There’s a lot we still don’t know about Florida’s football team.
Its uninspiring Week 0 win over Miami generated plenty of questions about the team, some of which may be answered when the Gators face UT-Martin Saturday night.
Of course, it’s hard to draw any conclusions when an FCS team faces a strong FBS team, especially from a physical standpoint. Still, tomorrow’s game could provide some insight into the state of this year’s team and the future of the program. Here are three things to watch when Florida takes on UT-Martin:
Will “better coaching” lead to less penalties?
Perhaps the most glaring problem in UF’s win over Miami was a lack of discipline.
The Gators racked up nine penalties for 100 yards in that game, including two maddening pass interference offenses on Miami’s final drive that handed the Hurricanes first downs when the game looked to be over.
Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham vowed that the Gators will be more disciplined going forward.
“We’ve got to coach that better and they’ve got to execute better,” he said. “We’ll all do better at that.”
Maybe it had something to do with nerves – a primetime opening night game against an in-state rival can get the juices flowing. Maybe it was rust. Whatever it was, it needs to get better if UF wants to compete for an SEC title this year.
Will the running game be a factor?
Florida’s running back corps was expected to be one of the team’s strongest units going into the season. Against Miami, they were nowhere to be found.
The team’s top two backs, Lamical Perine and Malik Davis, combined for just 33 yards and no touchdowns against the Hurricanes. Even quarterback Feleipe Franks, who ran for 350 yards last year, only managed eight against UM.
Coach Dan Mullen’s reluctance to go to the run (only 28 attempts all game) can partly be attributed to the inexperience of his offensive line. UF returned just one starter on the line this year, the jury is still out on the unit as a whole. It will be tough to assess the line against a mismatched UT-Martin team, but tomorrow’s game could still provide the unit with some much-needed experience if Mullen tries to utilize the run more.
The spotlight will be on Emory Jones
Barring a disastrous score line, there’s a good chance Gators fans will get a look toward the future.
Expect redshirt freshman quarterback Emory Jones to make an appearance if (when?) the game is out of reach for UT-Martin, similarly to what happened last year against Idaho.
He impressed in that game, going 12 for 16 with 125 yards and two touchdowns. Jones, however, had a less than stellar spring game and did not make an appearance against Miami.
This is an opportunity for Jones to make a statement. A strong performance against UT-Martin can go a long way in building his trust both with Mullen and the Florida fan base.
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano. Contact him at [email protected].