Louisville Offense vs. Florida Defense
So Florida’s Defense is pretty good. Well that’s an understatement. The Florida Gator’s Defense is REALLY good. UF finished 5th in the country in Total Defense, and 3rd in Scoring Defense. 15th against the run, and 6th against the pass. Moving the ball on the Gators is not going to be a walk in the park. The Cards do have legitimate tools, but let’s take a look at who makes the Gators’ defense tick.
Defensive Tackle Sharrif Floyd (6-3, 303, Jr.) was 1st Team ALL-SEC, and 3rd Team ALL-American (AP) is an incredible start up front. Floyd is as disruptive as you can get on the interior defensive line and leads the Gators will 11 TFLs to go along with his 41 tackles, one forced fumble and a blocked kick. Next to Floyd is Nose Tackle Omar Hunter (6-0, 313, Jr.) Hunter & Floyd have a combined 54 career starts between the two of them and together will force teams to want to go the LONG way around as they rank 5th & 6th in tackles for Florida during 2012. Hunter registered 39 takedowns and 4 pass break-ups on the season.
Dominique Easley (6-2, 280, Jr.) can play inside and outside and possesses a diverse skill set but will start at Defensive End for Florida. Easley finished with 21 tackles, 5 TFLs, and 4 sacks. Easley is a veteran player for the Gators and is backed up by Jonathan Bullard (6-3, 271, Fr.) who was productive enough to earn Freshman ALL-SEC honors playing behind the veteran. Bullard actually put up better numbers with 26 tackles, 5 TFLs, a 7 quarterback hits. Together these two are quite the one-two punch and will be tough to deal with.
On the other end, Labeled “Buck” the Gators use another pair of really talented athletes in Lerentee McCray (6-3, 249, Sr.) & Dante Fowler, Jr. (6-3, 277, Fr.). Fowler earned All-Freshman SEC honors in 2012, and McCray was a Preseason Butkus Award Watch List player. Both of these players were productive during 2012 and combined for 50 tackles, 10 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, an INT, and a forced fumble. Fowler is probably a future superstar and together these guys can keep fresh legs in the game to constantly apply pressure.
Analysis UofL O-Line vs. UF D-Line : Upfront Louisville is going to have several challenges. First of all, Florida doesn’t rely on one stud player to create havoc. They do that collectively and it isn’t because they don’t have players that can play every snap. It’s because they have enough depth that they don’t have to rely on one or two guys throughout the game. So from a scouting perspective the Cards are going to have to be prepared. Against Rutgers and UConn (two teams whose style matches Florida) Louisville had trouble dealing with the defensive tackles, but Floyd & Hunter are a cut above. If Mario Benavides (6-4, 280, Sr.) 1st Team All-Big East, John Miller, and Jake Smith can neutralize the ‘push’ of these two then the Cards have a chance to run the ball. If not, well then the Cards will continue to struggle running the football (as they have since Senorise Perry went down against Syracuse). On the outside Florida is going to rush a little wider in an effort to contain and funnel to their linebackers, and if Jamon Brown & Alex Kupper (6-3, 298, Sr.) 2nd Team All-Big East (former walk-on) allow that to happen blitz lanes open up and the edge is lost. But, there could be some nice check down lanes and maybe even some space for Teddy to take off here. One big part of Louisville’s run game that I think will be difficult is the guard pulling on running plays. It’s a big part of the Louisville running game and it really dissolved against Syracuse as the Orange really scouted that part of the ground game and really started hitting the guard or the center into the lane and eliminated that part of the Louisville offense. In the passing game Teddy Bridgewater’s mobility and ability to string plays out will be needed.
Middle Linebacker Jon Bostic (6-1, 246, Sr.) finished his season as 2nd Team ALL-SEC with 62 tackles (3rd on team), 10 TFLs, 4 INTs, 5 pass break-ups, and 1 forced fumble. Bostic came in to the 2012 season with a long list of pre-season honors and compares to North Carolina’s Kevin Reddick who the Cards faced earlier in the season. Bostic is going to be playing in the NFL next year. At Weakside Linebacker Jelani Jenkins had successful foot surgery and will miss the Sugar Bowl. In his replacement the Gators turn to Antonio Morrison (6-1, 218 Fr.) Freshman ALL-SEC who played behind Jenkins in 2012 and still managed to finish 8th on the team in tackles with 31. Sophomore Michael Taylor (6-0, 226) will back-up both Bostic and Morrison in the Sugar Bowl.
On the Strongside linebackers Neiron Ball (6-3, 231 Soph) and Darrin Kitchens (6-1, 229, Jr.) will take the field when Florida ISN’T in Nickel. But the Gators use 5 players in the secondary often probably because that’s where they are awesome. And I can’t start talking about Florida and the Gators secondary without………………….
Matt Elam (5-10, 202, Jr.) 1st Team ALL-SEC, 1st Team ALL-American (AP) is a safety/nickel for the Florida Gators and he’s Florida’s best player. He could likely declare for the NFL draft after the Sugar Bowl, but Elam is a polarizing guy. If he’s on your team, you love him. If you are playing against him you probably don’t like him too much. Elam plays with swagger and with good reason. The Gators play him close to the line of scrimmage often, he is a sure tackler, he’s physical, he creates turnovers. He’s even known to hit his own players at times. There isn’t one way to really account for Elam, because sometimes he’s blitzing, sometimes he’s in coverage, sometimes he’s just doing his own thing, but it always seems to work out for him and Florida. Elam finished 2nd on the team in tackles with 65, 10 TFLs, 4 INTs, 5 pass break-ups, and a forced fumble. It doesn’t get more legit than Elam, period end of story.
The rest of the Gator secondary isn’t chopped liver. The Gators were 15th in Passing Defense, and #1 in Pass Efficiency Defense. Elam does a lot of work against the pass & run, but he certainly gets quite a bit of help. Free Safety Josh Evans (6-2, 201, Sr.) leads Florida with 79 tackles and rarely comes off the field. Evans also added 2 INTs and 2.5 sacks on the year. Cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy (6-1, 189 Soph.) & Jaylen Watkins (6-0, 187, Jr.) were extremely active as bigger types of cornerbacks and they combined for 86 tackles, 3 INTs (all Watkins), 13 pass break-ups, 3 forced fumbles (all Purifoy), and 2 blocked kicks (both Purifoy).
|Total Offense||Florida Allowed vs.||Deviation from Avg||Percent Gained of Average Allowed|
|Bowling Green||373.9 (87th)||327||-46.9||87.46%|
|South Carolina||372.4 (89th)||191||-181.4||51.29%|
|Florida St||465.9 (23rd)||300||-165.9||64.39%|
The Chart above depicts Florida’s Opponents Total Offense Ranking & Production, with they did against Florida specifically, the yardage of deviation, and the percent of their average they actually attained. Florida limited EVERY opponent in 2012 below their season average, and by an average percentage of 68.60% and an average of 131.06 less than each team’s season average. That’s REALLY significant. Louisville averaged 425.7 yards per game in 2012 and using the same numbers that the chart above has found, Louisville will be held to 292 yards based on percentage or 294 yards based on total. The question becomes though, how has Louisville performed against their opposition and does the Louisville offense compare to any of the offenses that Florida has played. For example, Missouri operated with 94% of their output and Vanderbilt operated within 92.46%. But stats can lie…..I’m going to start with QBs in this argument.
Florida faced several top-flight Quarterbacks in 2012, including Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Manziel had an outstanding season (obviously), and I’m biased but there isn’t a Quarterback that Florida has played that I would trade for Teddy Bridgewater. But rather than taking my word for it, let’s take a look at the statistics.
|Passing Yards||Passing TDs||INTs||Completion %||QB Rating||Rushing Yards||Rushing TDs|
|Connor Shaw/Dylan Thompson*||2642||23||9||67.3%/50.4%||156.93/134.92||374||4|
|*Split Game, same # of passes|
Looking at the statistics over the course of a season and it becomes clear. Aaron Murray, Johnny Manziel, and Teddy Bridgewater will be the best Quarterbacks Florida has faced in 2012. A&M and Manziel lost by 3, Georgia and Murray won by 8. No one is going to say that beating Florida will be easy, but this is an encouraging metric.
Louisville does have at their disposal a wide variety of options in the passing game for Bridgewater (6-3, 218, Soph) Big East Offensive Player of the Year, 1st Team ALL-Big East to use. Probably the most notable is DeVante Parker (6-3, 205, Soph) 1st Team ALL-Big East. Parker’s 9 Touchdowns during 2012 were the 4th most in a single season and his 15 TDs already rank 8th All-Time for the Cards. But Parker isn’t the ONLY weapon for Teddy…..Eli Rogers (5-10, 185, Soph.), Damian Copeland (6-1, 183, Jr.), Andrell Smith (6-3, 217, Sr.), Ryan Hubbell (6-5, 232, Jr.), and Nate Nord (6-5, 245, Sr.) all caught huge balls for the Cards in 2012.
In the running game, the Cards will be without Senorise Perry who provided a very potent 1-2 punch on the ground with Jeremy Wright (5-11, 205, Jr.). Now Wright will team with Corvin Lamb (5-9, 205 Fr.) who filled in during the Rutgers game nicely. Lamb was ailing from ankle/hamstring was able to gain 37 yards on 6 carries, after getting one touch against Syracuse which went for 53 yards. There is no question that either one of these guys have the speed, but Lamb MUST protect Teddy Bridgewater in the passing game so that he and Wright can split the responsibility and remain fresh. Kenny Carter told me recently that he won’t put a player in the game if he can’t protect the passer, and both of these guys WILL be counted on in the passing game as well.
Louisville is going to run the football. If for no other reason than to keep the Gator’s defense honest. Louisville really hasn’t run the ball very well since the Temple game in the first game of November, but in a game like the Cards will have against Florida ball control will be at a premium and running the football for 2-3 yards on first down will make first downs easier to attain and also allow the play-action game to be effective.
|Total Defense||UofL Gained vs.||Deviation from Avg.||Percent Gained from Average Allowed|
|North Carolina||389.6 (58th)||462||72.4||118.58%|
|Florida International||402.9 (68th)||323||-79.9||80.17%|
|Southern Miss||426.5 (85th)||269||-157.5||63.07%|
|South Florida||401.8 (67th)||384||-17.8||95.57%|
Looking at the stats, it’s clear that the best way to slow the Louisville offense is to have it rain 5 inches in one day so that the Cards have to play in ankle deep water. Louisville did not out-pace their opponent’s defense twice in 2012. The first time was probably the most mailed-in performance a fan could witness. The team was distracted, there was a significant rain storm before the game and it was easily the worst Bridgewater looked in 2012. The second time, was the 5 inches of rain in Hattiesburg that basically grounded the Louisville passing attack, and narrowed the field in the running game. The Sugar Bowl is in a dome. Rain will not be a factor. But the Florida Gator defense still will be.
Louisville was 111.24% of offense off their opponent’s defensive average and Florida allowed just 68.6% of offense off their opponent’s offensive average. So what’s about to happen? A ballgame. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Louisville MUST protect the ball, the Cards must win field position, UofL can not drop passes, and they have to try and gain some yardage on the ground and can not abandon the running attack. Florida is going to PRESSURE and COVER really well. There will be space (they can only play with 11 players) but getting Bridgewater time, taking what they can get, and occasionally hitting a big play. But the one thing Louisville can NOT afford to do in this game is to turn the ball over.