Florida Gators: Jordan Rodgers

SEC lunchtime links

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
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Hope everyone is staying safe and warm out in SEC country with all the strong winter storms affecting the region. Stay inside and read up on the interesting nuggets from around the league, of which there are plenty today:
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 6 Florida plays host to Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday. It’s the first of three non-conference games for the Gators, who finish the regular season against rival Florida State in Tallahassee. Florida has won the four previous meetings with the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Here are five storylines for the game:

1. Gators won’t be grounded: Florida has got to find ways to make some plays down the field in the pass game before the Nov. 24 FSU game. The Gators are going to work on that against the Ragin’ Cajuns. That means better pass protection from the offensive line and the backs and tight ends who have to pick up rushers, as well as better work from the receivers. It might be time to get Raphael Andrades and Latroy Pittman more involved as pass catchers, because Quinton Dunbar and Frankie Hammond have not been consistent enough, although they have come through with several big plays.

Five storylines: Florida vs. Missouri 

November, 1, 2012
11/01/12
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 7 Florida plays host to Missouri on Saturday in the Gators’ final SEC game. The Gators (7-2, 6-1 SEC) are still alive in the Eastern Division race, but they have to beat the Tigers and have Georgia lose to either Ole Miss or Auburn.

Here's five storylines for the game:

1. Mental rebound: The Gators played their worst game of the season last weekend against Georgia. How do they respond? Does the loss, which kept the Gators from controlling their own destiny in the division race, linger and cause more problems this week? Are there any lingering conflicts between the defense, which held Georgia to 17 points, and the offense, which turned the ball over six times? It should be clear pretty early if the Gators have rebounded.

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UF can't overlook Shaw's legs

October, 17, 2012
10/17/12
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn doesn’t want his defense doing what Vanderbilt’s defense did last week: concentrate so much on stopping UF RB Mike Gillislee that QB Jeff Driskel was able to run wild.

[+] EnlargeConnor Shaw
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireSouth Carolina QB Connor Shaw has the ability to break down defenses with his arm and his legs.
If the Gators get so caught up in stopping South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore on Saturday at Florida Field, it’ll mean a big game on the ground for Gamecocks QB Connor Shaw.

"Not only do they have a mobile QB, they also have a quarterback-running game package, where there are some direct quarterback runs and those kinds of things," Quinn said Wednesday. "You have to do a really good job of setting the edges because sometimes when you face a guy who has the speed to get outside he’ll break contain, and then try to create a play that way. That dual-threat certainly is something we have to work hard on in practice."

Shaw was one of several mobile quarterbacks who hurt the Gators last season, rushing for 88 yards and two TDs in the Gamecocks’ 17-12 victory. He has rushed for 280 yards and one touchdown this season, including 78 yards on 14 carries in the Gamecocks’ rout of Georgia.

"He’s an athlete," DT Omar Hunter said. "He’s hard-nosed, tough. He can take some shots. He can kill you with his legs."

However, the Gators have already proven they’re better at dealing with mobile quarterbacks this season. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown on nine carries and scrambled out of trouble numerous times in the first half of the matchup on Sept. 8. UF limited him to 19 yards on eight carries in the second half.

Vanderbilt QB Jordan Rodgers scrambled for 20 yards and a touchdown and kept several other plays alive that ended with completions in the Gators’ victory in Gainesville last season. UF held him to minus-27 yards on 11 carries last Saturday.

Scouting report: South Carolina

October, 15, 2012
10/15/12
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 3 Florida, which sits atop the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division, plays host to No. 9 South Carolina on Saturday at Florida Field. Here’s a look at the Gamecocks:

SOUTH CAROLINA

Record: 6-1 (4-1 SEC).

Coach: Steve Spurrier, eighth season (61-36); 23rd season overall (203-76-2).

Series record: Florida leads 23-6-3.

Top players: QB Connor Shaw (75-108-4, 910 yards, 9 TDs; 280 yards, 1 TDs rushing); RB Marcus Lattimore (584 yards, 10 TDs); DE Jadeveon Clowney (31 tackles, 6.5 sacks); LB Shaq Wilson (44 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 2 INTs).

Scouting the offense: Lattimore shows no sign of any lingering effects of the torn ACL he suffered in the seventh game of the 2011 season. He’s averaging 83.4 yards per game rushing. Shaw struggled in last week’s loss to LSU, but the junior has been solid this season. He’s not a great passer, but he’s getting the job done thanks to a couple of good receivers in Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders, both of whom have 17 catches. Lattimore is also a big factor in the passing game (team-high 22 catches). The Gamecocks are playing similar offensive football to Florida. They want to be physical and run the ball and make just enough plays in the passing game to keep teams from selling out to stop the run.

Scouting the defense: The defense ranked third nationally in total defense last season but lost defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson to Southern Mississippi. New coordinator Lorenzo Ward has picked up right where Johnson left off, though. The Gamecocks are giving up just 12.3 points per game (second in the SEC) and allowing teams only 296.3 yards per game (third in the SEC). South Carolina leads the SEC in sacks (26), with Clowney leading the way. He’s a force on either end of the line and the Gamecocks like to move him around. The Gamecocks have only given up three touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns, numbers which are bested only by Alabama in the SEC.

Three keys to watch:

Shaw was yet another mobile quarterback who hurt the Gators last season, rushing for 88 yards and two TDs in the Gamecocks’ 17-12 victory. UF has been much better against mobile QBs this season, though. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel hurt the Gators in the first half, but UF bottled him up in the second half and have been much more disciplined since then. Vandy QB Jordan Rodgers hurt the Gators with his feet last season but was no factor on Saturday. UF needs to contain Shaw and force him to throw because that’s a matchup the Gators should win. Even with the emergence of Sanders and Ellington, the Gators have the advantage because of how well the secondary has been playing.

LSU limited Lattimore to 35 yards and one touchdown, and the Gators need to mimic the Tigers’ approach: Gang tackle, don’t give up double-digit yardage runs, and make him work for every yard he gets. That means the defensive line is going to have to play better than it did against Vanderbilt. The Commodores pushed the Gators around a bit and ended up rushing for 126 yards.

UF’s offensive tackles (Chaz Green and Xavier Nixon/D.J. Humphries) are going to have to play as well as they did against LSU to keep Clowney from setting up camp in the backfield. LSU’s embattled offensive line did a good job against the Gamecocks and Clowney. They had just one sack and it wasn’t from Clowney. With Nixon’s status up in the air because of an upper body injury, expect the Gamecocks to pick on Humphries and line up Clowney against the true freshman as much as possible.

 

Florida 10: Week 6 rankings 

October, 15, 2012
10/15/12
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Which Florida players are making the biggest contributions on the field?

GatorNation will tell you every week. It’s not just a list of MVP candidates, but a compilation of the players who are making the biggest difference each week.

Here’s this week’s top 10 (last week’s rankings in parentheses):

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3 Up, 3 Down: Florida 31, Vanderbilt 17 

October, 14, 2012
10/14/12
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For the second consecutive week, Florida didn't throw the football very well. But -- again for the second consecutive week -- the Gators didn't really need to because the running game carried the offense. Here are the good and bad from the Gators' victory at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday night.

THREE UP

1. Next man up

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No. 4 Florida (5-0, 4-0 SEC) at Vanderbilt (2-3, 1-2 SEC)
Saturday, 6 p.m. ET
Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
ESPNU

Three storylines

1. Maintain and even keel: This game is sandwiched between LSU and No. 3 South Carolina, so Florida has to be careful to maintain the same emotional level it has had for the past few weeks. The Gators can’t get caught looking ahead to the South Carolina game. Good teams win these kinds of games with little fuss.

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesAfter facing LSU last week, Florida QB Jeff Driskel will have a chance to get back on track against Vanderbilt.
2. Get Jeff Driskel back into a groove: The passing game struggled against LSU and Driskel had his worst game of the season. He had made steady progression since he started his first game against Texas A&M but hadn’t faced a defense as good as the Tigers. He reverted back to holding onto the ball too long and pressed a bit. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease needs to get Driskel going again by calling some short, quick timing passes to get him back into a rhythm.

3. Contain QB Jordan Rodgers: Rodgers hurt the Gators last season with his feet, both as a runner and in keeping plays alive with scrambles. But UF did a good job against Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel in the second half this season after the Gators did a better job of being disciplined in their rush lanes, so that should help against Rodgers.

Gators to watch

S Matt Elam: He had a big game against LSU and made the game’s key play when he stripped WR Odell Beckham after a long gain. He’s having the best season of his career and has become the playmaker the defense has needed in the secondary.

(Read full post)

Five storylines: Gators vs. Vanderbilt 

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 4 Florida plays at Vanderbilt on Saturday, the classic "trap" game before the Gators play host to No. 3 South Carolina on Oct. 20. The Gators (5-0, 4-0 SEC) have won 21 in a row in the series and haven’t lost to the Commodores since 1982.

Here's five storylines for the game:

1. Avoid an emotional letdown: Florida had a huge victory over then-No. 4 LSU last Saturday and is now squarely in the national championship race. With a showdown against South Carolina looming, it’s natural that the Gators wouldn’t be as ready emotionally for this game considering the fact that none of UF’s players were alive the last time the school lost to the Commodores. However, the Gators can’t get caught looking ahead because this Vanderbilt team is essentially the same one that came into Gainesville last season and nearly won.

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What to watch in the SEC: Week 1

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
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It's here.

After hundreds of days of having to watch and follow inferior sports, take up new hobbies and do extra cute things with your better half just to pass the time, we are finally here.

It's college football season, again! The helmets are perfectly shined. The jerseys are hung so neatly and ironed so sweetly. You've gone to the store in advance to prep for the artery-bursting feast that awaits this weekend. Some are even lucky enough to be tailgating as we speak!

Cue up the bands, the grills and the fryers and the big-screen TVs. It's football season, and here's what to watch in the SEC this week:

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
C. Michael Bergen/The State/MCT/Getty ImagesSouth Carolina's Marcus Lattimore is one of three star running backs to keep an eye on this weekend.
1. Running backs return: If not for Texas A&M’s game getting postponed, we’d get to see three elite running backs returning to the field after injuries cut their 2011 seasons short. Christine Michael's debut will have to wait, but we’ll still get to see how South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore and Arkansas’ Knile Davis do with the ball in their hands. When they’re 100 percent, it’s hard to find two better running backs out there.

2. Quarterback battles: Florida and Ole Miss still don’t know who their starting quarterbacks will be. Florida coach Will Muschamp said Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will alternate quarters to start Saturday’s game, while Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze anticipates playing both Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti in the opener. This could be the final round of competition at both schools.

3. Questionable offensive lines: So many offensive lines have questions entering the fall. Keep an eye on Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Auburn and Georgia are working in a few new parts, while Florida is hoping most of the parts from last year’s line have improved. Mizzou has all sorts of injury issues and Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vandy are just hoping to stay healthy because depth is an issue for all three.

(Read full post)

SEC power rankings: Week 1

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
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Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

We are just days away from the college football season, so it's time to unveil our first batch of power rankings for the regular season.

A lot goes into our power rankings. It isn't just about how strong teams are right now. We look into our crystal ball as well to get a good read on how each team will finish the season -- before it has even started.

For each school, we look at talent coming back, coaching, roster changes, how teams have looked in practice now compared to the spring and uniform style. Well, maybe not that last part, but you get the point.

Here are our season-opening SEC power rankings for 2012:

1. LSU: The gap between the Tigers and Alabama got a lot smaller after Tyrann Mathieu's dismissal, so this could be viewed as 1A and 1B. Mathieu is a big loss for LSU on defense and special teams, but there is just way too much talent for this team not to make another title run. LSU's offense still has one of the best/deepest running games around and gets an upgrade with quarterback Zach Mettenberger. LSU also might have the best offensive line/defensive line combo in the nation.

2. Alabama: The defending champs lost a lot of star power on defense, but that unit should still be pretty darn good this fall. There could be some growing pains at times, but the Tide should still have one of the league's best defensive units this fall. The offense might be better and more balanced this fall, even without Trent Richardson. There is a good stable of backs, the nation's top offensive line and quarterback AJ McCarron has a little more explosiveness and athleticism to work with at receiver.

(Read full post)

Heading into the spring, the SEC had a few fun quarterback races to watch in both divisions. Some of those battles have come to an end, while a few still remain.

Let's take a look at each one from the spring and see where they currently stand:

AUBURN

The matchup: Sophomore Kiehl Frazier left the spring with the edge because he took most of the reps, as a sore shoulder sidelined junior Clint Moseley. This fall, freshman Jonathan Wallace entered the race and has continued to impress Auburn's staff.

The winner is: Frazier has the most athleticism and has felt much more comfortable throwing the ball with help from first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. While coach Gene Chizik continues to say the race is even between Frazier and Moseley, who is still dealing with shoulder soreness, we'll go with Frazier because of overall talent. He can make more plays with his feet and if his arm really does improve, he could be a solid dual-threat QB in this league.

FLORIDA

The matchup: This two-horse race between Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel has been intense since the spring. Brissett has had a little bit of the edge because of his game experience last year, but Driskel has made tremendous strides under the direction of new offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

The winner is: Will Muschamp continues to say the race is dead even. Driskel's bruised shoulder didn't even complicate the race. It doesn't sound like anyone really knows who has outperformed the other, but the concensus is the team and the coaches can win with either. With that said, Brissett has more experience and we assume is completely healthy, so we'll go with him, but both should play in the opener.

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Earlier, we ranked all 14 quarterback groups in the SEC. Now, it's time to rank the top 10 SEC quarterbacks heading into the 2012 season.

Again, we are looking at overall talent, game-changing ability and experience. We also looked at past performances and projections for 2012.

Here are our top 10 SEC quarterbacks:

[+] EnlargeTyler Wilson
AP Photo/David QuinnArkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson passed for more than 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns last season.
1. Tyler Wilson, Sr., Arkansas: He could have easily left for the NFL after passing for more than 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. His big-time arm and incredible toughness weren't too shabby either. While his decision-making came into question sometimes last season, Wilson made tremendous strides this spring and should be an even smarter passer this fall.

2. Aaron Murray, RJr., Georgia: Murray has a chance to own a few more school and SEC records before his time at Georgia is up, but he does have to get over his turnover issues. Murray has some of the best technique and mechanics around, and when he's on and focused, he is one of the most talented passers out there.

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ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation is previewing each of Florida’s 2012 opponents. Today is Vanderbilt (Oct. 13 in Nashville, Tenn.)

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Danny Murphy/Icon SMINew Vandy coach James Franklin has proven in a short time that he can be a force in recruiting.
VANDERBILT

2011 record: 6-7 (2-6 SEC), lost to Cincinnati 31-24 in AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

Coach: James Franklin, second season (6-7).

Series record: Florida leads 34-9-2.

Top returners: QB Jordan Rodgers (108-216-10, 1,524 yards, 9 TDs; 420 yards, 4 TDs rushing); RB Zac Stacy (1,193 yards 14 TDs); DT Rob Lohr (41 tackles, 5 sacks); CB Trey Wilson (30 tackles, 3 INTs).

Did you know? Vanderbilt has never played in a bowl game in consecutive seasons.

Scouting the offense: Stacy, who holds the single-season school rushing record, is one of the SEC’s better backs, but the Commodores have to develop a passing game to complement him. The WRs are solid, so the only question mark is the development of Rodgers. He needs to be more accurate and patient.

(Read full post)

ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays, we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN's GatorNation is previewing each of Florida’s 2012 opponents. First up is the Sept. 1 season opener against Bowling Green.

BOWLING GREEN

2011 record: 5-7 (3-5 Mid-American).

[+] EnlargeDave Clawson
AP photo/L.G. PattersonHead coach Dave Clawson has a 14-23 record in three seasons at Bowling Green.
Coach: Dave Clawson, fourth season (14-23); 13th season overall (72-72).

Series record: First meeting.

Top returners: QB Matt Schilz (3,024 yards, 28 TDs, 13 INTs); RB Anthon Samuel (844 yards, 5 TDs); MLB Dwayne Woods (111 tackles); DT Chris Jones (47 tackles, 8.5 sacks).

Did you know? Bowling Green has beaten Missouri, Purdue, Minnesota and Pitt in season openers.

Scouting the offense: Schilz is a dangerous quarterback who can make plays with his feet as well as his arm. Samuel was named the MAC’s Freshman of the Year. Had he not missed two of the Falcons’ final four games he likely would have surpassed 1,000 yards. Bowling Green is experienced at tight end but inexperienced at receiver.

(Read full post)

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College Football Minute: Oct. 20
Florida coach Will Muschamp's job is safe for now, USC's soap opera season takes another bizarre twist and TCU coach Gary Patterson watches Big Ten scoreboards. It's all ahead in your College Football Minute.
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