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Missouri at Florida: Gators' defense is both active and a little bit leaky

Florida's defense is athletic and aggressive, but when the Gators aren't making big plays, they're allowing them. If Missouri can keep UF out of the backfield (and that's one hell of an "if" right now), the Tigers could do some damage.

Rob Foldy

Florida still has all the blue-chippers in the world up front, one of the best cornerbacks in the country out side, and an experienced defensive backbone (DT, MLB, safety) up the middle. But the Gators' whole has not added up to the sum of the parts this year. Granted, that only matters if Missouri's own offense gets its collective head out of its collective backside.

Bryan Cox, Jr. (6'3, 260, So.) (10.0 tackles, 4 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 QB hurries)
Gerald Willis (6'3, 270, Fr.) (2.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 QB hurry)
Taven Bryan (6'5, 260, Fr.)

Jon Bullard (6'3, 270, Jr.) (11.5 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 3 QB hurries)
Joey Ivie (6'3, 285, So.) (7.0 tackles)
Leon Orr (6'5, 305, Sr.) (8.5 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 FF -- 3 games) -- questionable

Darious Cummings (6'1, 305, Sr.) (7.5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU, 2 QB hurries)
Caleb Brantley (6'3, 313, RSFr.) (7.0 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 QB hurry)
Jay-nard Bostwick (6'3, 305, RSFr.) (0.5 tackles)

Dante Fowler Jr. (6'3, 260, Jr.) (21.0 tackles, 5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 9 QB hurries)
Alex McCallister (6'6, 245, So.) (10.5 tackles, 5 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 PBU)

While Florida has recruited well just about everywhere, the Gators have been particularly impressive at landing blue-chippers on the line. Dante Fowler: five-star. Jon Bullard: five-star. Leon Orr, Caleb Brantley, and Gerald Willis: high-four-stars. Joey Ivie, Darious Cummings and Jay-nard Bostwick: plain old, regular four-stars.

Granted, Orr's been battling injury, but when you look at the expectation level of these players, the fact that Florida is only racking up top-30ish line stats (30th in Adj. Line Yards, 31st in Adj. Sack Rate) is almost disappointing. Still, the line is solid, and it's good enough to victimize the Missouri offensive line if Mizzou's front hasn't started to get things figured out after last week. Missouri is incredibly leaky in run blocking (109th in Stuff Rate), and Florida's line is active across the board (11 sacks from the ends, 8.5 TFLs from the tackles). That's a potentially bad combination.

Neiron Ball (6'3, 235, Sr.) (17.0 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 FF, 3 QB hurries)
Alex Anzalone (6'3, 230, So.) (1.5 tackles)

Michael Taylor (6'0, 230, Sr.) (16.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL -- 4 games)
Jarrad Davis (6'2, 225, So.) (11.0 tackles, 1 QB hurry)

Antonio Morrison (6'1, 225, Jr.) (29.5 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 QB hurry)
Daniel McMillan (6'1, 220, So.) (2.0 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FR)

Hello again, Antonio Morrison.

Morrison and Ball have been alright this year, but Florida really isn't getting a ton of production here. When you've got an active line, that's fine, but Florida needs a few more contributions. The Gators are inefficient against the run (71st in raw rushing success rate) and leaky against the pass (100th in raw passing IsoPPP).

Vernon Hargreaves III (5'11, 195, So.) (14.0 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 6 PBU, 1 FR)
Jalen Tabor (6'1, 195, Fr.) (14.0 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR)

Brian Poole (5'10, 205, Jr.) (17.5 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 7 PBU, 2 QB hurries)
Quincy Wilson (6'1, 200, Fr.) (6.0 tackles)

Keanu Neal (6'1, 205, So.) (18.5 tackles, 3 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Duke Dawson (5'10, 195, Fr.) (5.5 tackles, 1 INT, 1 QB hurry)

Jabari Gorman (5'10, 185, Sr.) (15.5 tackles, 1 INT, 3 PBU)
Nick Washington (6'1, 195, RSFr.) (2.5 tackles)
Marcell Harris (6'2, 210, RSFr.) (0.5 tackles)

Marcus Maye (6'0, 200, So.) (18.0 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF, 1 QB hurry -- 4 games)

From a pure production standpoint, it's hard to find corners more active and exciting than Florida's; Hargreaves, Tabor, and Poole have combined for seven TFLs, two interceptions, and 16 breakups. And that says nothing of active safety Keanu Neal. But as mentioned above, Florida also ranks 100th in passing IsoPPP, a measure of the magnitude of successful plays. When Florida doesn't make a play, it allows one. Now, a lot of that damage was done a few games ago.

Alabama and Kentucky: 60% completion rate, 17.0 yards per completion, 8 TD, 4 INT
Tennessee and LSU: 59% completion rate, 8.8 yards per completion, 1 TD, 2 INT

Florida's defense held up against Tennessee's and LSU's respective passing attacks just fine (which is particularly impressive when you consider that Hargreaves was injured for the second half against LSU), and let's face it: both of those pass attacks have more to offer than Missouri's does at the moment.

One can flash back to last season's game -- Maty Mauk's first as a starter -- and remember big pass plays to Jimmie Hunt and Bud Sasser, among others. Maybe Mauk and the offense find their misplaced confidence and score some strikes downfield. But really, this game will probably be determined by which offense makes fewer mistakes, not which one makes more big plays. Florida is willing to give you some big gains if you're ready to take them, but Missouri hasn't been ready for a while.

Special Teams

Francisco Velez (5'9, 182, Sr.) (18-18 PAT, 8-9 FG under 40)
Austin Hardin (5'10, 208, So.) (0-0 PAT, 1-2 FG over 40)

Kyle Christy (6'3, 198, Sr.) (28 punts, 45.6 average, 9 fair catches, 13 inside 20)

Andre Debose (6'0, 195, Sr.) (11 KR, 22.6 average)

Andre Debose (6'0, 195, Sr.) (7 returns, 30.3 average, 1 TD)

According to Brian Fremeau's special teams data, Florida has one of the 10 best special teams units in the country. Kyle Christy is once again booming punts to Cuba, and Andre Debose is a terrifying return man. Missouri ranks 55th here, with no particular strengths or weaknesses, but it would behoove the Tigers greatly to fight to a draw in special teams. It's going to be hard enough winning while overcoming potential offensive deficiencies. Doing so while also losing the special teams battle while require an amazing defensive performance from the Tigers. And hey, maybe the defense will produce just that. But you don't want to put that kind of pressure on any single unit.