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Florida Gators have elite line, great effort, USF coach Jeff Scott says

The Bulls’ coach says Billy Napier’s defensive line is as good as the Bulls have faced in his tenure.
Desmond Watson is part of a Florida Gators' defensive line that's elite, USF coach Jeff Scott said.
Desmond Watson is part of a Florida Gators' defensive line that's elite, USF coach Jeff Scott said. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
Published Sep. 13

TAMPA — Though there is some familiarity between the No. 18 Florida Gators and USF from last year’s matchup, Bulls coach Jeff Scott does not expect that to help his team Saturday.

“This looks like a different (Florida) team through two weeks than maybe where they were last year,” Scott said Tuesday.

Related: Florida coach Billy Napier doesn’t want to waste Gators’ loss

The obvious reason why is Billy Napier, the first-year Gators coach whom Scott worked with at Clemson.

Florida coach Billy Napier (right) has already made his mark on the Gators.
Florida coach Billy Napier (right) has already made his mark on the Gators. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]

Though Scott was careful not to make comparisons to what Florida looked like last year under Dan Mullen, he sees Napier’s stamp on the Gators.

“You can definitely see a team that is playing extremely hard,” Scott said. “They believe in what they’re doing. Fundamentally, it doesn’t matter if it’s a backside tight end that’s not involved with the play — he’s doing his job like the game depends on it.”

Scott also said the Gators look “very disciplined” on film. That’s a notable change from the previous regime, which was prone to penalties and breakdowns.

The change shouldn’t be a surprise. Scott knows firsthand how much Napier preaches fundamentals and effort after working with him closely with the Tigers from 2009-10.

Florida running back Trevor Etienne reminds USF coach Jeff Scott of his older brother, Travis (a former Clemson star).
Florida running back Trevor Etienne reminds USF coach Jeff Scott of his older brother, Travis (a former Clemson star). [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]

Florida also looks different on film because of a name Scott knows well: Etienne. Freshman running back Trevor Etienne leads UF with 7.9 yards per carry and had a rushing touchdown and two-point conversion reception last week. Scott sees the resemblance between that Etienne and his older brother, Travis, who played for Scott with the Tigers.

“He looks just like Travis did at Clemson, except I don’t know that Travis looked like that as a true freshman…” Scott said. “He’s already a big-time playmaker for them.”

Related: ‘Failure’s not an option’ for USF Bulls’ on-campus football stadium

The biggest playmakers Scott raved about were on the other side of the ball. He called UF’s defensive line “elite” and the best he has faced in his two-plus seasons at USF. That’s high praise, considering the Bulls have gone up against a pair of College Football Playoff participants (2020 Notre Dame and 2021 Cincinnati), two ranked BYU teams and a Houston front that ranked sixth nationally in sacks.

“They’re physical,” USF center Brad Cecil said. “I think that they play the game how it’s supposed to be played. They play hard. They play fast.”

USF running back Michel Dukes can run behind the most experienced offensive line in college football.
USF running back Michel Dukes can run behind the most experienced offensive line in college football. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

USF has the potential to play that way, too. The Bulls entered the season with more career starts on the offensive line (154) than anyone else in the country.

One common thread between last year’s matchup and this year’s is Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson. He came off the bench last year to rip off an 80-yard touchdown run and pass for a 75-yard score in the Gators’ 42-20 win.

Though Richardson struggled last week against Kentucky, he remains one of the most talented players in the country and a major challenge for USF to try to corral for its first win over a ranked opponent since 2016.

USF coach Jeff Scott will go for his first win against a ranked opponent this weekend at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
USF coach Jeff Scott will go for his first win against a ranked opponent this weekend at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

“I would say that after we finished the BYU game, we were not ready to beat a top-25 team. That was two weeks ago,” Scott said. “That’s the exciting part about football. Each week is a new week. You get new opportunities to grow. We’ll find out after Week 3 whether we play well enough to do that.”

Audible

“It’s an amazing experience to be able to play in The Swamp. It’s a beautiful crowd. They get a little rowdy there at times. It’s nice, especially when you beat them.” — USF defensive end Jatorian Hansford, who was 2-2 against the Gators while at Missouri (including a 38-17 win in Gainesville in 2018)

Injury update

Scott said USF hopes to get safety Matthew Hill, linebacker Antonio Grier and receiver Ajou Ajou back from injuries this week after they missed the Howard win.

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