In the Meyer Era, the Tennessee game is usually when the Gators open up the playbook. But when John Brantley hasn't impressed yet and the best players on offense are the running backs, the Gators need to stick to the running game.
The last two games have shown that Jeff Demps is Florida's best offensive player. Not only does he have the ability to break long runs, his size and quickness can squeak out four and five-yard gains. Demps runs straight up like he does as a sprinter, but at 5-foot-8 (probably shorter) Demps is hard to track down in the backfield or in the hole.
We have also seen since last season that Mike Gillislee is a hard runner. Like Ahmad Bradshaw for the Giants, every Gillislee run involves plowing through contact and moving the pile. Gillislee gets low into the hole, using his shoulders to make space while keeping his legs churning. The problem is that Gillislee doesn't get nearly enough touches, only 10 this season. If Demps is a four-seam fastball, Gillislee is the cutter, looking the same at the beginning until it breaks you in half at the end.
Emmanuel Moody is finally getting regular touches (19 carries for 72 yards in 2010), but he is a outside runner who keeps getting sent between the tackles. Moody is a little more straight up than Gillislee into the hole, likely because of a personal history of running outside. He's not conditioned to pound defenders. His leg injuries have also appeared to slow him down by a stride. Incredibly, Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio finally give him regular carries in a season when he does not look as strong.
Speaking of poor decisions, T.J. Pridemore is going to get someone killed. He is either swimming through the hole and trying to arm block, or laying on top of someone who is on their way down. Good fullbacks are invisible. Bad fullbacks are not. I haven't seen Pridemore lay one block that made a difference and it is a waste of a position since he won't be used to carry the ball, either.
It's hard to predict the future, but UF has Brantley for one more season, and has recruited pro-style Jeff Driskel for 2011. Trey Burton, as a junior, would compete with sophomore Driskel. Why not make Burton a H-back and send Pridemore to the back of the depth chart? UF would get a legit big back and avoid a quarterback controversy in the future.
All of this is significant now since Tennessee allowed Oregon to run for 245 yards last week, for 5.6 yards per carry. The Vols also had success running the ball (5.1 yards per carry), and will probably stick with the ground game considering how inconsistent quarterback Matt Simms was. That means the Vols using long drives to grind down the Gators defense. UF has to answer that with their own long drives and not wait for Demps to break one after multiple 3-and-outs.