Meyer Evaluating the Offense

Florida head coach Urban Meyer spent extra time Sunday evaluating his struggling offense. He compiled numbers from each drive over the past two games to figure out the issues. Meyer found that it wasn't a lack of execution until his team got into the red zone.

"We've had a lot of drives with (many) plays," Urban Meyer said at his Monday morning press conference. "We're possessing the ball, but red zone efficiency is not where we started the season."

The lack of big plays has crippled the offense. Meyer pointed to Jeff Demps missing the LSU game and being limited against Alabama as one reason. Deonte Thompson was hurt during the game Saturday, causing the junior wide receiver to miss the rest of the game.

"That's something we set a trademark around here for, having big plays," Meyer said. "We're void of those right now."

The coaches have tried to counteract the missing playmakers by using misdirection plays like the reverse they have tried in two straight games. It wasn't seen much during the past few seasons, but the coaches saw it necessary to try creating mismatches.

"That's why we're running reverses," Meyer said. "We haven't run reverses around here in quite a while because you didn't have to. We'd just take a shot down the field or run a base play and someone would pull off a 70-yard run. The two reverses worked well, and that will certainly be in our package."

The long drives by the Florida offense are working time off the clock and sometimes hurting them because they don't get many possessions during the game. That caused the recent red zone struggles to be even more painful.

"When you're only getting four drives a half because you're possessing the ball, you have to be very efficient when you are possessing the ball," Meyer said. "We're not having those home run shots."

INJURY REPORT: Running back Jeff Demps "felt better" at Sunday night's practice. Offensive lineman Jon Halapio fractured his finger against LSU and had surgery on it Sunday. He is doubtful against Mississippi State.

John Brantley is fine after dealing with a rib injury, sprained thumb and a sore shoulder that was caused by altering his motion because of the ribs.

Matt Elam and Deonte Thompson had concussions but should be fine to practice Tuesday.

EVALUATING ADDAZIO: Even though boos rained down from the crowd Saturday night over play calling, Meyer doesn't see a need for change. Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio splits time as the offensive line coach, and with that unit pressing as well as the offense, Meyer thinks he is capable of doing both.

"He's got a tough job," Meyer said. "I think he can handle it. He showed it a year ago. I try to evaluate everything, and I'm very involved in the offense as well."

It wasn't the first time Meyer had an offensive coordinator under heat. Dan Mullen saw plenty of it before leaving to become the head coach at Mississippi State.

"I remember hearing someone saying that Dan Mullen was taking a lot of heat," Meyer said. "Who he's taking heat from is the key thing. An offense minus big plays is tough."

SEARCHING FOR RED ZONE DIVERSITY: The struggles in the red zone are partly because of a lack of diversity. Florida has used Trey Burton and Jordan Reed as wildcat quarterbacks when close to the goal line. The Gators had seven snaps inside the five-yard line Saturday and Brantley wasn't at quarterback for any of them.

Meyer sees it as a numbers game. When his team is close to the goal line, the defense moves extra players into the box to stop the run, usually having two unblocked players there. If they snap it to a running quarterback, there is only one defender who is unblocked.

"We're banged up at running back," Meyer said. "We feel right now like Jordan and Burton are our big backs. We need to go get one. Gillislee isn't a big back, but he's a pounder."

OFFENSIVE LINE PLAY: The offense line struggled to protect an already hurt Brantley Saturday night, but Meyer didn't pin the blame on the unit. Instead, he gave credit to the LSU defense that blitzed all night.

"Teams have a tendency to blitz more if you don't have that home run shot," Meyer said. "We have got to strike when they blitz. LSU became an absolute blitzathon. It was just blitz after blitz. We weren't able to make that home run shot."

Meyer also said the running backs struggled to pick up the extra blitzing defender.

DISAPPEARANCE OF THE I-FORMATION: The offense started the season using the I-formation more often, but it disappeared recently. The reasoning doesn't have anything to do with the offensive line or running backs.

"We're inexperienced at tight end," Meyer said. "It's difficult to run the ball from the I-formation without an extended end. If it's all packed in there, you want a tight end. We're still trying to develop a tight end."

There are alternatives of putting another tackle at tight end, but it makes the offense one-dimensional.

"We've put an extra offensive lineman in there," Meyer said. "At some point that was going to catch up to us, and it did at Tennessee. They load up the defense knowing he's not a pass receiver."
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