In the 40 games played from 2007 to 2009, the Florida Gators threw for 9,641 yards in an option offense that was geared to the run. In the four years and 51 games since – the last three years under head coach Will Muschamp – the Gators have thrown for 8,763 yards. The Gators averaged 240 passing yards per game from 2007-09. The Gators averaged 184.3 yards per game in 2010, Urban Meyer's last year as head coach. In the three years under Muschamp, the Gators have averaged 171.8 per game.
That is a startling decrease in productivity. More telling is the average yards per pass attempt and how that has decreased. From 2007-09, the Gators 9.1 yards per pass attempt. That number dipped to 6.3 per attempt in 2010, rose to 7.5 per attempt in 2011 when Charlie Weis was the offensive coordinator and dipped to 6.6 per attempt in each of the past two seasons under Brent Pease.
The Gators threw for 93 touchdowns against only 16 interceptions from 2007-09. In 2010, the numbers dipped substantially to 12 and 12. In the last three years the Gators have thrown 37 touchdown passes and 27 interceptions.
When it comes to the passing game, the numbers that really matter are yards per attempt and the touchdown to interception ratio. Anything less than 6.3 yards per attempt is poor. Anything from 6.4 to 7.3 yards per attempt is average while 7.4 to 8.3 is considered above average. Very good is 8.4 to 8.9 and anything above 9.0 is considered outstanding. A 2-1 touchdown to interception ratio is considered average while 3-1 is considered very good and anything above 4-1 is considered outstanding.
So the numbers speak for themselves when it comes to Florida's passing game since 2007. From 2007-09 the numbers were outstanding but so was the quarterback who did most of the damage – Tim Tebow. Tebow never averaged less than 9.2 yards per pass attempt while throwing 83 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, a 5.5-1 touchdown-interception ratio. The quarterback play since Tebow certainly hasn't measured up to the lofty standards set from 2007-09. John Brantley threw for 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 2010-11. He averaged 6.3 yards per attempt in 2010 and 7.5 under Weis in 2011. Jeff Driskel was a backup to Brantley in 2011. As a starter in 2012 and through the three games of 2013 before he broke his leg, Driskel threw 14 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. He averaged 6.7 per pass attempt in 2012 and 7.8 before going down in 2013.
Taking the passing game numbers a bit further, Florida's receivers averaged more than 13 yards per reception from 2007-09. In the last four years, the only time the Gators have averaged more than 11 yards per reception was 2011 when Weis was the offensive coordinator (13.26 per reception).
While numbers can always be manipulated, they tell a compelling story when it comes to Florida's lack of offensive explosion since 2010. Lower yards per attempt and per reception directly relate to pass protection – 89 sacks allowed the last three years and 23 in 2010; 57 total (28 in 2009) from 2007-09 – and to the judgment of the quarterbacks. It also has a direct correlation to the offensive philosophy. Florida's offensive philosophy under Meyer was a spread option that was run-first with a passing game that mixed a lot of crossing routes with deep throws. In the three years under Muschamp, the passing game had more downfield throwing under Weis but went more conservative with Brent Pease calling the plays.
For the Gators to compete at the highest levels in the Southeastern Conference in 2014, offensive improvement will best be measured in the passing game. If Kurt Roper can get Driskel and his backups to average at least 7.5 yards per attempt, 13 yards per reception and a 3-1 touchdown pass to interception ratio the Gators should be much improved.
Kudos to Southern Cal athletic director Pat Haden who announced Monday that revenue-producing sports – football, basketball and women's basketball – will start offering four-year scholarships rather than the one-year contract that is standard procedure in the NCAA. This needs to become an NCAA rule and if the NCAA isn't ready to implement it, then it's one more reason for the power five conferences to either form their own division where they can make their own rules or else bolt completely from the NCAA. The four-year scholarship will eliminate the despicable practice of cutting players to accommodate oversigning recruiting classes.
Recalling a conversation he had with Alabama coach Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier told reporter Josh Kendall of The State newspaper that he once told Saban, "Nick, you don't have to stay there until midnight and your teams would be just as good and win just as many." Asked if he worked longer hours would South Carolina win more games, Spurrier replied to Kendall, "Would we be 12-1 instead of 11-2? Oh, you're kidding." Then came the zinger. "How man SECs has [Saban] won there in eight years? He's won two. He's won two nationals but he's only won two SECs in eight years. Now, if you have the #1 recruiting class every year and so forth, I don't know if he has maxed our potentially as well as he could." Zing! Spurrier who has read all the John Wooden books on coaching added, "Coach Wooden, nowhere does he talk about all the hours he spent watching game film. I sort of like that." Another zing! You have to love old Stevie Wonder. Nothing has really changed except the school he coaches.
The talk in and about Athens – shared by some of the so-called college football experts – is that Georgia has found its defensive missing link in new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. He's the guy who is supposed to be the substantial upgrade to Todd Grantham, who left on his own volition to become Bobby Petrino's defensive coordinator at Louisville. Pruitt was on the job for one year at FSU before bolting to Georgia and while FSU did win the national championship last year, the defensive numbers weren't substantially better than they were the year before when Mark Stoops was the coordinator. Last year, FSU gave up 12.1 points per game, 281.4 yards per game (4.09 yards per play), 3.26 yards per rush and 5.1 yards per pass attempt. Under Stoops in 2013, FSU gave up 14.7 points per game, 253.8 yards per game (3.85 yards per play), 2.74 yards per rush and 5.0 per pass attempt. Of course, after giving up 29 points per game in 2013 (375.5 yards per game, 5.41 per play, 3.7 per rush and 7.7 per pass attempt) last year, Pruitt will look good if there is simply moderate improvement but the missing link that can take the Bulldogs to the promised land, which has eluded them since 1980, the last time they won the national championship?
Hired by the SEC Network earlier this month, Brando has come out with his top ten for 2014: (1) UCLA; (2) Florida State; (3) Oklahoma; (4) Michigan State; (5) South Carolina; (6) Baylor; (7) Alabama; (8) Oregon; (9) Wisconsin and (10) LSU. Brando predicts the final four playoff teams will be UCLA vs. Michigan State in one game and FSU and Oklahoma in the other. Oh really?
This is the heart condition that has killed numerous athletes including the great volleyball star of the 1980s, Flo Hyman. While the condition will prevent Austin from fulfilling a dream and playing in the NBA, he has a good chance to live a good life if he avoids the kind of stress on his heart that you get from playing competitive basketball. Austin had the foresight to buy an insurance policy for $1 million that will give him a good head start in life and that's a plus. When I read that Austin had an insurance policy, I was reminded of 1998 when Florida defensive tackle Ed Chester tore his knee up so badly that an NFL career was out of the question. Chester had taken out a $1 million insurance policy prior to that season so he was covered. One of the things the power conferences are discussing is insurance for athletes that will cover debilitating injuries or health conditions. I think that's long overdue.
As you survey the Southeastern Conference for 2014, which team has the greatest potential to surprise and which team has the greatest potential to lay an egg?
When it comes to her music, Corinne Bailey Rae probably suffers from identity problems. She's plenty talented (two Grammy Awards) but is she an R&B diva or is she the next great jazz singer or a serious blues artist? She's British born and writes her own music. She's got a unique voice reminiscent of Kat Edmonson or Gin Wigmore. Her 2006 album entitled "Corinne Bailey Rae" is an outstanding piece of work that features today's selection, "Breathless."