Florida searching for offense

Will Muschamp wasn’t optimistic about his offense following Saturday’s loss to Missouri.

The Florida coach took to the podium late Saturday night and said his team had to spend the bye week looking for the positive things they were doing on offense and finding ways to do that more. That could have been a long search.

The Gators posted 283 yards of offense but had only 66 in the first half. The quarterback position hasn’t been productive this season, but the switch to freshman quarterback Treon Harris at least provides some optimism. The hope from Will Muschamp and the rest of the Florida staff is that the two weeks of first team reps will help Harris gain a better knowledge of the position and let the Gators be more versatile with him under center against Georgia.

“We’ve just been searching offensively for an identity of what we can do, and we have run the ball well at times through the year,” Muschamp said on Wednesday’s SEC Coaches’ Teleconference. “We have to develop things in the passing game our guys feel comfortable with and just get in as many practice reps as possible.”

Harris will start the game and Muschamp made it clear that it will be “his” game against Georgia. Jeff Driskel will still be involved in the offense at quarterback.

“Jeff’s a guy that’s an experience player for us,” Muschamp said. “We’ll continue to move forward with Jeff playing a role on our football team as a quarterback, and what that role will be we’ll see moving forward.”

But what is the best part of the offense?

That’s the question at this point of the bye week. Demarcus Robinson is third in the league with 524 receiving yards, but the Gators showed on Saturday what happens when they try to drop back and throw the ball down the field with any consistency. The offensive line, which played well before the Missouri game, struggled to protect and allowed six sacks.

The biggest positive for the Florida offense has been running back Matt Jones. He’s 15th in the SEC with 424 rushing yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and his tough running makes him more difficult to tackle as the game goes on. If the Gators are trying to focus in on what has worked with their struggling offense, Jones might be the key. Add in a few quick throws to Robinson to ease Harris into the game in Jacksonville, and the Gators might have a recipe for some success.

Even with the struggles on offense, Muschamp isn’t concerned about his team keeping their heads up. The locker room understands what is at stake, as the Gators try to avoid being eliminated from the SEC East race for the fifth straight year.

“I think we have some good players on our football team that certainly have a lot of pride in what we’re trying to do,” Muschamp said about the offense. “You take Max Garcia, Chaz Green, D.J. Humphries and Matt Jones, those are some really good football players, along with some other guys.

“We need to play better at the receiver position. Those guys are all good football players who need to continue to step forward and play well.”

The offense has been slowed, in Muschamp’s mind, by the turnovers.

“Well, 15 turnovers in the last four games has been a killer for us,” Muschamp said. “We can’t afford to turn the ball over. We’ve lacked production and explosive plays at the quarterback position. I think couple all those things together, we’ve struggled.”

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