Analyzing the 2011 Penalties

Head coach Will Muschamp spent time on Monday to address the penalty issues that plagued the Gators throughout the season. Some penalties are understandable. The bang-bang decisions officials have to make can be worth the risk of drawing a flag, but it's the undisciplined penalties that caused the Gators plenty of yardage in 2011.

The Gators were called for a total of 100 penalties during the 2011 season. Georgia and LSU tied for the second most penalties committed in the SEC with 86 each.

Of the 100 penalties called on Florida last season, 13 of them were called on special teams or declined by the opponent. For the purpose of this story, we'll just deal with the 87 that were called on the Florida offense and defense.

It's hard to define exactly what an undisciplined penalty is. Pass interference and offsides penalties can look like it when watching a game live, and while some are obvious, Muschamp said on Monday he doesn't mind aggressive penalties where the player forces an official to make a quick decision whether or not to throw the flag.

Of the 87 penalties, here are the percentages of each penalty and the total number for each one:

False start: 26.4% (23)

Offsides: 17.2% (15)

Pass Interference: 16.1% (14)

Holding: 10.4% (9)

Delay of Game: 9.1% (8)

Personal Fouls: 9.1% (8)

Face Mask: 4.6% (4)

Substitution infraction: 2.3% (2)

Illegal Block: 1.2% (1)

Illegal Formation: 1.2% (1)

Defensive Holding: 1.2% (1)

Roughing the Passer: 1.2% (1)

False start penalties were the biggest issue for the Gators in 2011. Xavier Nixon drew a team-high five of them, while Kyle Koehne and Dan Wenger were called for four. Jordan Reed was called for two, and no other player was called for more than one.

Offside penalties plagued the defensive line throughout the season. Dominique Easley led the team with six offside penalties called against him in 12 games played. Jaye Howard added three called against him, but no other Florida player was called for multiple.

The inexperienced cornerbacks struggled at times in 2011. Cody Riggs, Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins were each nailed for three pass interference penalties, and the only three called for more than one pass interference on the year.

The pass interferences did get better throughout the season. The Gators were called for nine pass interferences in the first four games of the season, including six in the win over Tennessee. In the final nine games, Florida was called for just five pass interferences, and two of those came in the loss to Georgia.

Of the nine holding penalties, only four of them were called against offensive linemen. Jon Halapio was charged with three of them and Chaz Green was given the other. After the win over Kentucky in the fourth game of the season, the Florida offense was called for just two holding penalties in the final nine games.

Jon Bostic and Ronald Powell were the only Gators called for multiple personal fouls on the year.

The issue for the Florida defense was when the penalties occurred. The defense was called for 42 penalties on the season, but 17 of those and 40.1% overall came on third down. It gets worse—31 of the total 42 penalties Florida was called for gave the opponent's offense a first down.

Even when penalties didn't give opponents automatic first downs, there were still times when they basically did. The Gators forced a one-yard loss on first down against UAB in the second game of the season. With UAB facing 2nd and 11, Dominique Easley and William Green jumped offside on back-to-back plays to make it 2nd and 1.

The same thing happened at LSU when Easley jumped offside on 1st and 10. Jaye Hoawrd jumped offside on the next play on 1st and 5, giving the Tigers a first down without having to snap the ball.

Those are the undisciplined penalties that irked Muschamp throughout the year.

The Gators looked behind the eight ball on offense throughout the year. The unit didn't help itself out much, either. Instead of improving as the year went on, Florida got off to slow starts on offense that hampered the team. The Gators were called for at least one false start or delay of game on their first drive in six of their final nine games of the season.

Even when the offense did get off to a good start, like the 65-yard touchdown pass from John Brantley to Andre Debose, the group came close to hampering itself as tight end Gerald Christian was called for a false start that moved the Gators back five yards.


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