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Pregame Guide: Florida Gators

Photo Credit: Ashley Zakem, MGoBlog

Michigan Football is finally back. Praise the Lord, kiss your wife, and drink a beer. At 3:30 today the Wolverines will face the Florida Gators in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Since we are just a few hours away from the highly anticipated game, here is a quick guide for key matchups and Wolverines to watch.

NCAA Football: Michigan Spring Game Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Key matchups against the Gators:

  • Florida pass attack versus Michigan’s young secondary: While Florida’s starting wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) is suspended and their starting quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) will be green, there is a load of depth in their receiving core, and Florida will be attacking us today, especially in the flats against our inexperienced cornerbacks. Lavert Hill (24) will be one of our starters but the other CB is still a question mark. Expect a rotation until another dependable guy is found. Also, sadly, expect a few big plays against this secondary. Michigan just needs to minimize the costs of those mistakes as much as possible.
  • Michigan defensive line versus the Gator offensive line: I do not need to tell you Wolverine faithfuls how great our defensive line is poised to be. But Florida has a good offensive line so this matchup will be a perfect look at what we can expect from our reloaded line and new depth. Not only that, with Florida’s young quarterback and the fact their starting running back Jordan Scarlett (25) is also suspended, the havoc our defensive line can produce will most likely be the deciding factor for a Michigan victory today.
  • Michigan offensive line versus Florida front seven: As was made clear to Michigan fans last season, defense alone does not win games. Don Brown’s team will be a tough task for the Gator’s offense, but to end with a victory today, our offense needs to step up too. Therefore, the last key matchup for today will be our new offensive line versus their front seven. The Gators are stacked at both defensive line and linebackers. And with Michigan having four linemen in new positions – Mason Cole (52) back at LT, Patrick Kugler (57) at center, Michael Onwenu (50) at RG, and Nolan Ulizio (70) at RT – this will be a tough grind for the Wolverines. But, this line is loaded with talent, and with deep receiving and running back cores, I have faith this front five will get our offense moving down the field.

Now, I do not need to tell the Michigan fan base to watch Rashan Gary (3) or Chris Evans (12); they will be all over the highlight reels. So, I want to turn your attention to four key Michigan players in this game that have not received as much coverage but will be deciding factors in our game against the Gators:

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  • Josh Metellus (14): Last season, Metellus gained experience on special teams and as a backup, especially when he filled in for Jabrill Peppers in the Orange Bowl. This year, the true sophomore safety will be sharing the defensive backfield with Tyree Kinnel (23). Though young, Metellus has a high upside and will be vital in both helping our cornerbacks minimize early mistakes and in Don Brown’s blitz schemes.
  • Bryan Mone (90): While Rashan Gary (3) and Maurice Hurst (73) are receiving preseason All-American hype, senior defensive tackle Bryan Mone will be the linchpin of our defensive line that will determine if it is just really good or one of the best in all of college football. Mone has been through several injuries over the last three years, so it is going to be great to finally see him in a starting role today. Hopefully havoc ensues.
  • Nolan Ulizio (70): Heading into fall camp, the battle for right tackle seemed to be between Jon Runyan Jr. (75) and Juwann Bushell-Beatty (76), but junior Nolan Ulizio earned the starting job by the end of it. Our offensive line, particularly the right side, has been one of the weakest units on our team for the past several years. Will Ulizio finally be the change needed? The Florida Gators front seven will be a perfect test.
  • Karan Higdon (22): Chris Evans is the starting running back for the Michigan Wolverines today. But, every one punch needs a powerful second, and Karan Hidgon will be that guy. In fact, with Ty Isaac (32) and Kareem Walker (6) in the mix, Michigan is looking like Macham. Hidon is the perfect shifty, all-purpose back compliment to Evans’ speed and elusiveness. Expect Higdon to put up just as high of numbers in yards from scrimmage and touchdowns. The Florida run defense is about to have their hands full.