Date: September 3, 2022 Time: 7:00pm EST Network: ESPN Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida Spread: Utah -3.0 Over/Under: 51
Florida vs Utah Preview
The #7 Utah Utes travel to the Swamp to face the unranked Florida Gators for each of their opening games of the season. Utah is coming off of a Pac-12 Championship last season, led by a fantastic running game, a tremendous defense, and a quick passing game commanded by quarterback Cam Rising. Utah looks to be an early favorite to repeat as Pac-12 champions, with a few other contenders in Oregon and USC to compete with. The Utes’ toughest non-conference matchup looks to be this opening game. The Florida Gators are coming off a tumultuous season that led to the firing of previous coach Dan Mullen. New head coach Billy Napier looks to lead Florida back to success in his first season. Florida opens the season with a tough stretch with three of the first four games against quality opponents, headlined by Utah.
Points Per Game (Rank): 35.8 (13) Total Yards Per Game: 429.8 (39) Passing YPG: 210.6 (85) Rushing YPG: 219.2 (11) Points Per Play: 0.521 (7) Yards Per Play: 6.2 (20) 3rd Down Conversion %: 49.69 (7) 4th Down Conversion %: 50.00 (66) Red Zone Scoring %: 80.00 (88)
Rush Play %: 57.1 (33) Yards Per Carry: 5.6 (2) Runs Per Game: 39.3 (39)
Pass Play %: 42.91 (98) Completion %: 62.63 (48) Yards Per Pass: 7.4 (71) Passes Per Game: 28.6 (90) Interception %: 1.88 (31) QB Sack %: 3.13 (2)
Points Per Game: 23.0 (32) Total Yards Per Game: 349.1 (23) Passing YPG: 223.0 (57) Rushing YPG: 126.1 (21) Points Per Play: 0.337 (38) Yards Per Play: 5.1 (34) 3rd Down Conversion %: 38.12 (56) 4th Down Conversion %: 53.33 (72) Red Zone Scoring %: 79.55 (42)
Rush Play %: 48.31 (13) Yards Per Carry: 3.8 (37) Runs Per Game: 33.0 (16)
Pass Play %: 51.61 (118) Completion %: 61.28 (71) Yards Per Pass: 6.9 (32) Passes Per Game: 32.4 (80) Interception %: 2.14 (89) QB Sack %: 8.28 (25)
2021 tEAM Advanced sTATS
FEI is a per-possession metric to determine the scoring differential between opponents on a neutral field. SP+ is a tempo (plays per game, etc.) and opponent adjusted metric to judge efficiency. F+ combines these two metrics. Offensive F+ (OF+) and Defensive F+ (DF+) break that down to the side of the ball. All five metrics are courtesy of Football Outsiders. PFF’s Point Spread Rating is their version of power rankings.
The Utah Utes are an extremely talented team that is returning a majority of it’s starters from last season. They have a good team culture with coach Kyle Whittingham in his 18th season, and are built to play a bully-ball style of game. They will pound the rock with a vicious barrage of running backs and have plenty of skilled playmakers at the tight end spot to go big. Defensively, their line will look to eat up space to let their new linebackers make plays. The secondary is very talented on the outside, but is a mixed bag at safety. If one of the new safeties can step up, this could be one of the best secondaries in college football. Quarterback Cam Rising will look to play efficiently and deliver the ball to his playmakers quickly to avoid mistakes.
Points Per Game (Rank): 27.4 (61) Total Yards Per Game: 443.0 (20) Passing YPG: 236.6 (61) Rushing YPG: 206.4 (22) Points Per Play: 0.386 (63) Yards Per Play: 6.2 (21) 3rd Down Conversion %: 38.89 (70) 4th Down Conversion %: 56.00 (50) Red Zone Scoring %: 84.44 (54)
Rush Play %: 53.64 (63) Yards Per Carry: 5.4 (6) Runs Per Game: 38.1 (52)
Pass Play %: 46.36 (68) Completion %: 61.94 (59) Yards Per Pass: 7.5 (68) Passes Per Game: 31.8 (55) Interception %: 4.72 (129) QB Sack %: 3.54 (7)
The Florida Gators are helmed by new head coach Billy Napier. Napier will be tested in his opener at the swamp, but his NFL-style offense can be effective against a superior opponent. The Gators will look to use their strong offensive line and deep running back room to move the ball effectively and make the Utes’ linebackers run and chase. Anthony Richardson is unlike any quarterback Napier has ever had, so expect more creativity with the position than he has previously shown.
On the defensive side of the ball, a lack of depth up front will have to be made up for with the star power of Gervon Dexter and Brenton Cox Jr. The Gators do have experience in the secondary, and that group should be talented. Linebacker remains a question, as those with experience lack athleticism, and those with athleticism lack experience.
Florida Gators Keys to Victory
Effective Anthony Richardson – 300+ Total Yards, 2+ Total TDs
Run the Ball Effectively – 5.0 + YPC, 200 Total Yards
Limit Turnovers – Turnover Margin Within 1
Explosive Plays – year’s3 25+ yard plays
Gets Stops On 3rd Down – Under last years average of 49.67% conversion rate
The offense has seen its fair share of sleeper picks in recent draft boards and mocks. What about the defensive side; who’s potentially got that “it” factor we’re not talking about?
I hope everyone enjoyed the first part of my early 2023 NFL draft sleepers list. Now for the defense. You can find more about these players and more in database that I help update here.
Ruke Orhorhoro – Clemson
Ruke Orhorhoro is origionally from Nigeria. He played very little in 2019 and 2020, which he actually ended up redshirting for. He came into 2021 looking to just get time as a #3 DL, but due to injures ended up starting nine games in 2021 and played pretty well. The current Tiger was ok against the run and tackled well. He is a developing pass rusher as well. As the season went he got better as a pass rusher. Everyone knows Bresee and even Tyler Davis to a lesser extent, but Ruke could end up going a lot higher than people think if he comes out. He is a redshirt Junior. He could stay for his senior year and take over and be ‘the guy’ on the DL.
Jowon Briggs – Cincinnati
Briggs is another player that made that Cincinnati defense so good these past couple years. He is a little short at 6’1, but has good size at 315 and is a good athlete. He is a little bit of a projection in the NFL since Cincinnati uses him more as an end in their unique defense. 2021 was his best season overall. He played solid against the run and flashed some as a pass rusher with 23 pressures. If he can continue to develop he could definitely hear his name called early on day 3.
D’Anthony Jones – Houston
Jones is similar to Briggs in that Houston uses him as more of a end than a DL/tackle. He is 6’2 285 and has the build of a interior defensive lineman. So he is a little bit of a projection. He is even more athletic than Briggs. He is a very good pass rusher. Jones produced 34 pressures and 5.5 sacks essentially playing out of positions. He is a bit undersized so he will need to add some bulk. At the very least he should be able to contribute as a sub package pass rusher in the NFL.
Elijah Chatman – SMU
Chatman is another undersized (6’1 290), but quick interior pass rusher. He is entering his third year as a starter at SMU. Even though he is undersized he is a very good run defender. He will make plays in the backfield, but seems to have plateau’d. He had 20 pressures in 2021 and just 2.5 sacks. His biggest issue has been finishing. If he can improve that and work on his tackling a little he should have a good shot at getting drafted.
Shitta Sillah – Boston College
With six starts in 2021 he started to finally flash some of that potential he had. He has ideal size at 6’4 253 His first two play season were pretty mediocre. Sillah had just one sack but had 13 pressures in six starts. He is a real good run defender. If he can continue to get better he could hear his name on day three.
YaYa Diaby – Louisville
Diaby is another guy who flashed some potential in 2020, then upped it in 2021. He is primed for a breakout in 2022. He only had 1.5 sacks last year but did have 22 pressures. The current Cardinal has ideal size at 6’4 255 and looks filled out. Also he has good arm length at 33 5/8ths” and big 10 1/2″ hands He does a good job of setting the edge and has even showed some ability to drop into coverage.
Yasir Abdullah – Louisville
Abdullah is Diaby’s teammate and actually produced more statistically. He showed some potential as a pass rusher in 2020 then really came on in 2021 he had 29 pressures and 10 sacks. His size holds back his potential in the NFL. He is 6’1 235 so he is undersized and looks like he will have to move to LB. He is very athletic and when Louisville dropped him in coverage he held up well showing he should be able to make the transition.
Rondell Bothroyd – Wake Forest
Bothroyd played some defensive line early on at Wake and despite his size he played ok. He had 30 pressures but only 1.5 sacks in 2019. The coaches finally moved him to edge in 2020. He has been a good run defender his whole career. Its really his pass rush that needed to come around and develop. He finally produced in 2021 with 37 pressures and 8 sacks, but his production was a bit inconsistent. He has great size at 6’4 260 with average arm length. If he can be a bit more consistent in 2022 he could go on day two.
Jeremy Lewis – East Carolina
Lewis is a former tight end. He spent his first two seasons there. He moved to edge in 2020 but didn’t play much. The former tight end started the last eight games of the season. In that short time he had 21 pressures and four sacks. His weakness so far has been the run game and disengaging with blockers. He is a bit undersized at 235 so bulking up might help him some. He is definitely a developmental project.
Devere Levelston – SMU
Devere is another guy who didn’t play much in 2020, just eight games and less than 200 snaps. He produced all of five pressures, six tackles, but one sack. Come 2021 he came in and started every game and had a big year with 31 pressures, and 6.5 sacks. He showed that he has NFL talent. His main weakness right now is his play against the run. He will be a junior in 2022. If he has a big season he could come out.
Anthony Goodlow – Tulsa
Goodlow is on the bigger side for an edge rusher at 6’4 274 and his athleticism is at best average. He is smart and technically sound. He showed small improvements each season. It all culminated in a career year in 2021. While he didnt have big sack numbers with only six, he did have 43 pressures. He is also a very good run defender. He probably won’t be able to play in a 3-4 defense unless its as a 5-tech. Teams that like big strong defensive ends will like him.
Tatum Bethune – FSU
Bethune goes 5’11 227 so he is obviously undersized. He transferred from UCF to FSU. 2021 was his second year as a starter. He really played well and showed that he had the talent to play in the NFL. He was all around a solid player. Good against the run, could blitz (17 pressures and 2 sacks), and was decent in coverage (2 INTs). He is a play maker. Him and Gainer could combine for a pretty dynamic duo this season.
Antonio Grier Jr. – USF
Grier is similar in size and athleticism to Bethune. While he is undersized he is well built. He plays inside linebacker for USF, but due to his size he will have to play weakside linebacker. The current Bull is not very good against the run, but being able to play on the weakside in the NFL will help him and will allow him to use his athleticism more. For a smaller backer he is a decent blitzer, and he also picked off two passes. He does need to clean up the missed tackles from 2021. He may never be anything more than a back up and special teamer, but he has a shot at getting drafted.
Darius Muasau – UCLA
Muasau is a transfer from Hawaii where he played really well the last two seasons. Collecting a combined 210 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 37 pressures, five forced fumbles, two interceptions (1 returned for a 75 yard TD), and five passes defensed. He is not huge, but he has the size that we are seeing with a lot of linebackers these days. Muasau is 6’1 235. He is a good but not elite athlete. The former Rainbow Warrior could be in line for an even bigger season in 2022 if he can pick up UCLA’s new defense quickly.
Josh DeBerry – Boston College
DeBerry has decent size at 5’11, but a little under weight at around 180. He is a decent athlete. He has also shown improvement every season. The current Eagle had his best season in 2021 with two picks and two passes defensed. DeBerry has been a solid all around player who might not be exceptional at any one thing, but he can do a little of everything. He obviously needs to add some bulk/strength to his frame and if he can continue on his path he should be a solid mid round pick.
Jaylin Williams – Indiana
Williams has played a lot in his time at Indiana and has actually been a solid cover guy since he got there. Early on his issues were with run defense and tackling, but he improved his tackling each season and his run defense came around in 2020 and 2021. He is a little undersized at 5’10 180 and his arms are a little short at 29 3/4″. Williams might be destined to play the slot in the NFL. He did allow four touchdowns in 2021 so he will have to work on that.
Jermari Harris – Iowa
After redshirting in 2019 he played just 32 snaps in 2020. In 2021 though he ended up starting six of of Iowa’s last seven games. He played well, a bit inconsistent but overall he played well for a guy who only had 32 snaps the previous season. He also surprisingly had four interceptions on the year and three pass break ups. Now a redshirt junior, Harris could come out if he has a big season and becomes more consistent and improves his play against the run.
Ronald Williams – Michigan State
Williams is an interesting story. He was a high school quarterback that had to go the JC route. He plays two seasons at Hutchinson (Kan.) and then transfers to Alabama. Williams plays just 27 snaps at Alabama in 2020. He didn’t show much in that short time. Then he transfers to Michigan State and ends up starting nine games out of 13. He had a couple bad games but overall was solid in coverage. One of his issues though was his tackling where he missed 10 tackles. He also lacks great athleticism. Williams does have long arms and a big wingspan. If he learns to use that and play with it he could have a shot at getting drafted.
Arquon Bush – Cincinnati
Bush has bided his time at Cincinnati being stuck behind Sauce Gardner and Kobe Bryant. He has played only slot in his time at Cincinnati. 2022 will be his first chance to show that he can play on the outside. He has ok size with good athleticism. The issue though is his arms are only 29 3/4″ long and even his wingspan is just 73″. He does have seven career interceptions which is pretty good for a nickel back. His play against the run and tackling could be improved. If he can prove that he can play outside that will go a long way into boosting his draft stock.
Malik Flemings – East Carolina
Flemings is very similar in size to his former teammate Ja’Quan McMillan who declared early for the draft but went undrafted. He is about 5’9 180. The big difference between the two is speed. Flemings is a good portion faster; but he does project to a similar role in the NFL as a slot corner. He is a very solid player all around. Due to his better athleticism he should hear his name called in 2023.
Kaevon Merriweather – Iowa
Merriweather became a first time starter in 2020 after not playing much in 2018 and 2019. In that shortened season he showed some flashes, but didn’t produce a lot. Enter 2021 and he showed a lot of improvement against the run and as a tackler. He surprisingly has played well in coverage both seasons. The current Hawkeye has one interception and four pass break ups in that time. With Merriweather though he still is more of a strong safety/box safety type. He could play some free of course but he’s best near the line of scrimmage.
Kitan Oladapo – Oregon State
Oladapo did not play much at all until 2020 where he started one game. He didn’t show a lot, he was actually bad in coverage giving up three touchdowns in just six games. He came back in 2021 and ended up starting 12 of 13 games and showed big improvements in coverage. The current Beaver had one interception and seven pass break ups. Also he contributed 69 tackles and a sack. Oladapo played mostly strong safety but played a good amount at free and even took some snaps in the slot. Long term he is more of a strong safety. His run fits do need some work.
Juawan Treadwell – Liberty
Juawan is the brother of Laquan Treadwell. Although has a different body type. He goes about 5’11 200 and runs about a 4.6. He has played strong safety and slot at Liberty. Treadwell even started some games in 2020 at strong safety. It looks like he will be moving back into the starting lineup in 2022. He has shown he has versatility. While his career stats are not much to look at his play has been solid and has shown potential as a safety/slot in the NFL. It would be interesting to see Liberty put him at free and see what he can do.
Quindell Johnson – Memphis
Johnson became a full time starter in 2020 after playing really well in a back up role in 2019. He has played free, strong, and even slot. although his interception numbers fell in 2021 he played even better in coverage. He played really well overall in 2021. If he could improve as a blitzer and cut down on the touchdowns given up in coverage (8 the last two seasons) he could go as high as day two.
Kendarin Ray – Tulsa
Ray had a semi breakout season in 2020. First he is 6’3 208 and runs a 4.55. He didn’t have any interceptions but did have six pass break ups and 63 tackles in a shortened season. He started off 2021 not playing up to his play from the previous season in coverage. Then he got hurt in his 6th game and didn’t play the rest of the season. Ray has talent and upside as a strong safety/slot defender. He just needs to get back to his 2020 play and stay healthy.
JL Skinner – Boise State
Skinner had some low key hype on him going into the 2022 draft. He flirted with entering and was close to it. Skinners first season as a starter was 2020 where he was ok, got burned a few times but also made some plays. Enter 2021 and he had a really good season. He was one of the more well rounded safety’s in college football last season. He had 92 tackles, two interceptions, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. Skinner played both free and strong. The current Bronco did show some inconsistencies in coverage from game to game. If he could fix that in 2022 he could be one of the top safties drafted. He is 6’4 210 and runs a sub 4.5. He could be a really good free safety at the NFL level.
The Los Angeles Lakers have worked out a number of prospects over the previous two weeks. When looking at the list of players, one caught my eye that was a fairly slept on possibility in Grant Golden. Could he be the next new Laker?
Who is Grant?
Golden is a 6’10, 225-pound power forward from Richmond. Last season, he averaged 13 points, six rebounds, and three assists per game.
He was also named to the Atlantic 10 Conference team three times between 2017 and 2022. He was also named to the All-Conference Tournament team in 2022.
What stands out the most about him is his exceptional shooting ability. He can shoot from everywhere on the court thanks to his towering body. Golden also has excellent passing skills for a prospect his size. He also performs amazingly in the pick and roll.
He possesses abilities that will only improve if he could be mentored by players such as LeBron James and Anthony Davis, as well as the entire Lakers coaching staff, who understand how to develop young players.
Golden’s skill stood out and built a reputation for himself despite being at a small school with minimal media coverage till it was time for the tournament.
Player Comp -Kelly Olynyk With Playmaking
After seeing him play at Richmond, I noticed that he is extremely similar to current Detroit Piston Kelly Olynyk in terms of scoring and floor spacing. One area where they differ is in passing, as Golden has been one of the finest passing bigs in college without receiving national recognition.
It is obvious that he can be a second-round pick or end up on a summer league club. But, if the Lakers determine Grant Golden, expect the Lakers scouting team to turn him into the next big draft steal.
On Early National Signing Day, Nick Saban makes a splash and swipes former LSU cornerback Eli Ricks. With Coach O gone, the former Freshman All-American is taking his talents to title town. Alabama had a great day in 2022 Early Signing Day, but Eli Ricks makes it a whole lot better.
Eli Ricks changes the game for Bama:
Ricks is suddenly CB1 for the Crimson Tide, and the secondary looks a lot stronger for next year. With Ricks and Koolaid playing across from each other, and Branch playing inside the Tide has three very good CBs. Not to mention the rising star that is Demarco Hellams at safety. A guy I really like heading into next season.
Eli Ricks was recruited to Bama out of high school. Ricks has been quoted saying during his senior year he “Talked to Saban every day”. Ricks and Bryce Young seem to be acquainted as well, as per this tweet by Bryce:
What’s next for the Tide:
There are still more transfer portal targets and late signing guys to look out for. One in particular that I would keep an eye on is Georgia Tech RB Jahmyr Gibbs. The blue chip running back left Georgia Tech and now it seems his sights are set on Tuscaloosa. With McClellan, Sanders, and a good running back class coming in, Gibbs could be bumping someone right on out of a roster spot.
There are moves to be made by Nick Saban and his staff, but as of right now the Tide look poised to have a killer defense come 2023. Let’s find out if it gets any scarier.
The Gators had a close loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide, 31 to 29. Florida missed an extra point, and then subsequently had to go for two. If they had simply made both extra points, they would have been tied. Obviously, other factors led to the loss. Most notably, giving up 21 points in the first quarter. After that, the defense really tightened up significantly. Alabama finished the game averaging just 6.9 yards per pass attempt and 3.3 yards per carry. Florida’s offense also ran for 245 yards on 43 carries for an average of 5.7 yards per carry, which is extremely impressive against Alabama. However, they threw for just 195 yards. That is not a recipe for winning, especially when you go down big early. The absence of Anthony Richardson, who looks to be back for this game, was a big factor in their struggles. Richardson provides a much higher level downfield passing game than Emory Jones.
What to Watch
Florida’s Quarterback Rotation
With Anthony Richardson expected to be fully available for this game, it will be very interesting to see how often Dan Mullen uses him. Throughout the first two games of the season, Richardson looked like the better quarterback. Emory Jones played well against the Crimson Tide, but struggles with ball placement leave concerns about whether or not he is the answer at quarterback. Richardson gives an added dynamic as a passer while also being a superior running threat. Richardson has the skill to eventually overtake Jones if Mullen sees fit, and a game against an inferior opponent is the perfect opportunity to test it out.
Florida’s Run Defense
Florida has yet to give up more than the 3.3 yards per carry average in a game that they gave up to Alabama. The Gators will looks to continue this trend in this game. Tennessee’s top two running backs from last year transferred out, and they haven’t had the same level of talent come in to replace them. The Gator defense is still without linebacker Ventrell Miler, but played well despite not having him last week. The defensive line is very deep, and has three studs along it in Zach Carter, Brenton Cox Jr, and Gervon Dexter. They are a threat to any offensive line. The Gator’s will look to have to stop a running quarterback as well this week.
Keys to Success
Emory Jones has thrown at least one interception in every game so far this year. That has to stop, or he simply cannot play anymore. If the Gators can not turn the ball over, they are a superior team in terms of talent, and can rely on that to easily win this game. Turnovers in small numbers could be overcome in this one, but is something they really need to focus on going forward.
Corner Two Play
Again, if this is one of their few issues, they can still probably win this game. However, to be totally effective as a defense both in this game and going forward, they must get solid play out of whoever is corner two. My favorite for the position is Jason Marshall, who as a freshman has flashed his skill and athleticism, but lacks much consistency in his play. If he can prove to be a consistent player in this one, he can win the job going forward. If they do get good play out of corner two, they can shut down any and all hopes of offense from the Volunteers.
The Gators have dominated everyone they have faced on the ground offensively. They have a large stable of talented running backs, and a powerfully built offensive line that is best going forward. The quarterbacks both are tremendous runners. Anthony Richardson being back adds explosion in the running game. Jones, is a consistent runner who is good on read options. Having a backfield made up of Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis, Nayquan Wright, and Demarkus Bowman is just downright unnecessary. If they can continue their previous performances, they will be able to control time of possession and dominate both field position and on the scoreboard.