5 players the Gators need more from in October
Florida finished the toughest September slate in college football with a 2-2 record. Florida’s September included 3 games against ranked teams — and all 3 are now ranked in the AP top 12 (a significant number when the College Football Playoff expands).
Florida’s schedule softens over the next 2 weeks, with a home tilt this weekend against Eastern Washington and a homecoming game against a hapless Missouri to follow. But if Florida hopes to survive the 3-games-in-4-weeks gauntlet (LSU, Georgia, at Texas A&M) that follows those 2 games, the Gators will need to be firing on all cylinders come the LSU game in The Swamp on Oct. 15.
While some Gators, like offensive guard O’Cyrus Torrence and sophomore corner Jason Marshall Jr., were splendid in September, plenty of players expected to contribute significantly this season struggled. Others, such as tight end Keon Zipperer, have had great moments, but need to use those to do more moving forward.
With that in mind, here are 5 Florida players the Gators need more from in October.
Gervon Dexter Sr., DT
Dexter hasn’t been bad. Schematically, in fact, he’s been good, drawing double teams on 59% of the snaps he’s played, per Stats Solutions. That’s a high number, and it would likely be even higher if Dexter hadn’t compiled 60 snaps or more in 3 of Florida’s first 4 games. Florida’s co-defensive coordinator tandem of Sean Spencer and Patrick Toney just haven’t trusted backups enough to take Dexter off the field. That’s a testament to his schematic impact.
All that said, there are other great players in the SEC who also impact scheme dramatically and most of them, whether it be Will Anderson Jr. of Alabama or Brock Bowers of Georgia or Anfernee Orji of Vanderbilt or Khari Coleman of Ole Miss, have flashed more production than Dexter in 2022.
Dexter did come up with a big interception in the Kentucky game, but he’s otherwise been relatively quiet. He has 13 tackles, 1 sack and 1 tackle for loss this season. Only 6 of his tackles are solo, with only 3 of those coming on plays that weren’t “successful” (given down and distance) for the offense.
Like it or not, it is not enough for a player with Dexter’s talent to merely impact scheme. Dexter needs to make big plays as well, double teams or no, for the Gators to be successful.
Keon Zipperer, TE
Look, it’s tough to top a play like this one that Zipperer made Saturday against Tennessee.
THE ESCAPE BY RICHARDSON.
THE EFFORT BY ZIPPERER.
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 24, 2022
Zipperer is capable of stuff like that consistently. That’s the rub.
He’s made huge plays before, including against Georgia in 2020 after Kyle Pitts left the game when a Lewis Cine cheap shot left Pitts with a concussion (and sent Cine to the showers for targeting). That history is why it’s confusing that Zipperer has just 9 catches, has been targeted just 12 times, and has only 119 yards receiving through Florida’s first 4 games. A former prized recruit who picked Florida over Alabama, Zipperer appears to be coming into his own, having caught 6 passes in Florida’s past 2 games. It’s time for him to blossom into a 5-reception a game guy and give Florida’s wide receiving corps a boost by picking up safety coverage in the process.
Richard Gouraige, OT
Blessed with 3 offensive linemen grading out in the PFF top 50 at their positions, including the nation’s No. 3 rated (and the SEC’s highest rated) offensive linemen through September, O’Cyrus Torrence, the Gators offensive line is the team’s strength. Here’s the thing, though: It has a surprising weakness — Gouraige. Pegged by many as an All-SEC caliber tackle, Gouraige ranks 164th nationally among tackles, and outside the top 200 in run blocking, through 4 games. Gouraige was beaten badly on a key sack in Saturday’s loss at Tennessee, and he struggled mightily in the Kentucky game as well, giving up 5 pressures, a career-high for him as a starter. The former high 4-star talent is too experienced and good to keep struggling, but Florida would like him to play quality football sooner rather than later.
Trent Whittemore, WR
The junior from Gainesville has the fluid route-running ability and hands to be one of the SEC’s better possession receivers. He is also injury prone — having missed parts of his first 2 campaigns. It took him a while, as a result of last season’s injury rehab, to integrate himself into the new offense and earn the staff’s trust. Hauling in both his targets against Tennesssee will help make his case, but Florida could use a reliable slot weapon to take pressure off workhorse receiver Ricky Pearsall. Whittemore isn’t going to give the Gators the vertical threat they desperately need — only recruiting will do that at this point — but he can help the Gators be more unpredictable and multiple in the passing game by simply staying healthy and getting open.
Rashad Torrence II, Safety
The metrics say Torrence II has been really good. PFF ranks him as a top-50 safety in college football (among the top 5 in the SEC!) and per Stats Solutions, he’s around 50% in completion percentage against when Florida uses him in coverage. Numbers are nice, but film study and other key statistics suggest that Torrence II can likely do more. For one, it would be nice if he recognized concepts a little quicker as a third-year player, so he’s not left to make touchdown-saving tackles 20 yards downfield. Watch how long it takes him to recognize and get moving on this little flare play against Tennessee.
Given the rest of Florida’s setup here, it’s unlikely Torrence was expected to be 20 yards off the line of scrimmage when the play starts. But even if he were, he is awfully slow to diagnose things here, which hurts Florida when their young linebacker blows an assignment.
Torrence is also a ball hawk who, well, isn’t ball hawking early in 2022. He has just 1 pass breakup, a year after leading the team in that department, and has yet to come up with an interception. He also has just 1 tackle for loss — not his fault as a free safety — but also a testament to the fact that while Torrence often limits big plays by being a reliable tackler, he’s not making big plays, as the great Gators safeties of years past: Reggie Nelson, Major Wright, Ahmad Black, Marcus Maye, Marcell Harris and Keanu Neal so often did.
Torrence will play on Sundays. How high will he be drafted? That may depend on how much he produces for Florida down the stretch this season and, should he return, as a senior.