Meyer, Staff Trying to Fix the Offense

Instead of game planning for an opponent, the Florida coaching staff used last week to evaluate their offense. They watched every offensive snap this season, focusing on the areas that need to be improved. Head coach Urban Meyer went searching for one area to blame the struggles, but it didn't come down to one reason.

"We've obviously had some severe issues that have been damaging to our win-loss record," Urban Meyer said. "The issue isn't finding a blame, it's finding a solution. The plan to win that's been very successful around here is not being followed."

The first reason Meyer believes the offense is struggling is their focus in practice. He said that the most important job of a head coach during the season is to make sure the time on the practice field is used as efficiently as possible.

The coaches must also create multiple scenarios in practice for the players, so that they are better prepared when a situation occurs on the field.

"Is it because they're not in the position enough?" Meyer said, referring to missed assignments. "We call that competitive excellence around here, where you're in that position over and over again so that when it hits during a game, you execute it."

Turnovers have played a key role in the struggles of the offense in recent weeks. During the current three-game losing streak, there have been five interceptions and three fumbles by the Florida offense. The 14 turnovers is already more than the 2008 team turned the ball over all season.

"The way I've always evaluated turnovers is I put it with carelessness and toughness," Meyer said. "When you get whacked, they're going to happen once in a while. Do we have enough ball protection drills during practice?"

The offense has seen multiple players provide the home run threat over recent years. This year, they are lacking in that category. Jeff Demps served as the best threat, but he was injured at Tennessee and hasn't played effectively since.

The running backs have garnered only four big plays, defined as one of 20 yards or more, this season. None of those have come in the last five games. Against Florida State last season, the Gators recorded five big plays from the running backs.

"It's alarming," Meyer said. "Our goal was to have the fastest team in college football. There are issues and excuses, however, the obvious one on the inside is lack of execution and lack of blocking the edge.

"What's the solution? I have speed written down in bold letters, perimeter blocking and execution of the play call."

Passing efficiency is a category Tim Tebow or Chris Leak have ranked highly in when they ran the Florida offense. John Brantley's passing efficiency is nowhere near.

The Florida coaches shoot for their quarterback to rank between 160-165, but Brantley is currently at 117. In the last three games, Brantley's passer efficiency is 98.5.

"We've always been extremely high," Meyer said. "It's a multitude of issues that have to be fixed. Number one is drops and number two is protection issues between the offensive line and the backs. Number three is execution of a play."

After struggling in the red zone last season, the Gators started this year as if they had it figured out. They went 16-16 in the red zone during the first four games of the year. Then the bottom fell out.

In the last three games, the offense is 3-11 in the red zone with three missed field goals.

"Red zone is where we're sinking our teeth into improvement," Meyer said. "That's execution, grind at it and work at it."

The offense now turns to finding things that will work. They will get an immediate boost from players that return from injuries, but there will also be some changes to the offense itself.

"We have modified quite a bit," Meyer said. "I'm not going to share it, but things are modified. The personnel issue is real, so that's going to help. It doesn't look like us out there. We want to have a thud."

INJURY REPORT: Jeff Demps ran on a treadmill Monday morning and will practice 20-25 snaps in the afternoon. Andre Debose remains questionable with an ankle injury. Jaye Howard is expected to play Saturday against Georgia.

Offensive lineman Matt Patchan remains questionable. He could provide depth and stability at offensive tackle, but it's the intangibles he brings that have Meyer excited.

"Everyone wants energy givers, you walk next to them and feel the injury and don't have to motivate," Meyer said. "He's a guy that supplies energy. To me, that's an evaluation of a player that is so overlooked."

Kicker Caleb Sturgis is also expected to play this week.

"We're going to try him this week and see what happens," Meyer said.

EVALUATING PLAY CALLING: In evaluating every play this season, Meyer had time to look at the play calling this season. The plays in the offense are all plays that the coaching staff believes in.

"We don't have a bad play," Meyer said. "I don't allow that. It might look awful because someone doesn't block the right guy or execute, so I go back to efficiency. I evaluate every play call."

That doesn't mean the head coach hasn't seen room for improvement in the play calling.

"Are there times where I would have liked to run this as opposed to this?" Meyer said. "Yeah. Is it a bad play? There's not a bad play that goes into the game. It's poorly executed because we didn't efficiently practice it."

SEC EAST IN REACH: Meyer put the SEC East standings up in front of the team last week to remind them of what remains at stake. He saw an immediate growth in the optimism around the team.

"The moment I put the standings of the SEC East (up) and they all see what's going on… I didn't know that," Meyer said. "It lifted my spirits and a lot of spirits around here."

RAINEY UPDATE: Meyer hopes to know for sure about Chris Rainey's ability on Thursday. He is expected to play, as long as he meets the expectations the coaches have for him before Saturday's game.

"He's eligible to play," Meyer said. "It's day-to-day. There are a lot of expectations we have of him that if he fulfills his obligations, he'll be playing."
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