The inclination of any offensive coordinator who watched film of the University of Kentucky's first two football games would be to run the ball right at the UK defense.
In UK's 47-10 win over Akron last Saturday, though, something else undoubtedly caught the eyes of future Wildcats opponents.
The Zips are 0-3 and lost at home to Gardner-Webb, yet on four occasions an Akron receiver ran right past a UK cornerback and was open downfield.
Akron couldn't capitalize on the opportunities, however. One pass was dropped, two were overthrown and another was underthrown.
Florida hasn't gotten its downfield passing game going yet, as quarterback John Brantley's longest completion has been for 25 yards. But after watching how easily the Akron receivers got open, Gators Coach Urban Meyer will surely test the Cats deep a few times.
"Yeah, we expect Florida to come after us," UK defensive coordinator and secondary coach Steve Brown said. "Teams are going to come after us for the next eight, nine weeks. It's always good to learn when you have a victory. It could have been ugly if (Akron) had completed some of those balls. We've got some new guys playing, and they've got to put that in the memory bank and learn. We've just got to try and keep everybody in front of us."
After allowing Louisville's Bilal Powell and Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey to go well over 100 rushing yards in the first two games, Brown and UK Coach Joker Phillips decided to go all out and stop the run against Akron, often committing nine men to the task. That left UK's cornerbacks man-to-man against the Akron receivers without any safety help.
The strategy worked for stuffing the run, as the Zips gained just 67 yards on 37 carries. On the flip side, though, if Akron had connected on one or two of those potentially big passing plays, the game could have taken a different tone.
"We put guys on a big-time island because we wanted to stop the run," Brown said. "We basically sold all out. "Man-to-man (coverage) when you've got (safety) help is one thing. Man-to-man with no help is a scary thing."
The Wildcats won't be leaving their corners on that island as much against the Gators, as Brown plans to mix in some zone coverages. Still, the primary focus will be to stop Florida running back Jeff Demps, the defending NCAA champion in the 100 meters who is widely regarded as the fastest player in college football. That means the Cats will have to go man-to-man with the Gators receivers at times.
"First and foremost, we've got to find out where (Demps) is all the time," Brown said. "And we'll do some different things so the corners aren't always on an island and get some help. But there are also times when you have to earn your wages."
Word is that the Florida offense, particularly the passing game, isn't nearly as explosive now that quarterback Tim Tebow and his two favorite targets, receiver Riley Cooper and tight end Aaron Hernandez, are in the NFL. But when Brown was asked to sum up the Gators' skill talent, he simply said, "Explosion."
Brantley is viewed as a better pure passer than Tebow, and wide receiver Deonte Thompson was a five-star recruit who has been timed in the 4.3 range. Another Gator, redshirt freshman Andre DeBose, was widely regarded as the top receiver in his class, and senior receiver Carl Moore was ranked the nation's top junior-college prospect in 2008.
"You hear all this stuff about how they're down offensively, but they still look pretty explosive to me," Brown said. "The quarterback is extremely accurate and they've got gifted fast wide receivers. They can have guys draped all over them, yet they're talented enough to still make the plays. It was like that against Tennessee. They do well enough to keep the chains moving and get first downs. They looked like a well-oiled offense."
The UK secondary has been a strength the past couple of seasons thanks in large part to Trevard Lindley, now with the Philadelphia Eagles. But with Lindley gone and with the loss of projected starter Paul Warford to academic ineligibility, Kentucky is in rebuilding mode at corner. Junior Randall Burden is the only veteran of the group. The other starter is sophomore Martavius Neloms, with the top backups being sophomore Cartier Rice (nine career games played) and true freshman Jerrell Priester.
Neloms said he expects Saturday to be the biggest challenge of his young career.
"The tempo is going to be so much faster," Neloms said. "I'm going to have to pick up my tempo and play better technique so I can do my job. If we all play solid technique, I think we'll be OK."
Trevathan to play despite broken hand
Junior linebacker Danny Trevathan said he suffered a broken left hand just before halftime during Saturday's win over Akron and will be playing in a cast against Florida.
After the injury Saturday, he continued to play and recorded a team-high eight tackles. Trevathan leads UK in tackles through three games with 25.
This is the second straight season that Trevathan will have had to play in a cast. He broke his wrist against Louisville last year and played in a cast the rest of the year.
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