Will Levis is somewhat of an enigma. There are times where he looks unbelievable. He has plus size, athleticism, and a cannon for an arm. You can see why he’s being talked about as a first round pick. However, despite his obvious physical gifts, his performances last season left something to be desired.
QB A is "future top ten pick" Will Levis and QB B is once— Seth Varnadore (@SethVarnadore) July 25, 2022
"future top ten pick" Emory Jones https://t.co/Sboc4IG2KH
Levis had a perfectly fine season in 2021, but a lot of his production came outside of conference play. Levis passed for 284 yards per game in non-SEC play, but only cracked 200 yards passing in a single SEC game — though it was with an impressive tally of 372 against Tennessee. Levis was fine in SEC play and he crushed non-SEC foes.
That trend somewhat continued in Kentucky’s opening game: Levis was 21 for 32 for 303 yards and three TDs. However, he also threw a bad interception in the end zone and had some ball placement issues. Miami of Ohio couldn’t make him pay for his mistakes. Can Florida?
One thing the Miami defense was able to do was get pressure on Levis. They had four sacks, and when watching the film, I could see a lot more pressures, as Levis was under duress on many of his dropbacks that didn’t result in sacks. Kentucky only returned 42.6% of their offensive line snaps from last season, and it takes time for new units to gel. Compounding that issue is the fact that very well-regarded offensive line coach Eric Wolford left in the offseason to take the same job at Alabama. Kentucky has a new offensive coordinator as well, even though the schemes are pretty similar if not the same as last season.
The offensive line issues extended to the run game for Kentucky. Taking the sacks out the equation, the Wildcats were only able to rush for 76 yards on 22 carries. Running backs accounted for 68 yards on 21 of those carries.
And speaking of running backs, Kentucky is quite thin at the position due to suspensions and injuries. Chris Rodriguez is currently suspended and seems likely to miss the game against Florida. Rodriguez may be the best player on the Kentucky offense — yes, Levis included — and would be a great boost to a struggling rushing game.
Defensively, Kentucky only returns four starters from last season. However, the Cats looked like a Mark Stoops defense in Week One. The Wildcats allowed less than 300 yards, and after an opening-drive touchdown, they only gave up two field goals for the rest of the game.
One thing that Kentucky has done well in the past is limit explosive plays (20+ yard gains). Kentucky was ranked 12th in the country last year, only giving up 46 explosives. To put that number in perspective, Georgia gave up 41 explosive plays. Kentucky continued that trend to begin 2022, only allowing two explosive plays to the RedHawks.
Yet while it wasn’t consistent, Miami was able to get some push at times in the run game. They also were able to complete a high percentage of passes on the day. Will Florida be able to move the ball on Kentucky?
I’ve got some numbers I like to look at, and then we’ll have a little video on what to expect from the Wildcats.
Florida vs. Kentucky Statistical Comparison
|Available Yards % (O)||65.30%||21||58.00%||30|
|Available Yards % (D)||71.10%||87||37.40%||30|
|Third Down % (O)||58.33%||24||25.00%||113|
|Third Down % (D)||61.54%||122||21.43%||20|
|Explosive Plays (O)||3||95||3||95|
|Explosive Plays (D)||5||74||2||23|
|Average Field Position (O)||Own 19||Own 37|
|Category||Rank||Player Average||Rank||Player Average|
|Team Talent Composite||12||89.86||27||87.73|
As good as that season-opening win felt for Florida fans, the stats may be a little sobering, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Now, Florida played probably one of the most complete offenses they will see this season, but the numbers were not great. Do I think Kentucky is as good on offense as Utah? No. But these are things to monitor for Florida going forward, and we will.
Scheme Things We Might See
Offensively, Florida is going to have to follow a similar plan as last week. Utah seemed content to sit back deep and make Florida slowly march down the field. This was exactly the plan Kentucky employed against Florida last season, and in general, Kentucky seems content to sit back in zone and make you move the ball in small increments. (That strategy is greatly aided by your opponent constantly self-destructing with penalties, as Florida did last fall.)
Against Utah, the Gators were able to move the ball methodically, get into “third and manageable” consistently, and keep the chains moving. That’s the key to success this week. Unfortunately, I believe that Kentucky will be better on defense than Utah.
But they Wildcats aren’t Georgia — only Georgia is Georgia, thankfully. (Could you imagine the confused barking?) I think Florida is going to have to take its medicine and stay methodical. And though they were able to do it last week, can they maintain that patience and discipline? After the game, if you look back at the stats and Florida has a bunch of explosive plays, then you should be enjoying a big Gators victory.
On the defensive side, I think Kentucky will try to attack in similar ways to Utah on the ground. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see some more run game reads and designed runs for Levis to try to goose the run game a little bit. Levis is a plus athlete with some size and he can hurt you on the ground. He ran for 113 yards and four touchdowns in Kentucky’s game against Louisville last season, and memorably hurt Florida with his wheels a couple of times. I’d also imagine that we will see some screens early from Kentucky to slow down the Florida pass rush.
If Florida is able to stop the run like Miami did last week and get Kentucky in third and longs, we could see some fun stuff from Patrick Toney. Some exotic, safe pressures coupled with Levis’s propensity to throw interceptions could make for a big day for the Gators.
Let’s take a quick look at Kentucky in the video below.
I’d imagine that we will see another competitive game between these two teams. If Florida plays clean and patient on offense they should be able to move the ball. If the Gators defense can make the Kentucky offense one-dimensional, they can try to unleash some of those exotic pressures that makes Toney so well thought of in coaching circles.
Should be another great Saturday night in The Swamp.