Rushing offense: The Gators averaged only 3.63 yards per carry last season, second worst in the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt was worse – 3.59 per carry – but the Commodores rammed the ball into the end zone 34 times with their ground game. Florida, meanwhile, only scored 14 rushing touchdowns, which tied Arkansas for the lowest total in the SEC. The Gators averaged 145.75 yards per game, down 42 yards from 2012 and there were eight fewer touchdowns on the ground.
2014 analysis: The Gators aren’t going to do what Auburn (4,596 yards, 6.3 per carry, 48 touchdowns), LSU (2,630 yards, 5.03 per carry, 37 touchdowns), Missouri (3,330 yards, 5.66 per carry, 35 touchdowns) or Alabama (2,673 yards, 5.8 per carry, 28 touchdowns) did last year, but they need numbers similar to South Carolina (2,580 yards, 4.8 per carry, 27 touchdowns). Kelvin Taylor, Mack Brown and Matt Jones need to combine for at least 1,600 yards and more than 20 touchdowns to lead the way.
Rushing defense: A year after giving up only 2.98 yards per carry, the Gators gave up 4.35 yards on every rushing play. In 2012, the Gators gave up only 12 rushing touchdowns and only 94.54 yards per game. Opponents ran for 142.42 yards per game and 17 touchdowns last year. That’s another five first downs per game on the average.
2014 analysis: When the Gators have been at their best defensively, they’ve held opponents to less than 3.5 per carry and less than 110 rushing yards per game. Last year was the third time in four years that a Florida team allowed at least 130 yards per game and the first time dating back to 2007 that opposing running backs have run for at least 4.0 yards per carry. They need Alabama-like numbers. Last year’s Alabama defense gave up only eight rushing touchdowns and 3.32 yards per carry. The guys in the middle – Darious Cummings, Leon Orr, Jay-nard Bostwick, Caleb Brantley and freshmen Thomas Holley and Khairi Clark – have to plug gaps and the linebackers have to put people on the ground when they make a hit.
Passing offense: The Gators actually threw for more yards (2,051 in 2013; 1,902 in 2012) in one less game last year, but the 2012 Gators threw far less (288 attempts in 13 games to 311 in 12) and they were far more efficient. The Gators threw for 11 touchdowns with nine interceptions last year. The numbers were 13 and five in 2012. The key stat is yards per pass attempt. Florida averaged only 6.6 yards per attempt last year. That’s the same as 2012 but with one big difference. In 2012, the Gators got far more out of their running game. When there was no explosion in the running game last year, there needed to be more yards in the passing game.
2014 analysis: It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Gators put up numbers similar to 2007 (257 yards per game, 32 touchdowns) with Kurt Roper calling the plays although the yards per attempt probably won’t be anything like 2007 (9.3 per attempt). Roper wants the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly so the routes will be more about timing and hitting receivers in the seam. Still, something in the 7.5-8.5 per attempt range would be good. LSU had the best numbers in the SEC last year (10.0 per attempt) while Texas A&M threw for a league-high 4,593 yards and 40 touchdowns. Roper would probably be very happy if Driskel can spread the ball around so that at least three receivers catch a minimum of 40 passes.
Pass defense: Three numbers jump out at you. The Gators gave up only 5.6 yards per pass attempt in 2012, which is truly outstanding, and picked off 20 passes. In 2013, they gave up nearly a yard more per attempt (6.5) and managed only 10 interceptions. Then there were the sack totals – 30 in 2012, just 19 last season. Opponents threw for only nine touchdowns last year; slightly better than the seven the Gators allowed in 2012.
2014 analysis: Two things have to happen for Florida to improve: (1) better ball hawking in the secondary to produce more interceptions and (2) a stronger pass rush. Considering the lack of a consistent pass rush to help them out last season, the Gators were actually outstanding in the secondary. The Gators gave up the fewest touchdown passes in the SEC (9) and were tied with Missouri (6.5 per attempt) for second behind LSU (6.4) in fewest yards per attempt. The Gators will probably start a sophomore (Vernon Hargreaves III), a freshman (Jalen Tabor) at corner with young, inexperienced safeties. There is a lack of experience, not a lack of talent. The only time in the last seven years that Florida has given up more than 200 yards passing per game was 2007 (258.5).
Yards per play: The Gators averaged an SEC-worst 4.79 yards per play last season, down from 5.25 in 2012. On the other side of the ball, the Gators gave up 5.3 yards per play, up nearly a full yard (4.35) from 2012.
2014 analysis: The Gators will run from a shotgun spread with no huddle this season, so the numbers figure to improve dramatically. The last time the Gators averaged more than 6.0 yards per play was 2009 when they picked up 6.97 yards with every snap. Don’t expect those kind of numbers but it’s not unreasonable to expect something like we saw last year with Missouri (6.59 yards per play) or South Carolina (6.39 per play).