Notebook: Gators can go faster than Saturday

The Gators used their no-huddle offense while putting up 65 points against Eastern Michigan on Saturday, but their tempo between plays wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. Florida can change that going forward.

The goal is for the ball to be snapped with 18 seconds remaining on the play clock. On Saturday, the average was 14 seconds when the ball was snapped and the play began. Out of the 86 plays Florida ran on Saturday, 21 of the plays started with more than 18 seconds remaining on the play clock.

Simply put, Florida can and will go faster between plays in the future.

It’s not a mandate going forward. The offense was in a good flow on Saturday, so Kurt Roper didn’t want to tell them to speed up and risk breaking the rhythm. They’ll work on it this week and be more comfortable in the future going at a faster pace.

There are quick fixes to make it work. Part of it comes from the offense running through its first game in the no-huddle offense and needing experience in the smaller parts of the offense to improve.

“I think it gets down to our guys understanding giving the ball back to the official getting lined up in a hurry,” Roper said. “Too many times we left the ball on the ground at the end of a play where an official has to go get it to spot it and those type things.

“I think we can play obviously faster just looking at those numbers, but it’s all about making plays.”

CONFIDENCE IN BURTON: Heading into his senior season, Clay Burton felt the sense of urgency with one year left to make an impact. He dropped 15 pounds in the offseason and wanted to get in better shape to get faster and more agile in the passing game. It showed on Saturday, as he led the team with seven catches.

“I can't say that I was surprised,” Roper said. “He is a guy that has been steady for us the whole time. He's got a lot of experience to go back on. He just gets the game now because he's older. He plays with a great base and he understands how to be in good positions, so that just carried over to the passing game. He gets the big picture, so he knows where he fits into schemes and gets in the right spots and makes those plays.”

Losing Jake McGee for the season hurts the Florida offense. The plan was to use him to stretch the field and be a difference maker in the passing game at tight end. Burton doesn’t have the same skillset as McGee, but he can still provide some help. He’ll be thrown onto the field even more with the offense now, even though he was already listed as the starter before McGee’s injury.

Burton will be counted on with increase targets in the passing game.

“He's going to be the starting tight end and we're going to obviously play him a lot, but Tevin's [Westbrook] got to be ready to go quite a bit now,” Roper said. “And we'll see how DeAndre (Goolsby) comes along in practice and all those things. But Clay is the guy that is going to start the thing and going to have a lot of opportunities.”

Goolsby is the wildcard at the position. Coaches haven’t said that he was expected to redshirt before the McGee injury, but they have made it clear that he wasn’t one of the top three tight ends to be on the field and that a redshirt was possible. McGee’s injury means that it’s no longer possible.

The term Will Muschamp used was “activate” him this week in practice, preparing Goolsby to get on the field this fall. His impact will depend on how quickly he proves ready to play.

“At that position, you’re talking a true freshman playing a violent, physical position that carries a lot in our offense,” Roper said. “That’s why typically you don’t see true freshmen playing a whole bunch at that position. There is so much going on for him, run game, pass game, protections, matching up against 270-pound guys in certain situations. It’s a challenge. You like those guys to be able to grow and develop a little bit. He’s got some athletic ability in space that is pretty good.”

BALL SECURITY CONCERNS: The offense found multiple things that need improvement when they watched the film, most notably ball security issues. Roper pointed to one Demarcus Robinson catch that went for a third-down conversion where the ball was being held in one hand and away from his body.

"It's never something that takes a backseat to anything, and so the first game, what our players find out is there's a bunch of examples to see when we weren't doing a very good job of that. That's something we're concerned about because (the defense is) doing a good job taking the football away, but it doesn't change our approach or thought process because we try to put a lot of emphasis on that the entire time.”

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