The Florida Gators escaped and knocked off the Kentucky Wildcats 28-27 Saturday night. The Gators were able to extend their winning streak against the Wildcats to 31 straight years. While it was a win for the Gators, it was an ugly win and showed that Florida has a lot of work to do. A lot happened in this game as redshirt-junior Luke Del Rio came in to the game in the third quarter and led the Gators to victory. Here are five takeaways from the Florida-Kentucky game.
Five Florida Takeaways from the Kentucky Game
Coaching staff seems more comfortable with Luke Del Rio at Quarterback
After watching Feleipe Franks and Luke Del Rio play against Kentucky, the coaching staff seems more comfortable with Luke Del Rio at quarterback instead of Feleipe Franks. It looked like the coaching staff handcuffed Franks with what he can do but it’s a different story with Del Rio. With Del Rio on the field, the coaches opened up the playbook and let him run the offense. The offense looked a lot better with Del Rio under center. One of the main reasons for that could be that the coaching staff trusts Del Rio more than Franks. If that’s the case, Del Rio could be the starting quarterback from here on out. Jim McElwain has a lot of thinking and soul searching to do to figure out who is his starting quarterback.
Kadarius Toney is explosive
For the second week in a row, Kadarius Toney showcased his quick and twitchy ability. The true freshman had four receptions for 35 yard but also had two carries for 39 yards including a 36 yard rushing touchdown. Toney might be Florida’s most explosive offensive weapon and one of Florida’s best receivers. Jim McElwain needs to get Toney more involved. He is fun to watch with the ball in his hands and could really elevate Florida’s offense. Tyrie Cleveland is clearly Florida’s best receiver but he can’t do some of the things Toney can do. With the question marks at quarterback, Florida could run more wildcat formations with Toney since it seems to be working and it gives the defense a different look.
Malik Davis is Florida’s best RB
Going into this game, I still thought Lamical Perine was Florida’s best running back. Not anymore. The true freshman out of Tampa Jesuit, Malik Davis, has proven that he’s the best running back on Florida’s roster. Jordan Scarlett is still the best running back but he’s currently not on the team and there’s no timetable for his return. Coach McElwain increased Davis’s workload and showed a lot of confidence in the freshman. Malik Davis rushed 21 times for 93 yards. Davis is Florida’s lead rusher with 195 yards in 26 carries. The Kentucky defense was the third ranked rushing defense going into this game. The Wildcats were averaging 57 rushing yard per game but that number will get bigger as the Gators rushed for 189 yards.
Linebacker depth is a huge issue
The Florida Gators have four sophomore linebackers that have proven to be some of the top linebackers in the SEC. Outside of those four, there is a huge drop off. When Vosean Joseph was ejected from the game for targeting, the linebackers were constantly attacked because Kentucky knows they are down in numbers. Luckily for the Gators, Joseph will be back for Vanderbilt but that doesn’t solve Florida’s linebacker depth issue. One of the biggest reason Florida has depth issues at LB is because two of the nine suspended players are linebackers. This issue should solve itself once the two suspended players return. But, as with Scarlett, nobody knows when that will happen. The linebackers will have to be more careful when they tackle and not go up high.
Florida still has a lot of work to do
The first three games of the Florida Gators 2017 season has not been as good as most expected. The quarterback position still has to be solved and the Florida offensive line isn’t up to par yet. The defense also has some things they need to improve on. Florida’s defensive coordinator Randy Shannon needs to get creative on defense and disguise coverages and blitzes. Chauncey Gardner still needs to work on his tackling. He really needs to step it up before he gets benched. The good news for Gators fan is that this is actually a pretty talent team. They clearly have playmakers on offense. And the defense still has a lot of talent even after losing nine starters from last year. The Gators tons of work to do but this team could be special if the coaching staff improves on play calling and being more creative.