Florida Football: 5 Players Most Responsible for the Gators' Fast Start
If anyone would have told me the Gators would score the final 24 points on the road against Tennessee, I would have called you crazy.
However, thanks to Jeff Driskel—the SEC offensive player of the week—the Gators returned to Gainesville a perfect 3-0.
UF's emerging sophomore quarterback doesn't always make it look pretty, but his ability to scramble for extra yards and complete a high percentage of passes have been key to the Gators' hot start.
Besides Driskel, the defense continues to show why it's among the best in the SEC.
Senior Lerentee McCray—who took over for Ronald Powell (ACL)—has proven to be a better all-around playmaker than the former No. 1 overall recruit.
With Matt Elam anchoring the secondary, Florida stifled Tennessee's vaunted passing attack, holding Tyler Bray to just 257 passing yards.
As the team heads into the meat of its schedule, let's take a look at the five players who have keyed Florida's fast start.
Lerentee McCray, Buck Linebacker
Sometimes you just have to grab life by the horns.
In the case of Lerentee McCray, he's seized the opportunity and is producing at an All-SEC level.
The senior Buck linebacker has actually been an upgrade over former starter Ronald Powell, consistently making plays in the opponent's backfield.
McCray—who checks in at an NFL-ready 6'3", 249 pounds—has been a fiend off the edge as both a run defender and pass-rusher.
Powell's replacement displayed some surprising pass-coverage skills on Saturday, intercepting a Tyler Bray pass and returning it 25 yards.
If McCray continues to be a dynamic player off the edge, UF should contend for the top defense in the SEC.
Mike Gillislee, Running Back
After carrying the ball just 145 times in three seasons, Mike Gillislee has already eclipsed his single-season high in rushing yards with 346.
By the way, that mark leads the SEC.
UF's senior back utilizes excellent straight-line speed and impressive cutting ability to gain the edge on the defense.
With an underdeveloped passing game, Gillislee has had to shoulder the load, and the 5'11", 209-pounder has easily held up his end of the bargain.
The SEC's leading rusher has established himself as UF's No. 1 back and perhaps the best back in the conference.
Jon Bostic, Middle Linebacker
When it comes to UF's defense, Jon Bostic is the unquestioned leader.
A rock-solid tackler at the middle linebacker spot, the 6'1", 246-pound senior ranks second on the team in tackles (18) and tackles for loss (3.0).
With running mate Jelani Jenkins sidelined by a fractured thumb, the team's most experienced defender has stepped up his game.
The Gators need Bostic to be their anchor if they hope to stop running backs like Marcus Lattimore and Todd Gurley and LSU's three-pronged attack.
Jeff Driskel, Quarterback
Billed as the top high-school quarterback in 2011, Jeff Driskel is finally proving scouts correct.
The 6'4", 237-pounder has quickly developed from a wide-eyed freshman to a poised sophomore.
Despite playing behind an inconsistent offensive line, Driskel has posted an impressive 71.2 completion percentage and is averaging 9.5 yards per completion. He's also managed to avoid turning the ball over, throwing three touchdowns and no picks.
When the pocket has collapsed, Driskel has shown the ability to pick up yards with his feet. In fact, he's the team's second-leading rusher with 145 yards.
As long as Driskel continues to develop, the Gators have plenty of reason for optimism on offense.
Caleb Sturgis, Kicker
Here's a crazy realization: Kickers are people, too.
In Caleb Sturgis, the Gators just happen to have one of the nation's best.
Sturgis can often be the butt of many jokes among students. I mean, how long has this guy been around? A redshirt senior kicker?
Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), the fifth-year senior happens to be one of Florida's most valuable weapons.
When the offense has gone awry, Sturgis has often picked up the slack. After a strong 2011 season where he converted 84.6 percent of his field-goal attempts, Sturgis has managed to go 7-of-8 so far, including two kicks of 50+ yards.
After achieving 11 touchbacks on 18 kickoffs, Sturgis will certainly be missed by fans when he leaves after this season. Until then, he remains one of the team's most important players and one of the biggest reasons why UF has gotten off to a 3-0 start.
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