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Toledo Takeaways: Gators Dominate Line Of Scrimmage

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Defensive tackle Dominique Easley tortured Toledo's interior offensive line Saturday as the Gators embodied coach Will Muschamp's physical, tailored for the SEC style. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.
Defensive tackle Dominique Easley tortured Toledo's interior offensive line Saturday as the Gators embodied coach Will Muschamp's physical, tailored for the SEC style. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

While Toledo is no cupcake, Florida fans still considered the game a tuneup for the regular season. I left the game impressed by the discipline, execution, talent and dominance of the Gators over the Rockets. There are also a few lessons I picked up during the game that can be extrapolated to the rest of the season.

1. Easley Is A Monster

Florida DT Dominique Easley was the best player on the field and it was not close. The giant man faced double and triple teams nearly all game. He spent four quarters putting the center on his butt, then swimming past a guard and harassing the quarterback. Easley gave full effort every play he was on the field. He didn’t tire and he didn’t stop. Easley was relentless and destructive. At times, the man looked unblockable.

If Easley plays this well for the rest of the season, opposing offenses will be hopeless. Bigger offensive lines in the SEC should contain Easley better than Toledo, but if Easley keeps this pace he should rack up awards and lock up a Top-5 selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.

2. OL Excellent At Run Blocking

Running back Mack Brown had a great game by all accounts. The back finished with 112 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Brown is talented, but most of that success should be credited to the play of the offensive line. They were creating running lanes that were three yards wide for most of the game. They pushed around the Toledo defensive line, and during most plays, the running back did not feel contact until he was two or three yards past the line of scrimmage.

Seemingly all the straight power runs worked. One-on-one, the Florida line beat the Toledo line. Brown made enough incorrect reads for offensive coordinator Brent Pease to nearly abandon the zone blocking calls for power runs the second half. In all fairness, Brown made an excellent read and cutback on his first touchdown run, but that was an aberration.

Pulling and pass blocking were the only weaknesses the offensive line showed during the game. When pulling, the guards were slow to the hole on the opposite side of the line. This let linebackers fill the gap and stop the running game at the line of scrimmage. This happened often. The first play that worked with a pulling guard came in the fourth quarter with the quicker Kelvin Taylor at running back and the Toledo defense already gassed.

The line also struggled with pass-blocking at times, either because of a miscommunication by the line or running back. Toledo players flooded through to Driskel on several plays. Aside from those areas, the line play was impressive overall.

3. Driskel Has Improved Decision Making

Driskel was fantastic against Toledo. He was 17 of 22 and most of the incompletions were drops by receivers. A few passes also were batted down at the line of scrimmage. He was accurate on his throws and made good reads throughout the day. There were no frustrating sacks or runs out of bounds. Driskel even made the right calls when he ran the read option. He showed poise and vast improvement from a year ago. This is a positive sign for the Gators.

4. Defense Misses Purifoy

The Florida defense smothered Toledo, only letting up a few big plays when the Rockets exploited the Gators cornerbacks. Jaylen Watkins made one amazing tackle against the bubble screen that Toledo frequently ran, but other than that, the Florida corners were gashed by bubble screens and passes to receivers behind the line of scrimmage all day. The only big plays Toledo produced came off of short passes with large amounts of yards after catch.

Freshman Vernon Hargreaves played well in his first game, while Toledo picked on Marcus Roberson, lined up opposite Hargreaves. Roberson was burned a few times and was out of position on many screens. It was a poor showing for a talented corner; he will bounce back. The secondary was the weakest unit of a strong defense, but will be bolstered next week by the return of lockdown corner Loucheiz Purifoy. Purifoy will solidify a defense that looks just as good as the 2012 defense the Gators rode to an 11-2 record.

5. Florida Will Bully You

This Gators team looks like the culmination of the right players in the right system. The transformation is complete from Urban Meyer’s spread offense to Will Muschamp’s power running offense. The Orange and Blue looked like Alabama lite against Toledo. They ran the ball for big gains, controlled the clock, and smothered the life out of the Toledo offense. Florida nearly doubled Toledo’s time of possession and dictated the entire game.

This is the type of team Muschamp envisioned when he took over the program. The Gators will make opposing offenses look like they are stuck in tar, while punishing opponents with a stable of physical running backs. This game plan will eliminate all the variables, methodically pick up first downs, chew up the clock and win football games. That’s all anyone cares about.