Florida vs. Vanderbilt: Five players to watch, including Matt Elam

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Matt Elam is one of the nation's most exciting defensive players. Keep an eye on the Florida safety against Vanderbilt.

S Matt Elam

It took one week for Matt Elam to go from the most talented player in Florida's secondary to perhaps the most exciting player who puts on a Gators helmet. That's how great Elam was against LSU: He flew around, always getting to the right spot in run support and delivering good, sound hit after good, sound hit as a tackler, and he made the play of the year in recovering on Odell Beckham's bomb and stripping the ball out to preserve the Gators' lead. There are reasons to think he'll thrive against Vandy, too, and not just ones that include the word "momentum": Elam led the Gators with three tackles for loss in Florida's 2011 win over the Commodores in Gainesville.

G Ian Silberman

I know, it's weird that I'm telling you to watch a second-string offensive guard. But Silberman's utility in the unbalanced line formation Florida trotted out to great effect against LSU and his second-string status make his entry into the game a visual clue that the Gators will be getting a few yards on the ground on the next play. Watch for it.

Buck Lerentee McCray

One of the reasons Florida struggled to put away Vanderbilt in 2011 was an inability to control Jordan Rodgers' scrambling: Rodgers ran for 43 yards, but twice scrambled for first downs, and he also scored a touchdown on the run. That looked like an issue for Florida in 2012 as recently as the first half of the Texas A&M game, when Johnny Manziel, fleeter of foot than Rodgers, carved up the Gators on the ground. Disciplined rushing that doesn't give Rodgers holes to escape will be what stymies him as a runner, and the responsibility for that falls on Lerentee McCray, who has to keep his routes to the quarterback short and his angles narrow.

TE Jordan Reed

Reed has been Florida's best pass-catcher in 2012, because the Florida receiving corps still lacks a go-to threat of any note, and the Gators' deep passing game is a forgotten element of the offense. But the intermediate passing game works well with a big target that can shield the ball from defenders, and that's exactly what Reed is. I expect him to get at least the three catches he's gotten in every game in 2012, and would not be surprised to see him add a touchdown.

RB Zac Stacy

The Commodores' best chance at beating Florida is forcing a slew of turnovers; that seems unlikely, unless Jeff Driskel comes out and tries to extend every play like the one he tried to extend late in the first half against LSU. But Vandy's second-best chance is establishing its best player, Zac Stacy, as a threat in both the running and passing game. Stacy averages 5.5 yards per rush, but that number's bloated by a huge game against Presbyterian: Strip the stats from that game out, and Stacy is averaging under 3.6 yards per rush. And the 'Dores haven't made Stacy a threat as a receiver yet this year, as he's had two catches in five games after having 20 in 2011.

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