One of the biggest issues has been the lack of play makers, especially at the receiver position. In the previous three years, the Gators have scored 12 TDs (2010), 13 TD's (2011), and 13 TD's (2012) through the air. The most any receiver has hauled in and scored is 4, Andre Debose in (2010) and Quinton Dunbar (2011).
Senior receiver Solomon Patton is on a path to make people following gator football forget some of those low numbers. Paton already has four touchdown catches on the season, equal to the highest for a receiver in any of the last three entire seasons. His pace of 69.7 yards per game would average out to over 800 yards by the end of the season. That number would eclipse by more than 15 yards the next highest season total of 559 yards by Jordan Reed in 2011 and this average doesn't include a bowl game.
Forget the averages though, what Florida has needed is someone that can make a play after the catch and put the ball in the end zone. Patton has provided that four times this year and the offense has done it five times in the last three games after just once in each of the first two games.
With teams stacking the box to thwart Florida's rushing game, it is now more imperative than ever that Florida starts making big plays in the passing game. The pride is starting to show in their play as Florida's top three receivers Patton, senior Trey Burton, and junior Quinton Dunbar are routinely coming down with tough catches and putting Florida in position to win the games they are in. The group as a whole has been lambasted lately for their lack of production.
"It means a lot," Patton said of the notoriety he and his pass catching mates are starting to get. "Since I've been here, that's all I heard about. We didn't have any receivers who could catch or make the big plays that those guys used to make when you had Aaron Hernandez and Riley Cooper and those guys. It means a lot. We're throwing the ball way more now and making a lot of plays.
"We've been doing our best at practice just making sure no dropped balls. I think it shows everybody that we have real good receivers and that they've been here."
Patton believes it has everything to do with the chance to actually make a play, a chance that often times hasn't been there in the past.
"I think it's more [that] we've taken advantage of our opportunities," he said. "Everybody is buying in and we're all on the same page.
Basically, everybody is getting an opportunity to make a lot of plays.
One thing Patton had to do is make sure his body was ready for more action this fall. He's listed at 5-foot-9 and 177 pounds and as little as that sounds, he is up a few pounds of muscle from previous seasons. That added strength has helped him break tackles and make more moves because of it to allow him to finish off plays this year.
"I think it's helped out big time," he said of the strength and conditioning part of his makeup. (Strength coach) Coach Dillman did a real good job of making sure I stayed on top of my weight and wasn't dropping any pounds during camp. I think it's helped out a lot. Me taking the hits I'm taking, some of them… it's helped out big time.
One thing that has plagued some of the better receivers at Florida over the last few years is dropping a pass or two and letting it get to their heads. Patton has had a few drops this season, but he has also come right back and made a big play to follow it up.
"Everybody drops balls and it's all about playing the next play," Patton said. "The coaches are big on that. (Quarterback Tyler Murphy), if one is dropped he will come back and tell me forget about and move onto the next play."
The Gators have a tough task this week as they head to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to face the best team they have seen so far on their schedule. The Tigers are hosts of one of the hardest venues to play at in all of college football and Patton expects it to be a mad house on Saturday.
"I was with them two years ago," he said of travelling with the team when the Gators were ransacked 41-11 by LSU. "It's a very hostile environment. I think it will be the same way. Florida-LSU is a big game I think it will get pretty loud." Despite the crowd, he just needs to play his game.
"I'm going to do what I've been doing these past couple of weeks," Patton said. "When the ball comes my way I will try my best to make the catch."
There is a glimmer of hope for an offense that is still trying to find its way to a certain extent. The LSU defense isn't quite the stout defense that we have seen over the last several years. They are still very talented but an exodus of experience has moved on to the NFL from last season's team and the young Tigers are prone to a few more mistakes.
"It's exciting," Patton said of the chance to take advantage of anything LSU might give them.
"I feel like obviously we have got some big-time opportunities to make plays. We're going to try to take advantage of their defense as much as we can."
The Gators just need him to keep doing what he's doing.