NEPD Staff Writer: Stephen Sheehan
Looking to rebound from two beatdowns by Alabama and LSU, the Florida Gators traveled to Alabama to take on the No. 24 Auburn Tigers in a Saturday night showdown.
Unfortunately, the game was full of sloppy play, especially by Florida, and the big names didn’t shine in the spotlight.
Playing with two freshman quarterbacks, senior Chris Rainey had to carry the offense. However, Saturday was a night he and many Gator fans would like to forget.
The diminutive speedster struggled with concentration, conditioning and breaking tackles throughout the night. Often a top special teams player, Rainey fumbled three punts, losing one of them.
He also had some ball control issues on an early sweep play. While Rainey had no trouble getting to the edge early in the season, the speed and size of SEC defenders has made it much more difficult for the undersized back to get to the outside.
His size will limit him to a specific role as a specialty player at the next level because he simply does not have the power or physicality to break tackles. Once Rainey runs into contact, he is brought down easily.
None of Florida’s receivers or tight ends showed up in the game. Jordan Reed had a few balls thrown his way, but was unable to corral them due to tight coverage.
Frankie Hammond Jr. has been the Gators’ most reliable receiver, but is not on the draft radar at this point.
Junior Xavier Nixon has a lot of athletic skill, but has been disappointing at left tackle. Nixon’s string of poor performances resulted in him losing his starting spot although he came on early to replace the struggling Chaz Green in the first quarter. The 6-foot-5, 292-pounder has been undisciplined at times and his lack of lower body strength has been his downfall in maintaining a strong base in pass protection.
Auburn’s vaunted rushing attack was held in check for the most part.
The Gators got some good penetration in the backfield and limited stud sophomore Michael Dyer to only 73 yards on 23 carries. With his compact frame and low center of gravity, Dyer is excellent at running through contact and it usually takes more than one defender to take him to the ground.
Onterio McCalebb had a little more success, averaging 4.3 yards on 10 carries.
The Gators had several good performances by their front seven.
Sophomore Dominique Easley has perhaps the best get-off in the nation. His explosion off the snap will remind some of Tommie Harris when he was an elite level three-technique. But, Easley has been drawn offsides several times and needs to develop some maturity and discipline as he gains more experience.
Another defender to keep an eye on is redshirt junior Lerentee McCray. After spending his first three years switching between defensive end and linebacker, McCray has settled in as an outside linebacker in the 3-4, recording 22 tackles and a forced fumble so far. While he hasn’t recorded any interceptions or sacks, his speed has been in asset as he’s put some good pressure on opposing quarterbacks and has looked good in coverage.
Tags: Film Room