The Gators did what they absolutely needed to do Saturday in winning and winning big. It was a must needed blow out for the fans, the team, and the coaches alike. There was a lot to love about what we saw, but also some concerns. I will talk about both.
When we are talking about ‘Must See’ things from Saturday’s Florida vs. Eastern Michigan game, it was about having an explosive offense and one that was not only fun to watch, but could put points on the board. We certainly got that, with 65 points and 655 yards. All facets of the game were in high gear, including the tempo, of which Will Muschamp said on Monday, could have even been faster.
I think before I get into a positional breakdown I need to talk a little bit about the scheme and the implementation of what offensive coordinator Kurt Roper did.
I think from a broad stand point Saturday was a little bit of a different thing than we will see from the offense in terms of the passing game attack. One big difference in this offense from the previous three years is that instead of changing a running play for another running play when there are too many defenders in the tackle box, they will actually change it to a pass play. Most of the time it will be a quick pass that they move to when they call an audible.
With that in mind, Eastern Michigan played seven in the box most of the time and four deep… they were absolutely giving Florida the underneath stuff. When the game began, we saw a lot of this from Driskel. Lots of sideways passes trying to get someone to do something with it and until Demarcus Robinson was put in that role, we finally got something going. But, we will get to that.
In essence, we are talking an extension of the running game, a toss sweep of sorts. Getting someone that can make a big play with it is something they have to figure out.
Another thing I want to point out from Saturday is the play calling in the last two series before the half and then the first series of the second half. It was very apparent to this guy that at that point in time, they decided, to hell with it, we are going to get us a passing touchdown. By then they scored three touchdowns on the ground and wanted Driskel to get one. They dropped back and threw almost every normal down, and they worked it down the field that way. They ended up settling for two field goals to end the half, but a nice play call by Roper netted a touchdown to start the second half with a well-designed screen pass to Matt Jones. Voila, Driskel got his touchdown pass.
The main point here is they were so deliberate with the passing game. They didn’t care at that point what defense was thrown at them. They were going to pass the ball. When have you seen that in the last few years?
The third thing I want to point out is one simple play on the first drive. I doubt there is one time in the last three years, on 4th and 2, that Florida lined up and threw a pass to get the first down. That one play in the opening drive was enough to know that things are going to be different around here.
Lastly, what a glorious site it was to see the ball travel through the air 40-55 yards and it wasn’t off of the leg of the punter or kicker. We may have seen more deep passes on Saturday than the entire season a year ago and it certainly helps open up the running game a bit.
Okay, let’s get into some positional analysis…
I thought Jeff Driskel played well and saw some things that we hadn’t seen from him in previous years that we know they worked on in the spring and he got better at… namely, the deep ball. First of all, it is absolutely not his forte, but in the previous three years when Driskel threw those balls, there was never any air under it. It was always a rope for 40-50 yards that tries to pin point the ball on a spot and the receiver has less of a chance to catch it. They still have to work through getting the right guys on the receiving end of those things, but he certainly put some air under the ball and hit on the 42 yarder to Dunbar, netting two pass interference calls on possible catches, and one that went right off the hands of Andre Debose. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but there were three big net plays in that group alone and a chance for a couple of more.
Driskel has a gun of an arm and he can hit the across-the-field passes and did a few times. He had one beautiful rope dropped by Dunbar and hit on a couple of more. I don’t understand why people don’t see that he can make almost all the throws.
That said, I still think his decision making could be better. He should have been intercepted on a dump down to Matt Jones and that would have gone for a long pick-6. Jones totally whiffed on his block causing the quick throw, but Driskel can’t make that kind of mistake against real competition. There was another to Jake McGee that was thrown in traffic, but after watching the replay, the slot receiver on the other side ran the wrong route and right into the play. That should have been a touchdown to McGee early in the contest.
Also, go look at the play at 2:30 in the first quarter. His outside man on the right ran a Go route on the seam. His slot receiver ran a post, and the defense was in a Cover-2 zone. The safety on the hash followed the slot to the post and the corner on the outside stayed shallow in his zone. The outside receiver was running free. Driskel only had that side of the field to watch and he missed that and went underneath to the running back, which only netted a three yard gain. The staff saw it and went back to its two plays later. But this time the deep guy was covered and Driskel threw it anyway. He had one on one, but no completion. They tried again and the same thing happened, deep man covered, he threw it anyway. After in the game, they went to the play one more time, he went to the post player who was covered, but the Go route was open again on the hash. He still has to get better at reading that stuff.
The offense had 86 plays in the game and I am talking about just five in the paragraph above. In all Driskel had a very good game, even with the opponent. It is also his first time with the new coordinator, so it isn’t going to be absolutely sharp on day one. He was also told to not run the ball much if at all on Saturday and we know that is going to be a bigger part of the arsenal. When he starts using his legs, the rest of this will open up big in my opinion.
Hardly any words can be said for Treon Harris’ debut. Going 2 for 2 for 14 yards and two touchdowns is just craziness. The first throw wasn’t perfect, but he put it where Demarcus Robinson could make a play on it and Robinson did. The second throw was a nice rope and the smash route play which we have seen work a few times this fall. It is almost a staple of the offense in my opinion.
You just have to like the composure that Treon has and the fact they put him in on the first drive of the game, even if unsuccessful, shows the confidence they have in him.
The best site of the day was seeing Matt Jones at full health. Count me as the biggest skeptic ever when they said he would be back for fall practice, and he was. He looks as good as he has since his arrival at Florida. That is great for this team.
The thing Jones brings is his completeness. He likely starts because he is a better pass blocker, although I mentioned a bad play in that department above. Still, he can also catch the ball out of the backfield and he does have good speed, especially for a guy his size. He and Taylor had the same number of carries, almost identical yards, and both scored twice. I think it is a good tandem.
Kelvin Taylor looks faster to me and we said this in the spring and the fall. That outside run for a touchdown showed some wheels and adds a little bit more to his repertoire. Once he solidifies his pass protection a little more, he starts really completing his game.
What is not to like about Mack Brown. We all know he doesn’t have game breaking speed, but he is a very solid player that gets tough yards and can pop a decent long one every once in a while. On a day of long runs he had the longest (47), but didn’t get it in the end zone. He’s a really good third back in the rotation.
We saw some excitement from Brandon Powell and that will only grow as he learns more and more. Muschamp said Monday they have to get him the ball more and that means they will. I think he is much further ahead than they anticipated in knowing the offense and they have said he’s a very football savvy player. Wait till this guy starts catching the ball out of the backfield, he will be something else.
We have to go to Mark Herndon as well. The wheels he showed after the catch on the touchdown throw from Harris was a surprise to me. There won’t be a lot of touches in the SEC games, but if injuries occur, you have another strong alternative.
The position is deep and it is talented. They have a chance to be a top four RB unit in the SEC, but this is the best year in a while as far as teams with depth in the conference.
Saturday wasn’t a good matchup for Ahmad Fulwood, simply because they were playing so far off. He is a guy that needs the contact and someone playing on him and to be able to run by them. As much as he is a big target, short passes aren’t what he does the best.
I like Latroy Pittman. He is a very sure handed receiver that catches everything thrown his way, but he is not going to be a guy that gets you yardage after the catch (YAC). We saw that again Saturday. I have a philosophical issue with that being the primary slot guy. It seems like a position that a YAC guy should play predominantly and then a sure handed guy when you need the first down. Again, I think he has a great purpose, just not seeing the scoring ability.
I could almost say the same for Quinton Dunbar, but he showed me a couple of moves on Saturday. I think Dunbar is a great number two receiver, but he again is not a guy that does much after the catch. There is a lot of diving for the ball and not staying on his feet. Last year it seemed that every pass he got was on the sideline and heading out, so not much room for YAC. This year he is catching the ball in the field of play and still hitting the turf right after the catch. There was the one play for a first down that he spun away from the defender and got extra yardage. I want to see more of that. Still, I think the guy has underrated speed and makes the very tough catches. He needs to be on the field.
The best receiver is Demarcus Robinson and he was finally able to showcase that for all to see. I liked the way Muschamp phrased it, he has a great “catching radius”. We see how he has the body control to twist half way around, catch the ball, and get back to heading the right direction. We saw how he can take a hitch route and tease the defenders inside and go get the first down. We saw how he owns the ball in the air on the long touchdown pass. He really can do it all and just needs to keep studying that playbook to get on the field more.
Muschamp mentioned it on Monday as well, but Andre Debose needs to get the ball more as well. He showed the moves in his electric punt return to be a YAC guy, making people miss that were in a couple of feet of him. He did have a bad drop of a Driskel bomb, but he also laid out for the one thrown in the end zone. I like that Muschamp wants him out there more often. He has four of the longest touchdown receptions in the Muschamp era, but they were all in 2011.
Need to see more of Valdez Showers (could be that big play slot guy), Chris Thompson (speed, speed, speed), and Alvin Bailey (another play maker possibility at slot). Good to see C.J. Worton get a catch, but he almost got Mack Brown killed on a screen play that he missed a block on.
Being nitpicky here I think they need to figure out a way to get Robinson and Debose on the field earlier and more often. They are the two best play makers at receiver and need some touches.
They of course took a big hit losing Jake McGee. Muschamp said he will activate freshman DeAndre Goolsby there and as I suggested Hunter Joyer will get a few more looks.
Clay Burton was a nice surprise. He isn’t going to be flashy, but he will know what he is doing and did show that he will catch it when it is thrown to him. That is really what they need at TE if they can get more plays on the outside.
Tevin Westbrook will have a bigger role now as well without McGee. I like Joyer as a receiver, but he doesn’t have the height you like. Again, this just needs to be a steady and reliable position.
I thought they played very well overall. Didn’t agree with those saying Humphries didn’t play well. He was in on both of first touchdown runs. On the first from Taylor, he actually blocked two defenders on the left side and the ball was run between him and the left guard. The second was the Jones TD run and he again blocked his guy but was rolled up on.
Garcia had a couple of early slightly high snaps, but settled down. He played well most of the game as far as blocking. I liked what Trip Thurman did minus the two false start penalties. Trenton Brown started at the other guard spot and played okay. Both he and Tyler Moore struggle with pass blocking and Moore really didn’t look good in that capacity on Saturday. I think Brown played better.
David Sharpe stepped up like he has all fall. He was really solid for only having been on campus for a couple of months. He should be a really good one.
The offensive line depth is still a big issue. Roderick Johnson is an easy plug in and very talented, but Sharpe and Moore are the only guys they feel like are ready and Moore struggled a bit Saturday.