The 21st ranked Florida Gators are coming off another nail biting 28-27 win over the Kentucky Wildcats. The Gators will host the Vanderbilt Commodores who were crushed 59-0 by the Alabama Crimson Tide. Since the win against Kentucky, Florida has made a change at quarterback announcing Luke Del Rio as the starter for the Gators. Florida head coach Jim McElwain made the announcement Monday morning that Del Rio would be their guy against Vandy. Even though Florida has had a lot of success against the Commodores, this will not be an easy matchup for Florida as Vanderbilt has always given the Gators fits. Here are five keys that could lead Florida to victory against Vanderbilt.
Open up the playbook for Luke Del Rio
For the first three weeks of the season, the offensive play calling has been questioned by many people. Most believed that the coaching staff had a vanilla game plan so Feleipe Franks would not make mistakes and turnover the football. Now with Del Rio at quarterback, you need to open up the playbook because nobody knows it better than him. He’s a smart quarterback that will not put his teammates in tough situations and he knows how to read defenses. Vanderbilt is a well-coached, disciplined team that will not make many mistakes so you need a quarterback who is smart enough to know what the defense is doing and find ways to exploit them. Del Rio might not pass for 300 yards and four touchdowns but he will move the ball downfield and make smart decisions.
Shut down Ralph Webb
The Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb is one of the top running backs in the SEC but he hasn’t been the same this year. Webb has 169 yards and two scores on 64 carries this season but he always has great games against his hometown team, the Florida Gators. Jim McElwain has referred to him as a “Gator Killer” since he has always rushed for over 100 yards against them. Florida defensive coordinator Randy Shannon really needs to make an emphasis on shutting down the run game and make Vanderbilt one dimensional. Webb is Vandy’s biggest playmaker on offense and could really give Florida’s defense issues if he has a big game. The defensive line needs to dominate in the trenches and try to get Webb in the backfield forcing Vanderbilt to beat Florida through the air.
Ground and Pound
The Kentucky Wildcats were the third ranked rushing defense in the country before they played the Florida Gators. They had allowed an average of 57 yards per game but Florida’s rushing attack blew that up. The Gators rushed for 189 yards against the Wildcats including two touchdowns. One of the reasons Florida rushed for some many yards was because of the true freshman Malik Davis. The former four-star recruit had 21 carries for 93 yards which made him Florida’s leader in rushing yards. Davis already has more rushing yards than Ralph Webb and Davis has played one less game than him. Florida also had Lamical Perine and Mark Thompson to lean when Davis needs a breather. If Florida can continue to get the run game going, it will take a lot of pressure off Luke Del Rio and could open up for some big plays through the air.
Keep getting the ball in Kadarius Toney’s hands
In three games, the true freshman Kadarius Toney has become a fan favorite. His incredible playmaking ability and speed has grabbed a lot of people’s attention. Toney does a lot of things most people can’t do. The way he runs and stops on a dime is just something you don’t see every day and could elevates Florida’s offense. The coaching staff has done a pretty good job of finding ways to get the ball in Toney’s hands but you might want to increase his workload. He’s a defensive coordinator’s nightmare and could really help Florida put more points on the board. The wildcat formation worked well against Kentucky so they should do a little more of that and maybe even let him throw in the wildcat. You want to catch Vandy’s defense off guard? That’s one way to do it.
Secondary needs to tackle
For the past two weeks, the secondary has had issues making tackles and giving up big runs. Sophomore safety Chauncey Gardner has been the player mentioned the most when it comes to missing tackles and allowing big runs. With a really good running back like Ralph Webb, you need to tackle because he could find the endzone if he breaks free. If this continues to be an issue, Gardner could get benched and give one of the other safeties a chance. You might see more playing time for Jeawon Taylor, Shawn Davis or Brad Steward if Gardner can’t tackle. Same with Nick Washington because he doesn’t seem to be 100%. It’s not a lack of effort with him, it’s more of him playing hurt and that could hurt the team if he isn’t able to make plays. Florida must tackle if they want their defense to be elite again.