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RBR previews the Florida offense

Is it as bad as you think?

Florida fans and players celebrating their 3 OT win over Kentucky....KEN-TUCK-Y....
Florida fans and players celebrating their 3 OT win over Kentucky....KEN-TUCK-Y....
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

At some point on Saturday night, as I was flipping around the dial following Alabama's unremarkable win over Southern Mississippi, I received the following text from a friend of mine:

"UF-UK 5 minutes into third and combined point total is 6."

This, obviously, had potential. From the point at which I received his text, Florida and Kentucky turned a plodding, uninteresting game into the best of the weekend, in which the Gators ultimately prevailed in the third overtime.

For myself, the highlight of the evening was monitoring the Twitter feed of one Spencer Hall, known to some as Editorial Director of this here family of blogs, but best known as Editor in Chief of, the (with all due respect to RBR) best college football blog on the Web. And Spencer - or Orson, as he was once known - is equally well known as a Florida graduate/fan/enthusiast. Those who have followed him recently also know he is no fan of current Florida coach Will Muschamp, who he has, in recent years, described as more or less a doofus.

All that said, his take on Florida's effort vs. the Cats was what interested me the most. A sampling from Saturday:

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Well, then.

In retrospect, it wasn't that bad. The Gators finished the game with 532 total yards of offense - though they earned that on an astounding 94 plays, which averages to less than 6 yards per (for comparison's sake, Kentucky gained 450 yards on 78 plays and actually finished with almost the exact same per-play average) - and achieved almost perfect balance between run and pass. In addition, all of Florida's offense came when it was absolutely necessary: each time Kentucky* took the lead, the Gators answered with a score of their own (though at least one of them was ... let's say, debatable).

* Here we should also note that it's entirely possible Kentucky is better than we thought. Nobody's expecting them to contend for Atlanta or anything, but this might not be Joker Phillips' Kentucky, is all I'm suggesting.

As much as anything, the issue with Florida's offense is one of perception. The average college football fan, when thinking of "Florida offense," still expects to see this:

Or, maybe this:

This offense ain't either of those. Does that mean it's no threat this Saturday?

Here's a little more detail.




Since he came to Florida, Will Muschamp has had his heart set on, essentially, turning into the programs that raised him - that is, Nick Saban (at LSU) and Tommy Tuberville (at Auburn). To that end, he has done his best to cultivate the "pro style" offense, hiring first Charlie Weis (in 2011) and then Brent Pease (in 2012 and 2013).

Three consecutive years of ranking in the triple digits in offense later - Bill C called them "degrees of mediocre," which is just fun to say - Muschamp turned to Duke's Kurt Roper, in an effort to better harness the talents of senior quarterback Jeff Driskel (we'll get to him in a moment). Roper's offenses at Duke were extraordinarily balanced, and that has borne itself out in Florida's first two* games - the Gators are averaging 259 yards rushing and 396 passing in their two victories.

* I don't have to tell you guys this, but just to be clear: Florida's opener vs. Idaho lasted only one play before weather drove everybody off the field, eventually leading to a mutual decision to cancel it altogether.

I was most impressed with Roper's play-calling on the game's winning drive. Taking over after a missed Wildcat field goal and knowing he was facing a tired defense, Florida simply took the football and stuffed down Kentucky's throat: 4 rushes, 25 yards ... good night.




The offense belongs to Driskel, a senior whose tenure in Gainesville could be charitably described as up and down. To wit:

  • Driskel made his first appearance as Gator quarterback in 2011, right after a charging Courtney Upshaw took starting quarterback John Brantley and twisted him into some sort of painful looking pretzel. In my life, I've rarely seen someone who wanted to enter a football game less than Jeff Driskel did at that moment. He was actually injured the following week at LSU, and didn't play much after that.
  • Driskel quarterbacked an offense that was as effective as it needed to be in 2012 - his completion percentage was over 63 percent, but his yards per attempt was a measly 6.7 - for a team that relied almost exclusively on its defense. His best performance to date - leading an offense that scored 24 fourth-quarter points to beat Florida State in Tallahassee - wasn't overly impressive: 15-of-23 for 147 yards, with a touchdown and no picks, and he threw two interceptions in each of Florida's two losses (to Georgia in Jacksonville, and to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl).
  • Driskel threw two killer interceptions to undermine an otherwise good performance at Miami - he finished 22-of-33 for 291 - in a 21-16 loss. A week later he suffered a broken leg in the first quarter of a win over Tennessee, setting the stage for the misery to come.

The introduction of Roper as offensive coordinator was, in principle, an effort to better utilize Driskel - Will Muschamp noted at SEC Media Days that Driskel was recruited to run Urban Meyer's spread option offense, and played in the shotgun before coming to Gainesville. Thus far, though, the numbers indicate that Driskel is basically still the same quarterback: A controlled passer (65-70 completion percentage, but just over 6 yards per attempt) who doesn't run much (7 carries for 24 yards through 2 games) and mostly is responsible for not screwing things up (a more talented version of John Parker Wilson, one might say).

Skill players

The bell cows for the offense, then, are tailbacks Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor, currently averaging 6 and 5.7 yards per carry, respectively, with a combined four touchdowns. Florida did bring back the bulk of its offensive line for 2014, though left tackle D.J. Humphries is out this week after suffering a high ankle sprain and a bone chip.

The biggest headline from the Kentucky game was the emergence of receiver Demarcus Robinson, who caught an astounding 15 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns vs. the Cats. For the season, Robinson has 21 receptions for 339 yards - an average of over 16 yards per catch. For comparison's sake, the next most prolific receiver on Florida's roster is Quinton Dunbar, with 7 catches for 88 yards.

The task for Alabama is simple: Be stingy against the run, and force Jeff Driskel and someone other than Demarcus Robinson to beat them.

One last note in what I admit is already a tl;dr assessment: It is tempting to scoff at Florida as an opponent; watching the Gators scuffle in front of an increasingly annoyed home crowd, it was possible to see a scenario in which the fans booed them out of the stadium, Muschamp lost his job by Monday morning and the ‘14 season fell apart as quickly as it even began (had the official called that delay penalty, it might have happened anyway).

Recent history might be instructive, though: In 2010, a talented but confused LSU muddled through a listless October performance against a badly undermanned Tennessee team in Baton Rouge, with a poorly managed endgame sequence nearly costing them the game (they won only because Tennessee managed to muck it up even worse). A great many LSU fans were prepared - even after the win - to run Les Miles out of town on a rail.

The next week the Tigers went to Gainesville and beat Florida. They finished the season with 10 wins.

As always, folks, let us hope for the best.