Gators offense progressing; should get better

The importance of turnovers can’t be overstated in the highest levels of college football. It really has been the killer for this Florida football season and the thing that Florida head coach Will Muschamp and his staff has tried to stay away from more than anything.

So far this year the Gators have turned the ball over 17 times. In the four game run that included a loss at Alabama, a close win over Tennessee, and losses at home against LSU and Missouri, the Florida Gators turned the ball over a whopping 15 of those 17 tries. In wins over Eastern Michigan, Kentucky, Georgia, and Vanderbilt the Gators coughed it up just twice total.

The scores and offensive production go hand in hand with that, and evidently so does the winning.

The bottom line is when these Gators hold on to the ball, they can score points and they can rack up the yardage. People are going to point to the individual defenses they play and where they get most of their yardage, but the fact is the Gators have played the six highest ranked defenses on their schedule so far. Vanderbilt was number eight. South Carolina (10) and Florida State (7) are still left on the schedule with Football Championship Subdivision Eastern Kentucky not a part of the mix.

Florida having played the meat of their schedule in terms of defense is now averaging 30.5 points per game. That is almost a full 12 points per game over last year’s team, which really doesn’t say much at all, except Florida has already put more total points on the board this year in eight games (244) than the entire season last year (226). Again, I will agree, that doesn’t say much.

One statistic that kind of caught me off guard when I was looking at the current offense and figuring it’s deficiencies is just where it ranked among the last 10 Gator offenses, spanning two coaching eras. In fact at 30.5 points per game, the current pace, this offense is scoring more per contest than any Gator offense that didn’t have Tim Tebow on the roster over the last two years. Even the 2006 national championship offense of 2006 scored less (29.6) per game than the current pace these Gators are on.

And the current average should head northward given the defenses Florida is about to face and the fact that a freshman quarterback is learning by leaps and bounds as we go.

It isn’t just points either. In the same time frame, it is just the same four years with Tebow on the roster that this offense isn’t besting by yards per game, the current being 385.2 yards per contest. The offense is maybe a game away from catching that 2006 offense (396.1), the Gators made up nine yards per contest in the Vanderbilt game.

And with Treon Harris at the helm, it seems things will progress that much quicker than they already have. Harris has been on the field for just three of those turnovers we mentioned. Now with the reigns and the positive play, it appears he will be able to move the offense at even a more efficient manner.

Saturday night, he needed to step up and on a team that has been turnover prone and less than efficient on offense. He threw the ball 21 times for 215 yards and completing 13, a very nice 10.2 yards per pass attempt. Former starter Jeff Driskel was averaging an abysmal 5.0 yards per attempt. On the season, Harris is averaging a whopping 11.2 yards per attempt passing the ball. Every time it leaves his hand it is a first down yardage type of pass.

But this isn’t just about a comparison to Driskel and this squad. On Saturday night, Harris' 225 passing yards was the most by a Florida quarterback in an SEC road game since Tim Tebow had 304 at South Carolina in 2007. That is seven years’ worth of road games, for those counting at home, and in his second start of his career.

"Harris' 225 passing yards was the most by a Florida quarterback in an SEC road game since Tim Tebow had 304 at South Carolina in 2007."

These kinds of numbers and efficiency have to be pleasing to the coaching staff and while they don’t want to put too much on Harris in terms of the overall playbook, going to the air shouldn’t dissuade them into mixing it up a little more.

WE really should expect this offense to close in on top 50 status in terms of total offense. Again, I am not saying that is a goal that should be shot for on an annual basis, but it would be an improvement of over 60 spots from a year ago and actually seems a little crazy to me given the easy the season has gone.

The Gators are sitting at 75th in the country after moving up 9 spots form 84 last week. They have a date with the 108th worst defense in the country this weekend, a FCS opponent the following weekend and then Florida State who has moved up to top 50 this week right at #50.

We haven’t really gotten into the running game, because that has been the main staple so far. The gators have just not been able to produce in the passing game consistently, and that is what we are hoping to see and I now expect to see as they close out the season.

Will all of this lead to a satisfied Gator Nation in terms of the offense being on the right track? That is to be determined and most likely to be met with mixed reviews, but it is certainly something we couldn’t have expected at all even two games ago and looks attainable at this point.

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