The Florida Gators started their 2019 season with a 24-20 Week 0 win versus the Miami Hurricanes. It was an ugly game but the Gators were able to prevail and get the win against their instate rival. Florida had four turnovers in the game and two of them were on Miami’s side of the field. On the bright side, the Florida defense had ten sacks in the game against Miami’s young and inexperienced offensive line. Jabari Zuniga and Jon Greenard both played like animals and put tons of pressure on Miami’s quarterback Jarren Williams. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done if Florida wants to compete for a SEC Championship but, it’s not all negative. Here are three observations for Florida in their Week 0 matchup versus the Miami Hurricanes.
Florida’s defensive line is a force to be reckoned with
There was a lot of talk going into the season that Florida’s defensive line was going to take a step back without Jachai Polite. Florida’s defensive line proved that notion to be wrong as they completed dominated the Miami Hurricanes’ offensive line. The Miami O-line is a very young and inexperienced group that’s going to struggle in 2019 but they had no chance against the Florida Gators. Jabari Zuniga had a terrific game with six tackles (three solo), 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. Louisville graduate transfer Jon Greenard had a specular Florida Gators debut as he recorded six tackles, 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss. Other players like Jeremiah Moon, Adam Shuler and Kyree Campbell also had big games against the Hurricanes. Florida’s defensive line should continue to create havoc even against the best offensive lines on their schedule.
Offensive line much better in pass protection than run block
One of the biggest question marks for the Gators offense starting the season was their offensive line. Florida replaced four out of five starters from their offensive line in 2018. The only returning starter was their center, Nick Buchanan. Florida’s new offensive line featured some upperclassmen like Stone Forsythe and Brett Heggie but lacked experience. Florida’s O-line had a very tough first test against Miami’s front seven. The Gators offensive line played pretty well in their pass protection with only one sack and three QB hurries. However, they struggled getting a push in the run game. Florida had 28 carries and only rushed for 52 yards last Saturday night. In order for Florida’s offense to run smoothly, they’ll need to get the running game going. Florida has the talent at running back to be a threat in the run game but needs the offensive line to do their jobs.
Kadarius Toney NEEDS more touches
If you are a Florida Gators fan, you’ve been saying this for the longest time. Junior wide receiver Kadarius Toney is Florida’s most explosive player in their offense. Toney can do anything with the ball in his hands but didn’t get enough touches. In their Week 0 game, Kadarius Toney only had four touches in the game. His first touch was an incredible 66-yard touchdown pass in which he made half of Miami’s defense miss tackles. After that first drive, Toney only got three more touches all off jet sweeps. If you’re Dan Mullen and your offense is struggling to get in a rhythm, it’s time to give Kadarius Toney to football. It doesn’t matter how he gets it just get it in his hands and watch him go to work. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to have Toney in the backfield with Franks and Perine.
The safety position is a glaring issue
The Florida Gators defense had a pretty solid season opener against the Miami offense. Their D-line was outstanding, the linebackers player much better than anticipated and the cornerback position is set with C.J. Henderson and Marco Wilson. However, the safeties really struggled in the season opener. Starting safeties Jeawon Taylor and Donovan Stiner had really rough games against the Canes with missed tackles and being late in coverage. Miami’s tight end Brevin Jordan had a great game against Florida’s safeties as they had a difficult time of containing him. With Brad Stewart out, Florida is going to be need Taylor and Stiner to step up with Stewart out. Miami native Shawn Davis should be getting more playing and possibly move Amari Burney to safety with the solid depth Florida has at linebacker.
Ventrell Miller is a dude
With Vosean Joseph heading to the NFL and Kylan Johnson transferring out, Florida had some question marks at linebacker. Outside of David Reese, the linebacker position was wide open and needed guys to fill in those roles. Amari Burney got the starting linebacker job with Ventrell Miller behind him. In the Miami game, Miller played more than expected but showed the nation that he can play at a high level. The Lakeland native linebacker really showed out as he had six tackles (four solo), two sacks, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup. The redshirt-sophomore linebacker could become a starting linebacker if the safety position continues to struggle and they need to move Burney to defensive back.