1. Just how much does the Will Grier situation impact this team? Treon Harris had been in a pretty tight competition with him.
There's two sides to this question.
Grier's suspension impacts the team in a big way because when you look at the tape of when Grier is on the field as opposed to when Harris is on the field, they're two different game plans. What set Grier apart was his fearless instincts to throw passes downfield that gave the offense a shot to really move the ball with big plays (something Gators fans aren't used to seeing). So, in that sense, losing Grier is big because Florida may cut down on some of those long package plays. But, on the flip side, Harris does have starting experience, and even more meaningful than that, I think Jim McElwain is an offensive guru. He has a way of simplifying a playbook without losing effectiveness, and because of that, Florida's offensive drop off may not be as severe as folks are predicting.
2. Kelvin Taylor seems to be emerging a bit in the last two games. What's the confidence level in this running game at the moment?
For his first two years, Taylor's struggles were both a product of learning the college game and playing in a system that didn't suit his style. Under former offensive coordinators Brent Pease and Kurt Roper, Florida was essentially using 5'10", 210 pound Kelvin Taylor in the same running plays they were using 6'2" 230 pound Matt Jones. Both of them were talented backs, but instead of using a diverse offensive game plan to utilize both styles of play, they seemed to just mash them together and really only get about 60-70 percent effectiveness out of each.
All of that to say this year's offensive is tailoring their rushing attack around Taylor's style of play, and you can really see the difference. The zone blocking and use of tight ends have given Taylor the opportunity to use his quick feet and acceleration to burst through gaps that just weren't there the last two seasons.
3. Jim McElwain's hire was viewed a little skeptically, but at 6-0 is it safe to say he's won over most Gator fans?
Oh yes. I'm sure most Florida fans understand it's year one, and they're probably trying to temper expectations, but even if they drop this game to LSU, it is remarkable what McElwain has done with players he didn't even recruit. Beyond the players themselves, the coaches McElwain has put in place and the success they're having this early on is a testament to Mac's evaluation of staff and personnel. Gators fans are starting to believe that this really may only be the beginning, because as the program rises, so will the recruiting classes.
4. The offensive line came into this year kind of patchwork, and has still given up a lot of negative plays this year. Concern heading into this?
Even though the offensive line has been making some improvements as the season has gone on it is still a concern and a weak spot. The reason that may become even more prominent is because blocking for Will Grier is totally different than blocking for Treon Harris. That may be what LSU capitalizes on the most during the game. The communication along the line was getting better, but there's a chance they regress with a contrasting quarterback style now in place.
5. Florida's defense has been pretty good, but struggled against the best running team it's faced so far. How do you feel about the matchup with Leonard Fournette?
Tackling is key. Florida is going to be disruptive up front; they're also going to play well in the secondary. But what hurt the Gators' defense early on is when they had the negative play in front of them and failed to make it. They did a much better job of finishing on those defensive plays in the last two weeks, but when I think of how they'll fair against Leonard Fournette, I can't help but go back to the Tennessee tape where they had a difficult time bringing down Jalen Hurd and Josh Hobbs, even after making contact. Whether the defense holds Fournette to under 150 yards will be on if linebackers Jarrad Davis and Antonio Morrison can have their most reliable games of the season. Also watch for defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to move either Marcus Maye or Keanu Neal from their deep safety spot to more of an extra linebacker when a Fournette run threatens in the pre-snap.