The Florida offense has been a mess over the last five years.
It frustrated the fan base during the final year of Urban Meyer’s time in Gainesville. The four years under Will Muschamp were just as bad, some of them much worse. With an offense that sputtered throughout the season, the Gators brought in to correct one thing -- the offense. Dominant defenses have been routine in Gainesville under Muschamp, but with a fan base that fell in love with scoring points under Steve Spurrier and Meyer, the recent style of football wasn’t well received. Jim McElwain has a track record of explosive offenses, which was an important part of what got him the job in Gainesville.
He heard about it all offseason from Florida fans. Whether McElwain was speaking to Gator Clubs, hearing from fans on social media or even around town, he understands how desperately the Florida fan base wants a productive offense back in The Swamp.
“As hungry as they are, I guarantee you that I’m twice as hungry to see and get after it,” McElwain said on Monday.
The first-year Florida coach knows how he wants to make that happen in Gainesville. He’s just not sure how it will translate to games with his offensive personnel. In his first year with the team and a roster filled with mostly player that this staff didn’t recruit, they have to be creative to find things that work behind an offensive line totaling 11 starts.
The deep passing game is an important part of what McElwain wants in the future. That will develop over time as the new staff finds a quarterback that can throw it plus players that can get open down the field.
“We want to discover some explosive playmakers and really stretch the field,” McElwain said. “One of the things we’ve stressed is trying to put the ball down the field vertically and not worry as much horizontally.”
That part of the offense just isn’t where he wants it to be now.
“I’ll shoot you straight, it hasn’t been consistent to the point that we were hoping,” McElwain said. “What I think that you’ll find out over time when you ask the people in the past, we always strive to make that consistency in everyday action. Not sure what we’ve gotten there yet."
The search for explosive plays isn’t new to the Florida program. It has been going on since Tim Tebow left after the 2009 season. But with McElwain, there seems to be a glimmer of hope. He led some of the most explosive offenses in Alabama history before turning a struggling Colorado State program into a quality offense.
Despite the power recent history, there are playmakers that can make an impact. Demarcus Robinson will be the team’s top receiver while Brandon Powell’s move to slot receiver creates matchup issues for opposing defenses. The return of sixth-year tight end Jake McGee gives them a reliable pass catcher while even redshirt freshman C’yontai Lewis has worked into the second team tight end and will have a role in the offense.
The pieces are there. The scheme is in place. The countdown is now at five days.
This is when the excitement starts to kick in, and it was easy to read that from McElwain’s demeanor on Monday. The butterflies are starting, and his first year at Florida is almost underway.
“The day you don’t get butterflies is probably the day to get out of this,” McElwain said. “It’s fun, and I don’t look at it as nervous as much as the thrill of another year. There are a lot of things that go into that. And yet, a good thing is I don’t have to worry about myself playing, so that’s good for the Gators. I think our guys are excited."