Russell Report: Gators hit the road

Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 5:41 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The Gator football team’s first away game is coming up.

In this week’s Russell report, WRUF’s Steve Russell talks about how the team may try to adapt in the game against Tennessee.

The Florida football team takes to the road for the first time this season Saturday, heading to rocky top to face the unbeaten and nationally ranked Tennessee volunteers. Florida has owned Tennessee in recent years, winning the last five in a row and in this century, Tennessee has beaten Florida only four times! But that could change come Saturday. The Vols have a potent offense led by quarterback Hendon Hooker and he’s got maybe the best group of wide receivers to work with in the entire league. But one wonders if they will try to run the ball more considering how porous Florida’s run defense is right now. Usf gashed the gators to the tune of 286 yards rushing last week and one certainly hopes an injured Ventrell Miller will return at linebacker to shore up the run defense.

Offensively, there is no question where the strength of this team lies and that’s in the running game where Florida’s three fine running backs have performed well behind an offensive line that has improved a great deal. But throwing the football is another matter. This may sound cruel but right now Florida’s passing game is a mess. For those of you who ran Emory Jones out of town because of the big play flashes that Anthony Richardson showed last year, anointing the kid the Heisman trophy without so much as a pittance of playing experience, you’re now seeing he’s got a great deal of work to do and he’s throwing to a receiving corps that seems pretty ordinary. It’s on-the-job training for Richardson; he’s learning and he puts in the work but some of it is painful to watch right now.

Already some fans have criticized coach Billy Napier. That comes with the coaching territory. But I’m sure some of those same people at the beginning of the year said that getting this program back to prominence would take time. Well, three games isn’t time enough folks. And, this season may not be enough time either. No one in the SEC is going to feel sorry for Florida, believe me. As good as that win was over Utah, it probably jacked up expectations for this season but right now Florida is staring at the realistic possibility of going 0-2 to start SEC play.

Maybe Napier should do what Texas recently did. Maybe he has. Published reports say the longhorns spent over $300,000 in one recruiting weekend and another $280,000 in another. Five-star hotels, two dinners that cost about $30,000 and a pair of open bar parent socials that totaled five figures in one of them. It paid off, as several of those visitors ended up verbally committing to the Longhorns. Crazy. But it’s the price of doing business in big-time college athletics today. I’m Steve Russell, that’s the Russell report!

“Sports scene with Steve Russell” airs Monday through Friday on ESPN 98.1 FM and AM 850 WRUF.

RELATED: Russell Report: Gator hope to bounce back against USF after losing to Kentucky

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