Pre-Snap Read: Florida

Sept. 29, 2017

By Zac Ellis

Previewing Vanderbilt’s matchup with No. 21 Florida on Saturday (11 a.m. CT ESPN):

History Lesson: Florida leads the all-time series with Vanderbilt, 38-10-2, and has won three straight matchups over the Commodores. The last two games have been decided by one score; the Gators secured a 9-7 win in Gainesville in 2015 before beating Vanderbilt, 13-6, in Nashville last fall.

Names to Watch (Florida)
QB Luke Del Rio
Del Rio replaced redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks in the third quarter of last week’s game against Kentucky with Florida trailing 24-14. The redshirt junior helped the Gators rally for a 28-27 win, tossing a game-winning, 5-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Swan. Del Rio is slated to earn his first start for Florida on Saturday, but don’t be surprised if the Gators utilize multiple quarterbacks.

WR Tyrie Cleveland
The sophomore leads Florida with 259 receiving yards and boasts a pair of touchdown catches. Cleveland has been particularly effective in the Gators’ two SEC games, hauling in 203 yards through the air on nine catches.

DL CeCe Jefferson
Jefferson notched a career-high 1.5 sacks in the win over Kentucky and leads the Gators in sacks (4) and tackles for loss (2.5) through three games. Jefferson’s performance is a big reason why Florida boasts one of the more aggressive defensive fronts in the SEC, leading the league with 3.33 sacks per game and ranking second with 7.7 tackles for loss per game.

The Statistical
Losses in one-possession games for Florida under head coach Jim McElwain. The coach is 9-1 in one-score games with the Gators, including a 2-0 mark this season. On Sept. 16, the Gators beat Tennessee, 26-20, on a 63-yard touchdown pass as time expired. Last week, Florida extended its win streak over Kentucky to 31 games when the Wildcats missed a 57-yard field goal as the clock hit zero.

Passing yards allowed per game by Vanderbilt’s defense. The Commodores boast one of the stingiest defenses against the pass in the country, ranking first in the SEC and second in FBS. Vanderbilt also ranks first nationally in yards-per-attempt allowed (4.4) and has already matched last year’s interception total with five.

Total tackles by outside linebacker Emmanuel Smith in 2017. The senior, who had just 19 career tackles entering the season, leads Vanderbilt with 37 total stops through four games. That number ranks fourth among SEC players.

The Big Question: Can Vanderbilt bounce back on the road? The Commodores’ season opener at Middle Tennessee notwithstanding, a trip to Gainesville represents the first major road test of 2017. Moreover, Vanderbilt must turn the page from a tough loss to Alabama last week, which halted the program’s 3-0 start. How do the ‘Dores respond in The Swamp?

Vanderbilt Needs To: Find balance on offense. Vanderbilt’s offense largely rode a wave of momentum from quarterback Kyle Shurmur (71.0 percent passing, eight touchdown passes) during its 3-0 start. But the Commodores could use a spark from their run game against Florida. Keep an eye on senior running back Ralph Webb; in three career games against the Gators, the Gainesville native averages 103.7 rush yards per game and 5.02 per carry.

Did You Know? No. 21 Florida is the third straight ranked opponent for Vanderbilt following games against No. 18 Kansas State and No. 1 Alabama. This season marks the first time the Commodores have faced three straight ranked opponents since 2009.

He Said It: “They continue to be who they've been, which is pretty dominant in the pass game. They're doing a better job against the run. They're stout, they're fast, they run to the football, they hit." –Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason, on Florida’s defense

Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.


Proud Sponsors of Commodore Athletics