There has been plenty of pessimism surrounding the Florida Gators since the team’s 21-16 loss to the Miami Hurricanes. However, hope is far from lost for this season. In fact, there have been plenty of bright spots through the first two games that provide a reason for optimism as the season progresses.
Emergence of Solomon Patton & Quinton Dunbar
Senior wide receiver Solomon Patton had just one catch for 21 yards in the season opener and dropped a wide open pass that would have gone for much more, but against Miami, he came up big, posting six catches for 118 yards and a touchdown, all career-highs. To put some perspective on his performance, prior to this season Patton had just eight receptions for 79 yards and was used mostly as a runner (15 rushes for 146 yards entering 2013) and a special teams player. It was the first 100-yard game from a Florida receiver since Andre Debose did it back in 2011 against Furman. In an offense desperate for some playmakers, Patton showed he could be one moving forward.
Another receiver who has stepped up his game is redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar. Dunbar had a decent season in 2012, posting 36 receptions for 383 yards and four touchdowns, but he appears well on his way to shattering those numbers this season. Through two games Dunbar has nine catches for 120 yards, including a career-high seven receptions for 98 yards against Miami. Dunbar has always looked good in offseason practices and it appears this season he has finally translated that into some on-field success.
For a while it looked like true freshmen wide receivers Ahmad Fulwood and Demarcus Robinson would emerge as the playmakers at the position, but for now the veteran duo is getting the job done.
Defense is dominant
It’s a pretty safe bet to say the Gators’ defense will be the least of the team’s worries this season. Through two games Florida ranks fifth in the NCAA in total defense, allowing just 208.5 yards per game. The defense is loaded with NFL-level talent and has plenty of depth at virtually every position. Senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley, who has been nearly unblockable thus far, anchors the unit. He has four tackles, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hits in the first two games. Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III also appears to be just as good if not better than advertised, recording two interceptions through his first two career games. Even better news for Florida might be that linebacker Antonio Morrison and cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy did not miss a beat against Miami after being suspended for the season opener. Morrison stepped right in and led the team in tackles and Purifoy blocked a punt that set up a Gators’ touchdown. With the offense’s red-zone struggles the first two games, the defense has had to be close to perfect to keep the Gators in games, and it has done just that.