Florida (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday, Sept. 6, 4 p.m.
After edging Morgan State, 31-28, with a fourth quarter Dylan Mulder 42-yard field goal, Eastern Michigan goes south to meet Florida in The Swamp.
As luck – so to speak – would have it, Eastern Michigan is the new Opening Day game for Florida. Last week’s scheduled opener against Idaho was terminated shortly after the opening kickoff due to lighting in the area and subsequent unsafe field conditions caused by the heavy rain.
The Gators will be anxious to make an impression following a disappointing 4-8 campaign in 2013. It got ugly for UF last year. After a 4-1 start, Florida dropped seven straight to close out the season.
It will be a tough test for EMU. How will the Eagles fare against the built-up wrath of a Gators program intent on re-establishing itself as a power?
Jeff Driskel, a 6-4, 230-pound redshirt junior is back at the helm for the Gators. His 2013 season was just short three games in due to a broken leg.
Two of UF’s top receivers are gone, with senior Quinton Dunbar providing most of the remaining experience. He had 40 receptions for 548 yards last year with a long of 83 yards. Still. he failed to score a touchdown after recording four the previous season on 36 catches for 383 yards. Several sophomores are among those who will need to step up for the Gators to move up in the SEC again.
It’s a better situation for UF at running back. Kevin Taylor gained 508 yards as a true freshman while filling in for Matt Jones (season-ending knee injury). Jones is back, as well as Mack Brown, who led Florida with 543 rushing yards.
The Gators line has plenty of experience and can be a force when healthy. Among the unit members is right guard Trenton Brown. At 6-8, 350, the senior could make it a long day for D-line opponents this year.
Defensively, UF returns everybody up front and is particularly strong on the defensive ends.
There is room for improvement in the linebacking unit, but Sophomore Jarrad Davis showed some promise.
The Gators will have a strong contingent along the back line, including Al-American Vernon Hargreaves II, along with Brian Poole and Jabari Gorman. Several freshman could also work become major contributors
Special teams had its issues last year. Austin Harding hit just 4 of 12 field goals in the campaign but there is likely on-going competition at the spot. Andre Debose is back to return kickoffs after getting sidelined with an ACL injury last year. He has already tied the school record of four KO returns for touchdowns.
The Eagles started 2014 with a familiar tough ground game. Of the 391 total offense yards, 292 came via the rush.
Senior Bronson Hill led the way with 19 touches for 114 yards (6.0 ypc). Darius Jackson contributed 73 yards and a TD on 17 carries while Ryan Brumfield chipped in 56 yards on eight trips.
Tyreese Russel (6) and Darius Jackson (5) combined for 11 catches to lead receivers.
Mulder made one of two field goal attempts, but that proved to be the game winner.