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Florida Gators’ bye week areas of focus

Florida takes a 6-1 record into its bye week. It’s better than anyone expected coming into the season, but the Gators still have plenty of areas to work on with an extra week of practice before facing Georgia.

CONTINUE BUILDING AROUND HARRIS

The Gators went to Tiger Stadium with only one week of starter reps for Treon Harris. Sure, he got some earlier in the season, but Will Grier had taken over as the starter and was getting the starter’s portion of reps. Harris got them last week going into the LSU game after the Grier suspension was announced.

Florida won’t practice every day this week as the coaching staff is out recruiting, but the staff has to use this time to build the offense more around Harris’ strengths. He won’t be able to drop back in the pocket and stay there like Grier did in the first six games, but Harris can roll out of the pocket and use his athleticism to keep plays alive.

Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier don’t have much experience with running quarterbacks in their coaching careers, but they’ve been able to scheme around the weaknesses of the Florida roster so far. Now they’ve got two weeks to figure out the best way for the offense to look going forward.

THE RUN GAME

The issues with the rushing attack were visible during the first six games, but none of them were as obvious as Saturday against LSU. The Gators struggled to open holes in the running game. Kelvin Taylor was held to 25 rushing yards on 15 carries. Harris was able to pick up some first downs with his legs, and he forced missed tackles in the open field with his athleticism.

The Gators went with a new starting offensive line on Saturday. Freshman Martez Ivey started at left guard, pushing Trip Thurman to right guard and forcing Antonio Riles out of the starting lineup. The Gators stuck with the lineup for most of the night on the offensive line, but it didn’t open up the holes in the running game that were expected.

The best rush by a running back came from freshman Jordan Scarlett on his only carry of the game and first carry since the second game of the season. It came on a crucial play, a fourth-and-one situation at the LSU 14. Scarlett got the edge and broke it for 11 yards, extending the drive while Taylor punched it into the end zone three plays later to cut the LSU lead to seven points. Overreacting to one carry would be a mistake, but he showed the speed and athleticism Florida could use more of at the position.

DBU NEEDS A REBOOT

One game doesn’t define a defense, especially not one quarter, but the Gators need to recover from what happened during the second quarter of Saturday’s loss at LSU. That’s where they allowed LSU quarterback Brandon Harris to throw for 148 of his 202 total passing yards.

The Gators gave up big gains, none hurting more than the 50-yard touchdown pass to Malachi Dupre on a third-and-nine situation with 15 seconds left to play before the half. It came right after Florida cut the deficit to a touchdown, but the long score gave the Tigers a two-touchdown lead and the ball after halftime.

The secondary settled in during the second half of the game, but they’re going to see a lot of film from the second quarter with two weeks left until they play again.

SPECIAL TEAMS HELP

Florida’s punt and punt return units have been really good this season. Freshman Antonio Callaway is a difference maker as a punt returner and Johnny Townsend has punted well.

Jorge Powell was injured during Saturday’s game, and the Gators sent out a plea for walk-on kickers on social media Monday morning. It was the first game Austin Hardin dressed out since Florida played at Kentucky, and the Gators were lucky he did. Hardin hit all four extra points and looked fine as the kickoff specialist. That will help a special teams unit that has been average at best.

The Gators still need to get more out of the kickoff return unit. Callaway has worked at it during warm ups, but Brandon Powell is hardly the problem with the unit. Florida simply hasn’t blocked it well enough, and they need to find ways to fix it during the bye week to make the punt return a weapon.


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