Florida is most likely the most disappointing team in the conference if not nationally, and this is one guy that watched this team in the spring and is baffled by what is going on.
I have taken a lot of heat on the message boards at Fightin' Gators for providing a lot of "excuses" as to why things may not be going right for the Florida football program. A coaches' apologist, brainwashed, jaded, you name it, and I have been called that.
The problem is, when I speak of these things, I am doing so because I have seen this offense and this personnel in this offense work in practice. I was there for the entire spring watching the offense practice. I came away convinced that they may not be quite the same as the past two or three offenses that donned the orange and blue and fought hard on Saturdays in The Swamp, but they would be pretty good.
So far, I have been dreadfully wrong.
I have been wrong about a lot of things that have happened concerning the Gators this season. I mean really, who would have thought that Mississippi State would be bowl eligible on October 23, yet not a single team in the SEC's Eastern Division can say that. Given the apparent weakness of the conference, I certainly wouldn't have thought that it would take a couple of November wins for Florida to earn a chance to play in Atlanta representing the East. It will take all of that and a win at the end of this month.
Still, I go back to practice in the spring. I was there and I watched with my own eyes. Fourteen practices and an Orange and Blue scrimmage featured much more passing from the offense than we have seen in the last few years and they looked like they knew what they were doing. I saw an offense that went the entire spring without its top running back in Jeff Demps, because he was working with Florida's track program, but still managed to look like it was running the ball well most of the time.
These aren't untrained eyes. I worked for the Florida football program for 10 years. I was at every Florida spring and fall practice from 1994 to 1998 watching Steve Spurrier's best teams doing their thing. I watched many more practices and helped dissect practice and game film for the remainder of my tenure with the Florida football staff that ran through the 2004 season.
I have seen plenty of good football and what I saw this spring wasn't up to the level of a lot of the absolute best teams, but it was still at a high level for this offensive skill unit that would be putting so many new faces on the field.
The thing is, I am positive the staff saw what I saw, and is still seeing some of the same things happening in practice now. For some reason, the positive play is not translating to the football field.
Injuries are an issue, but I have stated a few times that isn't the only thing going on. There is a lot of inexperience involved, but again, that isn't the only other thing going on.
There has definitely been more than a fair share of play calls putting players in a play that they probably aren't that comfortable in, but I don't think that aspect is the entire reason the offense has not lived up to snuff.
In essence it is a combination of all those things and maybe some more. Some of them will probably fix themselves moving forward.
The team is likely to be healthier than it has been all season after this bye week and going into the Georgia game. Healthy running backs will be big in the running game and the passing game for protection reasons and as alternate receivers.
Florida is likely to use John Brantley less as a run threat moving forward and freshman quarterback Trey Burton is likely to step up his role in helping diversify the offense. Having two quarterbacks do this will help each of them as they can concentrate on their own strengths. However, both will still be asked to do things that aren't their strengths from time to time.
The staff should also have had time to reflect on the negatives of the first half of the season and eliminate some of the things that caused those negatives. This will be huge for fan morale moving forward. A tweak in play calling here and there to take advantage of player strengths can go a long way.
In an odd season when a former Urban Meyer assistant in Dan Mullen is already bowl eligible and a former Gator player (Cameron Newton) is possibly the Heisman front runner at another SEC school, Florida would love to be able to buck all the odds and represent the Eastern Division of the SEC with three losses.
In order to do that, the offense is going to have to play a lot like it did in the spring or maybe even better.
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