Yes, the Florida Gators will still throw bubble screens and drag routes in 2015, but Jim McElwain plans to do something that hasn’t been seen on a regular basis in Gainesville in quite some time.
“We do have to push the ball vertically down the field,” McElwain says. “That’s something we believe in and something that has been a part of our offense wherever we’ve been.”
What a concept: Throw the ball vertically down the field.
It was the staple of Steve Spurrier’s offense that won six SEC championships and the 1996 national championship. Although the Gators ran a lot of option during the first five years of the Urban Meyer era, they still threw the ball vertically down the field regularly, as evidenced by per pass attempt averages of 7.1 (2005), 8.3 (2006), 9.3 (2007), 9.1 (2008) and 9.1 (2009). In the five years since, the best year has been 2011 when Charlie Weis was the offensive coordinator and the Gators averaged 7.5 per attempt. In 2014, the Gators averaged just 6.7 per attempt.
Those weak per pass attempt numbers tell us two things: (1) There wasn’t a commitment to throwing the ball vertically downfield and (2) the coordinators didn’t trust their offensive lines to give the quarterbacks time to throw the ball to receivers 20 or more yards into the secondary.
The commitment to throw downfield isn’t lacking from McElwain or offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Trusting the O-line to get the job done is the real question but there will be help in that matter although it might not be in the conventional manner. You might think of it as a smoke and mirrors approach because McElwain’s scheme will use wider splits in the line, lots of motion, overloading one side of the field to create holes in the weakside coverage, and multiple shifts on the fly that force defenses to adjust to spread formations without the right personnel groupings. It might not look like anything you’ve seen a Florida team run in the past, but if it’s anything like what he ran at Alabama and then at Colorado State, it will be effective.
So brace yourself. The ball will be thrown vertically this year. What a concept.
Tennessee 34, Florida 32; December 1, 2001
Had this game been played on September 15, when originally scheduled, Florida probably would have blown Tennessee’s doors off but the 9/11 tragedy forced rescheduling on December 1. The 5th-ranked Vols were struggling to figure out an offensive identity back in September. When they came to The Swamp to face the 2nd-ranked Gators in December the Vols had eliminated the issues. Tennessee’s game plan was simple – run Travis Stephens straight at the Gators – and it worked to perfection. Stephens tore up the Florida defense for 226 yards and two touchdowns. Stephens had four runs of 30 or more yards including a fourth quarter run of 68 yards on a draw play that set up the game-winning touchdown, a 2-yard run by Jabari Davis. Playing without Earnest Graham, the Gators had no running game (only 36 yards for the night). The UT defense sacked Rex Grossman four times and harassed him into at least six bad throws. With no running threat to worry about, the Vols kept rotating fresh defensive linemen to harass Grossman. Still, Grossman gave Florida a chance to send the game into overtime when he drove the Gators 66 yards on 10 plays, scoring with 1:10 to go on a 2-yard pass to Carlos Perez but a 2-point conversion pass that would have tied the game fell incomplete to Jabar Gaffney. The Gators squandered several scoring opportunities, none more critical than in the second quarter when Graham’s absence after a first and goal at the UT five forced a field goal instead of a touchdown. The Gators also failed to convert a third and one in the first quarter and then had a false start on a fourth and one at the end of the third quarter at the UT 36 and another on a fourth and two from the UF 49 in the fourth quarter. Instead of a chance to go to the Rose Bowl to play for the national championship, the Gators settled for the Orange Bowl where they blew out Maryland in Steve Spurrier’s final game as UF’s head coach. Tennessee lost to LSU in the SEC Championship Game.
ALABAMA: Ever so quietly, Oregon State transfer Richard Mullaney is factoring into the passing game. A fifth-year senior who graduated, Mullaney caught 52 passes in 2013 and had 18 last season before an injury ended his season after five games … Redshirt junior Alphonse Taylor has surpassed Bradley Bozeman as the first team RG.
Best 3 players: (1) A’Shawn Robinson, NT; (2) Ryan Kelly, C; (3) Reggie Ragland, ILB
Best freshman: Calvin Ridley, WR
Best special teams player: J.K. Scott, P
Arkansas: Redshirt freshman running back Juan Day, who tore an ACL during spring practice, is way ahead of his rehab schedule and could be ready to go by late September or early October.
Best 3 players: (1) Sebastian Tretola, LG; (2) Alex Collins, RB; (3) Mitch Smothers, C
Best freshman: Rawleigh Williams III, RB
Best special teams player: Keon Hatcher, KR
Auburn: Is it true blondes have more fun? Ask the Auburn secondary. The entire group, coached by former UF assistant Travaris Robinson, bleached their hair blonde as an act of solidarity. Now, will that help any of them keep an opposing wide receiver out of the end zone?
Best 3 players: (1) Cassanova McKinzy, MLB; (3) Jeremy Johnson, QB; (3) Jeremy Johnson
Best freshman: Carlton Davis, CB
Best special teams player: Daniel Carlson, PK
FLORIDA: The Gators will end their fall camp on Friday, take the weekend off, then go into game week mode to prepare for the season opener with New Mexico State on September 3.
Best 3 players: (1) Vernon Hargreaves III, CB; (2) Jonathan Bullard, DT/DE; (3) Antonio Morrison, MLB
Best freshman: Martez Ivey, RT
Best special teams player: Johnny Townsend, P
Georgia: Georgia holds its final scrimmage today and all indicators that whoever performs best between third year sophomore Brice Ramsey and Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert will be the starting QB … Senior wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley is expected to give up football after this latest knee injury.
Best 3 players: (1) Nick Chubb, RB; (2) Leonard Floyd, OLB; (3) Greg Pyke, RG
Best freshman: Terry Godwin, WR
Best special teams player: Marshall Morgan, PK
Kentucky: Sophomore wide receiver Dorian Baker continues to shine in practice, giving the Wildcats someone who can take the pressure off Ryan Timmons to come up big every game … An injury to Ryan Flanagan, the 2-game suspension of Jason Hatcher and the NCAA denial of a transfer waiver for Courtney Love have thinned out the Wildcats depth at linebacker.
Best 3 players: (1) Patrick Towles, QB; (2) Josh Forrest, ILB; (3) A.J. Stamps, S
Best freshman: George Asafo-Adjei, RT
Best special teams player: Austin MacGinnis, PK
LSU: With the injury to Jalen Mills (out six weeks after ankle surgery), Duane Thomas has taken over at the nickel with freshman Kevin Tolliver II moving into the rotation at corner … Les Miles stopped short of naming a QB starter, but he did say Brandon Harris leads over incumbent Anthony Jennings.
Best 3 players: (1) Leonard Fournette, RB; (2) Vadal Alexander, RT; (3) Kendell Beckwith, MLB
Best freshman: Derrius Guice, RB
Best special teams player: Tre’Davious White, PR
Mississippi State: The best news for Dan Mullen is that the Bulldogs made it all the way through their August camp without a single serious injury … Mississippi State has surpassed 50,000 season tickets, which is an all-time record. Less than 300 season tickets remain.
Best 3 players: (1) Dak Prescott, QB; (2) Chris Jones, NT; (3) De’Runnya Wilson, WR
Best freshman: Jamal Peters, S
Best special teams player: Evan Sobiesk, PK
Missouri: The idea is to put the best five O-linemen and then let the adapt to the position, which is why Connor McGovern, last year’s starting right guard and the strongest player on the team (five consecutive squats at 690 pounds) has moved to left tackle.
Best 3 players: (1) Kentrell Brothers, MLB; (2) Evan Boehm, C; (3)
Best freshman: Drew Lock, QB
Best special teams player: Andrew Baggett, PK
Ole Miss: The offensive line will have a new look with freshman Jovon Patterson stepping into the starting lineup at left guard and Robert Conyers supplanting incumbent Ben Still at center. Left to right the O-line will have Laremy Tunsil at LT, Patterson, Conyers, Justin Bell at RG and Fahn Cooper at RT.
Best 3 players: (1) Laquon Treadwell, WR; (2) Laremy Tunsil, LT; (3) Robert Nkemdiche, DT
Best freshman: Jovon Patterson, RG
Best special teams player: Will Gleeson, P
South Carolina: Although he really hasn’t had a great August, third-year sophomore Connor Mitch was named the starting quarterback by Steve Spurrier. Mitch threw for 12,078 yards as a high school QB. The official backup is Michael Scarnecchia, but there is a package for true freshman Lorenzo Nunez.
Best 3 players: (1) Pharoh Cooper, WR; (2) Skai Moore, MLB; (3) Brandon Shell, RT
Best freshman: Ernest Hawkins, LB
Best special teams player: Elliott Fry, PK
TENNESSEE: Tennessee is ranked #25 in both the Associated Press and coaches polls. Only one other time since the 2008 season have the Vols been ranked in the top 25 (23rd in 2012 before the annual, obligatory loss to the Gators) … Brett Kendrick, who started twice last year at tackle, has settled in to replace left guard Marcus Jackson, who will miss the season with an injury.
Best 3 players: (1) Derek Barnett, DE; (2) Curt Magitt, DE/LB; (3) Josh Dobbs, QB
Best freshman: Justin Martin, CB
Best special teams player: Cameron Sutton, PR
Texas A&M: Brandon Williams, a former 5-star running back who transferred to A&M from Oklahoma, moved to defense and has surprised everyone with his play at cornerback.
Best 3 players: (1) Myles Garrett, DE; (2) Josh Reynolds, WR; (3) Mike Matthews, C
Best freshman: Christian Kirk, WR
Best special teams player: Speedy Noil, PR/KR
Vanderbilt: The Commodores are looking to former defensive back Darrius Sims, sophomores Trent Sheffield and Caleb Scott, and redshirt freshman Ronald Monroe to fill the shoes of wide receiver C.J. Duncan, who is lost for the season. Duncan caught 28 passes for 441 yards last year. Sims caught two passes last year for 14 yards, Scott caught six for 78 and Sheffield caught one for nine.
Best 3 players: (1) Steven Scheu, TE; (2) Stephen Weatherly, OLB; (3) Ralph Webb, RB
Best freshman: Josh Smith, LB
Best special teams player: Colby Cooke, P
CBSSports.com polled basketball coaches from around the country from Division I’s elite all the way down to Division III to ask which are the best jobs in the country. The top three are: (1) Kentucky; (2) Duke and (3) North Carolina. Florida was listed along with other schools that received multiple votes including Kansas, Texas, UCLA, Arizona, Indiana, Stanford, Gonzaga and Louisville.
If I had to rate my top ten nationally it would look like this:
1. Kentucky: Four coaches not named Rupp have won national titles and the Wildcats are poised to be a top three team as long as John Calipari is the coach.
2. Duke: Duke has never won a national championship without Coach K in charge. He’s in his 70s but as long as he’s there, Duke will be great.
3. Louisville: Denny Crum won national titles at Louisville and so has Rick Pitino. He plans to coach at least 10 more years. Facilities are cutting edge.
4. Kansas: This is like Kentucky in that it doesn’t matter who is the coach – it’s Kansas. The coach is Bill Self and he’s due to win another national title.
5. North Carolina: The academic scandal that has engulfed the entire athletic department could change everything in Chapel Hill.
6. UCLA: There is so much talent within 100 miles of the UCLA campus that whoever is the coach should have a top 10 team every year.
7. Gonzaga: They have the right formula in place to stay one of the best programs in the country. Mark Few is as good a coach as there is in the country.
8. Indiana: They are going through some tough times right now but they have a great fan base and lack neither resources nor tradition.
9. Texas: This is a sleeping giant that Shaka Smart is about to awake. Their old arena seated 20,000. The new one will be bigger and more posh, which will translate into UT keeping all that homegrown talent in-state.
10. Arizona: Lute Olsen made this one of the best jobs in the country and Sean Miller is making it even better. He’s young and he’s not going anywhere.
CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd offered this take on FSU running back Dalvin Cook getting a not guilty verdict in a Tallahassee court:
“If Cook progresses as expected on the field, he could join Jameis Winston as the second FSU player in two years to become a Heisman Trophy candidate in the same calendar year he was fighting accusations of assaulting women.”
Former Florida quarterback Rex Grossman has been signed to a 1-year, $1 million contract by the Atlanta Falcons as a backup quarterback to starter Matt Ryan. Grossman is 35 and has thrown for 10,232 yards in his career.
Duke just lost its third projected starter to a season-ending ACL injury. So far more than 20 schools in Division I have lost at least one starter to a season-ending injury during August drills.
Early reviews of fully renovated Kyle Field in College Station, Texas range from simply spectacular to Star Wars. It’s state of the art with seating capacity for 102,500. General consensus is Texas A&M now has the best stadium in the SEC.
Former Florida basketball assistant Richard Pitino has gotten a contract extension and raise to remain as the head coach at Minnesota through 2020-21. Pitino’s new contract pays $1.6 million a year and has a buyout clause in excess of $1 million.
Who are your top two offensive players, top two defensive players and top two freshmen in the SEC heading into the 2015 season?
There are a lot of folks who think Paul Janeway is the greatest soul singer since Otis Redding. Fronting for St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Janeway has revived the kind of soul music that came out of Memphis and Muscle Shoals with great vocals backed up by a hot band with horns. In three years the band has gone from Birmingham clubs to opening for the Rolling Stones. Their first album “Half the City” is must buy music. Today’s music for “Simply Southern Week” is a live performance in Boston by St. Paul and the Broken Bones.