Ask the Expert: Andrew Olson of answers our questions

Justin Rowland, Publisher
Cats Illustrated

Each week Cats Illustrated enlists the help of an expert/insider following Kentucky's opponent to help break down the week's game.

Here's Andrew Olson of answering our questions. You can follow him on Twitter this week for all the latest Gator news @ByAndrewOlson.



What are Florida's offensive and defensive strengths at this point in the 2017 season?

Statistically, it’s hard to identify a strength on Florida’s offense. The unit’s strongest position group looks to be the wide receivers. Sophomore wideout Tyrie Cleveland, who was on the receiving end of the game-winning pass against Tennessee, has the size (6-2, 205) and speed of a go-to receiver and is stepping into that role as junior Antonio Callaway remains suspended. Freshman athlete Kadarius Toney is electric with the ball in his hands and brings some play-making capability to the position.

On defense, it’s “DBU” doing the heavy lifting again. Despite the losses of three defensive backs to the NFL, and another to injury, the Gators are tied for No. 1 in the SEC in interceptions (5) and lead outright in pick-sixes (3). The veterans of the group are sophomore Chauncey Gardner Jr., senior Duke Dawson (questionable with a head injury) and redshirt senior Nick Washington. Freshmen cornerbacks C.J. Henderson and Marco Wilson have impressed, with Henderson accounting for two pick-sixes.

What are the Gators weaknesses on both sides of the ball?

On offense, pass-blocking has been a major issue. It extends beyond the five linemen as blitz pick-up has been problematic at times. Florida’s third-down conversion rate is currently last in the SEC (9-of-27).

The Florida defense has struggled to stop the run, so this could be a big game for Benny Snell Jr. The Gators are giving up 199 yards per game on the ground, currently No. 13 in the SEC. Michigan ran with ease on the Gators. Tennessee running back John Kelly (19 carries, 141 yards, TD) was arguably the most impressive player on the field even in a losing effort. Part of the problem on rushing defense has been tackling, especially in the fourth quarter.


What's the overall team health report look like for Florida going into Saturday's game?

As of Wednesday’s post-practice press conference, the last media availability of the week, there are two injuries to watch: Dawson and redshirt sophomore linebacker Kylan Johnson. Both would be significant absences. Dawson was a preseason All-SEC cornerback. If he can’t go, the Gators are starting two freshman cornerbacks on the road. Linebacker is Florida’s thinnest position group.

As mentioned earlier, Dawson is considered questionable and is under concussion protocol. He has practiced this week, but only in individual drills. Johnson appears unlikely to make the trip with the limited travel roster. He has been battling a hamstring injury for weeks.

What kind of offensive game plan would you expect from Florida in this game?

I don’t expect Florida to abandon the run just because UK is No. 1 in the SEC in rushing defense, but the stats say it should be a pass-heavy game plan from the Gators. Opponents are completing 64.2 percent of their passes against the Wildcats, which is second worst in the SEC. Feleipe Franks has a strong arm and speedy receivers to catch the deep ball. I expect the Gators to test the UK secondary.

The first drive, which is scripted ahead of time, tends to be one of Florida’s best. In-game adjustments, however, have been a different story under offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

If you were an opposing offensive coordinator, how would you attack this Florida defense?

I would lean on Snell and Stephen Johnson in the running game. Florida has not yet faced a dual-threat quarterback this season and could potentially struggle defending the zone read and designed quarterback runs. Many observers of the Florida-Tennessee felt the Volunteers might have won if they had given Kelly more carries. I think running to set up the pass against a young secondary makes sense when facing Florida.


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