The view from Gainesville: Breaking down the matchup

semerson@macon.comOctober 27, 2011 

As always, we finish up our preview coverage of the opponent with someone who knows them inside and out: A beat writer. This week we're lucky enough to have Rachel George, who covers the Florida Gators for The Orlando Sentinel.

You can ready Rachel's coverage of the team here at the Sentinel's site. And her Twitter handle is @osgators.

I also answered Rachel's questions about the game, and Georgia, which you can find here.

Thanks to Rachel for her help, and I'm sure you'll find her answers enlightening:

1) Let's go ahead and assume John Brantley is starting at quarterback. What's your sense on how gimpy he still might be, and how that will affect him in the game? And do you think he might be a bit more questionable to play if Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett had looked better the past few weeks?

George: Well, this is quite the assumption but I'll play along. Practices are closed to the media so we haven't seen how well Brantley has been doing. Reports from the coaches are that he's progressed well throughout the week, and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said Tuesday that he was "cautiously optimistic" that Brantley would play. How effective he can be remains to be seen, but he'll need to be better protected than the QBs have in the past three games.

Will Muschamp said Brantley has been targeting this game for his return since he was injured on Oct. 1, and I think that's probably got more to do with it than the freshmen quarterbacks. Even with Brantley, Florida would have still struggled to be Alabama or LSU. Auburn was a winnable game even with Brissett and Driskel, but the guys around them did not play well. If they lead UF to a win in that game, maybe he tries to take longer to recover. But really, I think he's a senior who wants to play his final game against Georgia.

2) Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps (presumably healthy to play after his sprained ankle): How are they being used by Charlie Weis?

George: In the first four games, Florida had a lot of success getting them room outside and throwing short, flat passes that they could run with. In the past three, they have struggled to find room between the tackles. Their speed is effective, but so far only when they get in space.

3) The image we've seen lately of Will Muschamp as a head coach is one of somebody who is rather boisterous on the sideline, getting in the ear of officials, with a few people wondering if he's a bit too intense. What is he like on a day-to-day basis in dealing with his team, media, fans, etc.?

George: Thankfully, not quite that boisterous in press conferences but one thing that's pretty clear about him is that he's genuine. What you see on the sideline is what the players say they get in practice. He's more subdued with the media and fans, but he's still the same guy. Muschamp's got that Southern charm that fans like, along with the intensity.

4) The defense doesn't have quite the big names of the past, although a few might eventually be. For now, what do the coaches feel best about on their defense, and what really worries them?

George: Right now, they like some of their personnel, especially on the interior of the defensive line. Jaye Howard and Omar Hunter have led the line and there's sophomores with potential. The coaches like linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins and some of the athleticism in the secondary. But there have been problems at each position group. The front has struggled against the run and tackling has been an issue with the entire defense, but the secondary in particular.

5) Florida seems a tough team to get a handle on, since it did what it should in its first four games against weak opponents, then lost convincingly to LSU, Alabama and Auburn. Are the Gators still trying to find their identity?

George: Coming into the season, Muschamp wanted their identity to be that of a blue-collar team. He says they've bought into the idea but the execution is a little flawed. More than anything, the coaches would like to see the consistency in performance from one game to the next. Even in the first four wins, that wasn't always the case. In the losses, Florida has struggled to do what it does well against better personnel. Charlie Weis and Dan Quinn might have to get creative to do that, but they'll need to find that consistency if they want to keep alive their slim hopes of making it to Atlanta.

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