The Gators are preparing for Kentucky with Chris Leak as the starting quarterback. He will be given the entire package to run this week and we should see more down field passes. The fact that Leak only played an average of four series per game the first month limited his ability to get some "shots" down the field when he was in.
The offense had been a mixture of what Ingle Martin did well and some intermediate passes for Leak. Martin did a nice job of playing within himself, and if he was not injured, could have led UF to victory over Miami. Leak has been chomping at the bit to start and will face one of the conferences worst run defenses. In fall drills Leak's best route was the "stop-fade" to the outside. This is a route the Gators could have thrown all day versus Tennessee. Kelvin Kight and Dallas Baker were his favorite targets so keep an eye on this pass. The offense will also have 8-10 "scripted" opportunities to Ben Troupe this week. He could be in for a big da,y especially in the redzone area.
Martin is a competitor and will have himself ready to go if Leak should fail. There are many who believe that Leak will inject enthusiasm and hope into the Gator Nation. A convincing win in Lexington would make many feel a little more at ease with the team. I think you will see a direct correlation with the insertion of Leak into the lineup and the numbers put up by Dallas Baker.
Lost in the dismal performance by the offense Saturday was the career high performance by Andre Caldwell (5 catches) and the second most yards by a tight end (Ben Troupe - 106yards and all in second half) in Gator football history. The Gators should have 73 yards (entire game total vs Tenn) rushing by the end of the first quarter. The Gators have been very good in the redzone, but Saturday only scored in one of three trips. They are 34-38 on the season and look to make many trips this week. One trend last week's game broke was the fact that when the Gators score first under Zook they usually win. The Gators are 1-5 under Ron Zook when trailing at the half. Look for UF to get more "up tempo" on offense this week as they try to move the chains and get the defense tired.
Defensively the Gators are looking to make a decision on Todd McCollough with regards to surgery on his shoulder. At Media Day, McCollough said he would take a medical redshirt and have the surgery while Ron Zook later said it was still up in the air. I think he will have surgery,but we will see. If he can't go look for UF to be real young with Brian Crum and Earl Everett at that position. Both outside spots can be interchangeable and you could see Channing Crowder and Matt Farrior alongside Reid Fleming. The Florida defense recorded four sacks against the Vols after only having five coming in through three games. Guss Scott‘s interception was the Gators sixth this season after only recording seven the entire 2002 season. Speaking of McCollough he recorded his first career sack last weekend .The Gator defense is 39th in the country at 320.2 yards per game. The pass defense is 24th in country and third in the SEC. The Gator, who cannot win games with three turnovers managed to get three on defense and keep the turnover margin at +5, which is 18th in the country .The Gators are doing well on third down stops just not on 3rd and long stops with the game on the line. They are giving up 30% conversions on 3rd down 5th in the conference.
Kentucky is 2-2 after a 34-17 win at Indiana.
Jared Lorenzen returns for his senior season with 9,090 total offensive yards in his career. He needs 152 yards to pass former Gator Shane Mathews as number four on the all-time list. He is still very efficient completing 61% of his passes and seven touchdowns. Derek Abney is back as the return specialist and is the leading receiver at 11 catches and two touchdowns. Kentucky is among the worst in the conference in converting on third down at 39%. The offensive line does a good job of protecting Lorenzen and keep an eye on the option, a new wrinkle to the Cat Attack.
Defensively the Wildcats run a 3-4 or a "50" defense for Mike Archer who worked with Zook in Pittsburgh. They would like to have Dewayne Robertson but he is with the New York Jets. The defense has recorded 13 sacks in four games to lead the conference. They are good at mixing things up against the pass and confusing the offensive lines, but they are horrible versus the run. The Cat defense is giving up 300 yards a game against the run. Vincent Burns is their best defensive player with 10.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks already on the season.
The Gators need to come out and run the football in the no huddle against Kentucky. I would expect Kentucky to change up against the Gators a bit, based on last week's game versus Tennessee. When this happens expect Leak to get the ball to his favorite targets, Kight and Baker. I also expect Jemalle Cornelius to re-emerge in some capacity this week with a big play. The "I" formation will also be in the plan to isolate Joe Cohen on a play side linebacker in the running game. Once again the defense needs to play with emotion and when they blitz they must get Lorenzen down. He is good in the pocket at dodging blitzers and obviously is a load to bring down.I think the youth of this team along with the insertion of Leak at quarterback will energize the Gators in Lexington.