how Meyer defines it: winning the field position battle, playing great on special teams, and beating the other guy on the lines. Outside of the Ole Miss game, Florida has done well with the first two. The third part has been more troublesome.

The offensive line has been hit hard by injuries at left guard, which has thrown off the play of senior left tackle Phil Trautwein too. It also had some shuffling going on before the season. Sophomore center Maurkice Pouncey was a guard last year, and his twin brother Mike, the starting right guard, was an emergency defensive lineman after practicing at center for most of the year. The defensive line has been better that last year, though it’s hard to be worse, but it has not been consistent with getting pressure.

It’s unlikely the offense will click back into “destroy” mode, as it had been in 2007, against LSU’s defense, so the special teams will have to have another great game. Brandon James will be the man of interest in that respect, and he will help with the field position battle too. Punter Chas Henry has been quietly outstanding as well, so the same thing applies. Kicker Jonathan Phillips has been perfect so far, but don’t expect him to be attempting anything beyond 40-43 yards.

Florida will lose if: they can’t stop the run. Charles Scott has been stellar this year, and an inability to stop the run played a huge part in LSU’s comeback win last season.

Florida’s defensive line has been improved as I mentioned, and relatively unknown guys to the national stage like Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders, and Justin Trattou will need to step up alongside the more known quantities, Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap.

They will also need help from the linebackers. Brandon Spikes has been fantastic, but Dustin Doe is out recovering from surgery for a double hernia. The Gators get backup Ryan Stamper, who was out hurt against Arkansas, a utility guy who is able to play all of the linebacker positions. He excels in run coverage, so that’s a good thing. The third ‘backer is A.J. Jones, who has yet to really distinguish himself but is making more plays this year.

Even after Jarrett Lee’s performance in the comeback over Auburn, I’d rather force LSU’s inexperienced quarterbacks, both of whom will see the field on Saturday, to win the game instead of Scott. Good memories of JaMarcus Russell turning the ball over and bad memories of Jacob Hester picking up fourth down conversions probably drive that as much as anything.

The X factor: Kestahn Moore.

He is widely seen as the goat of the 2007 game thanks to his fumble, but he rushed for more than five yards a carry and was very effective. Once he got benched, UF could no longer control the ball or the clock, opening the door for LSU’s win.

This season his role has been diminished thanks to the emergences of Emmanuel Moody, Chris Rainey, and Jeff Demps, and he missed the Arkansas game with a pulled hamstring. He will be healthy for this weekend though.

I don’t expect him to get many carries, despite his success last season, but he can play a big role anyway. He is Florida’s best blocker among the backs and receivers, and if given the chance he can be the guy to have Tebow’s back. Blitzes have caused problems for Florida thus far, but Moore can pick them up with enough regularity to buy time and avoid sacks.

This is a pure speculative pick; I can easily see Meyer not even putting him on the field but for five or six plays. What I am saying is that if he is used to get those extra rushers and provide backup when someone on LSU’s defensive line inevitably beats one of UF’s offensive linemen, Florida’s offense could have one of its best days.

Tebow needs time to throw, and Moore can provide him with that.

Prediction: Florida 23 – LSU 20

I am an incurable optimist when it comes to the Gators, so you can take that forecast with however much salt you want. However I saw the offense starting to form a real identity for the first time this season against Arkansas, and it was not solely a function of the Razorbacks having a questionable defense.

The absence of Bo Pelini, the inexperience under center, and environment in the Swamp at night are all negatives for the Tigers. I am by no means counting the Bayou Bengals out as you can see by the score prediction, but I think with Florida needing this one more than LSU does, the Gators will find a way to get it done.

Congrats to Cunningham

September 9, 2008

Congratulations to Jermaine Cunningham for earning SEC defensive player of the week honors. He had nine tackles (two for loss) and a sack against Miami.

I’ve been saying it since he had 17 (!) tackles against LSU last season: dude can play. Florida has a nice little pipeline of defensive ends going here, and he could make three in a row in the first round if he leaves early (but hopefully he doesn’t, of course).

That’s two weeks in a row with an honoree since Brandon James got special teams player of the week for his work against Hawai’i. The bye week will break the streak, but here’s to picking it back up again after Tennessee.