GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Jim McElwain’s reflexive answer when asked about Florida’s mounting injury issues is to say that the loss of primary players simply means an opportunity for other guys to make their mark.
That was story of the Gators’ 20-7 win over South Carolina last Saturday as they put together a solid all-around performance despite finishing the game down nine — yes, nine — starters.
That’s also backed up by Pro Football Focus‘ detailed analysis from the game. As it has all season, PFF shared its grades and data for the Gators with SEC Country, providing some deeper insight into the top performances and players from that win.
Several of whom were playing larger roles due to the injury losses.
Overall, Florida had six defensive players grade out exceptionally well, as linebacker David Reese (82.9), safeties Marcell Harris (82.5) and Nick Washington (82.5), linebacker Kylan Johnson (80.3), nose tackle Joey Ivie (80.2) and defensive tackle Taven Bryan (79.1) led the way.
The PFF analysts grade every player on their responsibilities and execution on each snap and convert that to an overall 1-100 grade.
With veteran linebackers Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone sidelined, Reese (a true freshman) and Johnson (a redshirt freshman) made their first starts — and made the most of their first starts. Reese had a game-high 11 tackles and a half tackle for loss while Johnson racked up 7 tackles and a TFL.
Meanwhile, with star safety Marcus Maye forced out with a broken arm, Harris and Washington each ended up playing their most snaps in a game all season. They combined to allow only 1 catch for 6 yards on 7 targets, including Harris’ interception.
Overall, the defense generated 23 total quarterback pressures on South Carolina’s Jake Bentley, including 5 sacks — led by 2 from Ivie.
PFF has Caleb Brantley (3rd), Ivie (4th) and Bryan (16th) ranked among the top defensive tackles nationally in “pass rush productivity.”
On the other side of the ball, Florida’s highest-graded offensive players Saturday were running back Jordan Scarlett (78.1), wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood (77.8) and center T.J. McCoy (75.6). Quarterback Austin Appleby scored a 62.2 in his first start since Week 5, stepping in with Luke Del Rio injured.
Scarlett rushed for a career-high 134 yards on 20 carries. PFF credited him with forcing 4 missed tackles and tracked that 68 of his yards came while running between the guards and 96 came after initial contact.
Fulwood, seeing additional playing time on senior day, had 2 catches for 48 yards and his first touchdown since 2014. According to PFF, after only being targeted six times in the first seven games, he’s been targeted five times over the last two weeks, producing 4 catches for 86 yards and that 1 TD.
McCoy, meanwhile, was an especially interesting story. The third-string center had received minimal playing time this fall before being pressed into action after backup center Tyler Jordan was lost to injury on the Gators’ first offensive play.
Appleby’s solid day
Appleby took advantage of a South Carolina defense that only pressured him on 4 of his 23 drop-backs. He finished 17-of-21 passing for 201 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, and factoring in a dropped pass, he produced an accuracy percentage of 85.7, according to PFF.
Here’s a closer look at how he handled various looks from the Gamecocks defense.