I chose the latter, but with the understanding that I will provide constructive criticism in order to show where I believe those players should be in order to be a national championship caliber team.
These are my mid-season grades…
First let me say this. Driskel has done as much for this offense as anyone. He has done his fair share of carrying the team when needed. He did it to finish the Vanderbilt game, he did it to finish the Texas A&M game, he did it to finish the Tennessee game and some points in between as well.
His strengths so far have been his athletic ability and his prowess on the run, plus his ability to throw accurately and throw it on a rope. These things he absolutely does as good as anyone in the game of college football. He was the victim of 13 sacks in just two of the six games so far and he still has 326 positive rushing yards on the season. He's also been the victim of too many drops by his receivers.
All of that said. Driskel still tends to fall back into patterns sometimes of taking sacks by not moving past his first receiver in his progression and by not eye balling the defense that has moved into put pressure on him. He isn't really too prone to throw into double coverage all that much, but he also tends to throw underneath a great deal more than it seems the offense calls for.
He's young. An (A) grade is reserved for an all-conference player and he absolutely does some things that would put him in that category, but he also has some room to grow in the passing game. The fact that Jacoby Brissett has seen so limited time due to the scores of games also keeps the grade limited. As we will see in other phases of the team, depth is a bonus to the grade because they have been able to work bodies in for playing time.
Getting Brissett reps could prove beneficial down the road
Needs Improvement : Florida needs to get some leads and get Brissett into the game for repetitions. Driskel needs to force himself to get rid of the ball quicker at times and follow through with his progressions.
If anyone has carried this team more than Driskel on offense it is Gillislee. I was a big fan of Gillislee before the season so I am not totally surprised by his production. I was well aware of his speed and surprised he doesn't run more outside. His 615 yards rushing and 102.5 yards per game rank him second in the conference, but he has an even more impressive stat. In 120 carries of the ball, he has lost just nine yards total. The kid absolutely knows how to make something out of nothing and always falls forward.
Gillislee has carried the load for the Gators so far
If there is something we should like to see from Gillislee it is in the passing game. With his wheels and ability, getting him in open space should be a huge priority.
The use of the backups or the lack thereof keeps this from being an (A+) grade. Simply put, Mack brown and matt Jones need to get more comfortable in the offense and the staff needs to be abe to rely on them. We haven't seen that.
Hunter Joyer plays like an All-American at fullback. Time and time again we see him creating the creases and the main block for the backs to get their yards. He is a star at a position that doesn't get a lot of notoriety.
Trey Burton has certainly been a weapon and used pretty wisely. I would like tto see Burton hand off a little more when he is in the ‘Wildcat', but no one can argue with his production when he is in there at the position. Needs Improvement : The backup running backs need to get on the field AND PRODUCE.
Receivers and Tight Ends : Frankie Hammond, Quinton Dunbar, Andre Debose, Solomon Patton, Raph Andrades, Latroy Pittman, Omarius Hines, Jordan Reed, Clay Burton, Kent Taylor, Tevin Westbrook (Grade: C++)
I debated over this grade a bit. There are times when I think this should be higher and times lower. A few guys have made some big plays, but the drops from some have been costly in some games. The best player in the above group is Jordan Reed and he has lived up to everything. His game against Kentucky notwithstanding, Reed has played at an all-conference level.
The group as a whole is one of the best blocking groups I can remember for the receiver position. Sure there are a few holding calls now and then, but these guys are serious about helping their teammates when they are running on the edge.
I'd have to say that Solomon Patton would be the only higher grade I could give at this time. Outside of two negative yard plays against LSU on Jet Sweeps, Patton has routinely given the squad a lift with first down runs and a catch as well. He is high motor and quick speed and runs the sweep as good as anyone could expect.
Patton has proved to be a dynamic playmaker for this squad
Everyone else either has youth against them or just too many bad plays to give this grade anything higher than it has. Frankie Hammond has made the most big plays of the bunch and has two of the three longest touchdowns on the team, but he also has more costly drops of any player on the squad.
We have seen that Omarius Hines is a better receiver than running back and that is why I put him in this position. Hines has played pretty well as a receiver, but he almost had a costly fumble against Vanderbilt and has been a little prone to that as a Gator.
Quinton Dunbar seems as reliable a receiver as anyone, biut there seems to be some attitude issues with him. I think if he cleaned his act up, he would be second on this list of receivers and tight ends that deserve a good grade.
Everyone else just hasn't had enough time in the flow of the offense to make much of a dent in a position grade.
Needs Improvement : When the ball is thrown your way, catch it. The issue hasn't been catastrophic, but with so few passes coming around, these guys need to take advantage until the quarterback can really get the offense and his progressions down.
I am over the lack of a pure playmaker at the position. It seems that the coordinator is putting these guys in open spaces to do things and these guys have enough athletic ability to get them done when they get the chance and make the catch.
The strength of this unit is in the numbers. Several guys have been called on to perform due to injury or even special personnel groups that call for more linemen and they have performed admirably or even very well at times. I think this line gets better as the game goes on, even without substitutions.
They are also much less inclined for stupid line of scrimmage penalties since game one when there were a lot. The Gators are second in the conference in rushing and just 2.5 yards per game out of leading the conference in that stat. They couldn't buy a short yardage play early in the season and now they are getting the short yardage plays when allowed to go one-on-one blocking for the ball carrier.
Harrison has been a steady force at center
Pass protection seems to be an issue when teams blitz, but some of that has to fall on the quarterback or other pass protectors at times. Still, it could be better.
Needs Improvement : Back to the pass protection and awareness at times. I am not seeing these guys get physically beat, any issues this unit has is more of a mental thing and playing the right assignment or blocking the right guy.
I just feel comfortable with Pease calling plays and it seems like every time there is an issue in the first half, that issue disappears in the second half. Seven sacks on Driskel in first half of TAMU game, one in the second, five in first half of LSU, none in second half.
I love things like getting Patton and Hines involved in the offense via Jet Sweeps or reverses, finding a way to utilize their speed talents without having to throw the ball deep down field, of which this squad is having issues doing right now.
Pease seems to be getting the most out of his guys while his quarterback grows into the offense
utilizing the extra linemen against LSU, a team that most thought would over power Florida and Pease was able to figure out how to turn the tables.
No one can argue with the way Gillislee is performing and Brian White has to be given some credit there taking a guy that has played sparingly in his three years on campus and help molding him into an All-SEC type player. Derek Lewis has an all-star tight end that struggled a bit at times a year ago and has made tremendous strides. Tim Davis seems to be getting maximum production out of offensive line that was underwhelming a year ago.
That leaves Bush Hamdan and I think the guy has done a pretty good job as well. We knew coming in that this group of receivers weren't all-stars and really none of them have performed at that level. Still, it is a tough group as shown with their blocking, and there are times with the unit when they seem to make all the catches and plays necessary. It appears production will come from this unit as Driskel matures more and more into the system.
Needs Improvement : The Gators are eventually going to have to start faster. They were behind at halftime of three games this year, TAMU, Tennessee, and LSU. The offense has been slow coming out of the gate. Pease has said that he likes to take some time to feel out the defense and maybe that time is compounded with a young and inexperienced signal caller, but the gators have to have a little more sense of urgency on offense to start the game.