After a 51 to 35 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday, Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen is already turning attention to this week’s opponent. The Florida Gators open their home schedule this upcoming Saturday when they welcome South Carolina to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Improving on defense
For most fans, Saturday’s win provided optimism for an offense that struggled mightily prior to Dan Mullen’s arrival for the 2018 season. New offensive coordinator Brian Johnson made quite the impression as his offense put up 642 total yards and 51 points. However, the Gators’ performance on the other side of the ball raised some eyebrows.
Ole Miss put up 613 yards of offense themselves to go along with 35 points. Although the Gators covered the spread (-13.5), the defense must improve for them to defend their new ranking of No.3 in the nation.
Dan Mullen attributes some of the lacking defense to 2020, which is fair to say. The changes in protocols to protect the health of players led to fewer reps, especially for tackling. Combine that with the Gators missing a number of defensive starters and a Shawn Davis ejection early in the first quarter, the holes were apparent.
Dan Mullen says he expects a change to come for week two, especially with the tackling. He commented on the state of his defense during his Monday afternoon press conference.
Mullen added that playing young players who have not seen SEC action prior to Ole Miss benefits the team in the long run. The 2020 season and the effects of COVID-19 means every player must be game ready at all times.
The Gators defense will look to bounce back against a South Carolina offense that only amassed 379 yards of total offense against Tennessee on Saturday.
Turning attention to week two
Without a doubt, the highlights of Florida week one win were Kyle Pitts and Kyle Trask. The quarterback to tight end connection yielded eight catches for 170 yards and an eye-popping four touchdowns. Trask also threw two touchdowns to his receivers on his career day as a Gator.
If anything, the Florida rushing game could improve, but it is hard to argue the offensive performance when Dan Mullen’s grew puts up 50 points on an SEC foe.
While the statistics catch everyone’s eyes, Mullen is more impressed with his quarterback’s development as a game manager. Mullen says Trask’s work ethic developed when he was a backup and continued into his time as No.1 on the depth chart.
Trask’s offensive line also buoyed his performance on Saturday. Center Brett Heggie won SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors for his performance in Oxford. Mullen says the veterans in that group allow the offense to have a new sense of freedom. Combine that with the quieter nature of SEC stadiums in 2020 and an offense can thrive like the Gators at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
The Gators cannot dwell on that success for too long, as they must prepare for South Carolina, a team consistently forcing Florida to play its best.
Scouting out the Gamecocks
Last week, the Gators played an unfamiliar foe with an entirely new coaching staff. Florida’s Week 2 opponent is a familiar foe with a more than familiar coaching staff.
Will Muschamp’s South Carolina Gamecocks suffered a tough loss in their season opener to the Tennessee Volunteers, 31-27. That being said, the Gamecocks cannot be overlooked. Despite a 28-9-3 record against South Carolina, the two teams have split the last ten meetings 5-5, although Florida has won four of the last five.
For this upcoming matchup, Dan Mullen is turning attention to a loaded defense that brings different qualities to different positions. Skilled defensive backs and a stocky front seven could cause trouble. Mullen says his team cannot be lazy against a South Carolina team that keeps games close.
South Carolina’s offense has two quarterbacks that are experienced in their system. Collin Hill and Ryan Hilinski are veteran leaders capable of wearing down a defense through the air. Undoubtedly, Muschamp plans on using their talents to keep up with the high-flying Gators offense.
Kickoff is slated for noon on Saturday, with the Gators opening up as massive favorites (-21.5) against the Gamecocks.