Florida Football: 7 Keys to Winning the Bowling Green Game
The Florida Gators are only a few days away from kicking off their 2012 regular season, much to the satisfaction of fans.
While the opening game against the Bowling Green Falcons may not be a huge concern to the Gators, it will provide a much needed test run before opening the rigorous SEC schedule with a trip to Texas A&M.
With an offense that struggled immensely and a defense that failed to create turnovers, there are plenty of keys for the Gators in Week 1.
Here are the top seven keys for the Gators to kick off 2012 with a win, building confidence for what could be a turnaround season.
Establishing the Run Game
There have been several issues plaguing the offense over the last couple years, including the lack of a consistent run game.
With the transfer to a pro-style offense, the speedy duo of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey became ineffective. Running the ball between the tackles was basically not an option. With Demps and Rainey graduated, Mike "Gilley" Gillislee has been named the starter.
It's Gilley's last chance to make a name for himself after riding the bench for three years and fans are hoping he makes the most of it.
The Gators may be able to notch a win against the Falcons without moving the ball on the ground, but that's a recipe for another disappointing season.
The offensive line is talented and the run game should be a drastic improvement over last year.
But it all starts with running the ball through the middle. Look for Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator, Brent Pease, to establish it early and often.
Andre Debose returns as the leading receiver from the 2011 season with 16 catches for 432 yards and four touchdowns. Needless to say, Gator receivers are going to have to be more productive than that.
While some of the blame can fall on the quarterback last year, 2012 is a new season. Each of Florida's starting quarterbacks, Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett, have a year of experience under their belts and should be more developed.
Quinton Dunbar has already been announced as one of the starting receivers after a fantastic spring while Leroy Pittman, Andre Debose, and Frankie Hammond Jr. jostle for the other starting position.
With an established run game, the Gators won't be so one-dimensional. That opens passing lanes and space for receivers to make big plays.
The Bowling Green Falcons' secondary is not the most respected so we should get a good glimpse at just how far the quarterback-wide receiver relationships have come, though Muschamp and Pease will likely keep the offensive plan fairly vanilla.
But the Gators will have to have a pass game to keep up with what could be a dangerous offense in Texas A&M a week later.
Filling in for Ronald Powell
Ronald Powell's ACL tear during spring camp was a unfortunate loss for the Gators defensive line. While it does not look like he will miss the entire season, the Gators won't have the talented pass-rusher during some key games on the front end.
Will Muschamp recently named Lerentee McCray as the starter at the Buck position in Powell's absence. While McCray may not be as naturally gifted as Powell, he has experience along the defensive line and should be able to hold his own.
Once again, the performance of McCray and the rest of the defensive line will not likely determine the outcome of the game, but it would be nice to see a dominant performance up front.
Every elite SEC team during the last decade has been anchored by a strong front seven.
The Gators need to develop that early to withstand later tests against Georgia, LSU, and South Carolina. Ultimately, this unit could get away with a mediocre performance against Bowling Green but the long term success in 2012 rests on their shoulders.
Tight End No. 2
Jordan Reed has been a strong contributor in many ways. While he started off as a Jack-of-all-Trades, he has since settled into the tight end position, where he has flourished.
Reed has locked up the top tight end spot, but with several tight formations in the playbooks, the Gators need another tight end to emerge from the fold.
A.C. Leonard was that guy, before he left Gainesville as a transfer.
Promising freshman, Colin Thompson looked like a perfect fit for the pro-style scheme, but he went down with a serious ankle injury in spring.
That left the tight end position in shambles. Reed will start, but there are many question marks after that.
After some positional changes and maneuvering players around, coaches named sophomore Clay Burton as the No. 2 tight end.
That's something that needs to either be reaffirmed or fixed in Week 1, because the tight end position may be the thinnest on the entire team.
The Gators defense was solid in 2011, but failed to create turnovers almost entirely.
Florida only picked off eight passes in 2011, tying them for 93rd in the nation. You can bet Will Muschamp has be stressing improvement in that area since day one of the offseason.
Every starting defensive back returns with another year of experience, making the risk for an interception a little more comfortable.
The Gators have the potential to be one of the best defenses in the nation, front to back. If Muschamp's squad wants to achieve that goal, creating turnovers is a must.
It also doesn't hurt to put a still developing offense in good field position.
With the injury to Ronald Powell, Lerentee McCray was forced to move up from linebacker. That left the strongside linebacker position in the hands of Darrin Kitchens.
Kitchens has one start under his belt. Comparing him to the two other linebacker veterans in Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins, Kitchens is obviously the weaker link.
Probably the weakest—or least proven—defensive player on the team.
Stopping the run is more important in the SEC than any other conference (I see your hand, B1G) and the Gators will need a strong second level to compliment the D-line to do that.
After almost of year of competing against one another, Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett have failed to distance themselves from each other.
Muschamp resorted to the dual quarterback system when releasing his depth chart, saying the quarterbacks will switch off every quarter.
I am not a fan of the dual-quarterback system, and for good reason.
It does not work.
Especially when you are just alternating two almost identical quarterbacking styles. It's one thing for Tim Tebow to come in for Chris Leak but the alternating Driskel and Brissett seems pointless in the long run.
Let's hope Muschamp is laying one final test on the table, winner-take-all, the starting quarterback position for the rest of the season at stake.
The last thing a developing offense needs is to change rhythm every quarter.