Are changes forthcoming in Florida’s offensive scheme?
It’s a question worth asking when you consider the background of the two new offensive assistants – former West Virginia running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider and line coach Brad Davis. Seider’s last two pitstops were Marshall, where the Thundering Herd had one of he most prolific offenses in college football led by quarterback Rakeem Cato, who Seider recruited out of Miami, and West Virginia, where he was exposed to Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen is from the coaching trees of Hal Mumme, Mike Leach and Mike Gundy. Prior to coming to Florida, Davis was the O-line coach for Mouse Davis, who invented the run-and-shoot, at Portland State. Last season, Davis worked at North Texas for Seth Littrell, who previously was the offensive coordinator for Larry Fedora at North Carolina. Fedora is also part of the Mike Gundy coaching tree.
There is no question something has to give with Florida’s offense after two straight years of finishing out of the top 100 in total offense nationally. There are times when Florida looks like it has all the offensive answers (see that first drive against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in which the Gators marched right down the field against the best defense in college football) but far too many occasions it’s boring and predictable.
Part of the problem has been the play at quarterback where all but six games of the 27 coached by Jim McElwain have had Treon Harris, Luke Del Rio or Austin Appleby manning the position. When Will Grier played QB in 2015, there were times when the Florida offense was productive and unpredictable, but when he was suspended from the team, the Gators went instantly pedestrian with Harris taking the snaps. But no matter who’s been playing quarterback, there have been glaring deficiencies and confounding inconsistency.
The play on the O-line has been sub-standard the last two years, also. In 2015, UF had only one lineman who had ever started an SEC game so that helps explain the lack of productivity, particularly when added to a split season with Greer and Harris at QB.
But how does that explain 2016? Although neither Del Rio nor Appleby really had SEC skills, the play at QB should have been better because the offensive line was more experienced and should have been improved. Whatever improvement there was could only be described as marginal.
There will be new quarterbacks next year – either Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask although Del Rio is still listed on the roster – and the offensive line will be missing only David Sharpe, who spent three years playing tackle even though he never showed he could handle a speed rusher off the edge. There will be more speed at the skill positions so the Gators should have substantially more explosive (20 yards or more) plays.
However, if the scheme stays the same as we’ve seen the last two years, I’m not at all convinced Florida will show the kind of improvement that will make the Gators anything more than a threat to win the SEC East. If they want to compete with the big boys from the SEC West, the offense has to make changes in the scheme of things and in the way the game is called and coached. Adding coaches whose backgrounds are with prolific spread offenses that are quite different in their approach than what we’ve seen the last two years seems to be an indicator that McElwain has concluded that (1) the scheme has to become less predictable and (2) it needs to adapt to accommodate the personnel on hand.
I believe these two most recent hires are indicative that Mac has decided the only way the Gator are going to get better on offense is to shake up the way he’s been doing things the last two years.
GATORS MOVE UP TO #8 IN REALTIME RPI
With their fifth straight win by double figures, Florida (19-5, 9-2 SEC) has moved back into the top ten nationally in the Realtime RPI ratings. The Gators have the #16 national strength of schedule, six quality wins and there isn’t a questionable loss (to a team outside the national top 50) on the record.
The Gators, who are at home against Texas A&M Saturday, have 7 remaining games on the schedule. Realtime predicts UF to finish with a 25-6 regular season record. If the Gators can win 25 regular season games and then win one to advance to the SEC Tournament semifinals, that should secure them a #4 or better seed in the NCAA Tournament. If they can finish with 23 or 24 regular season wins, they should be seeded five or six although they could move higher if they make the SEC Tournament Championship Game or even win it.
The national top 10 (prior to Wednesday night’s games): 1. Baylor 19-3; 2. Villanova 23-2; 3. Kansas 21-3; 4. North Carolina 20-4; 5. Louisville 19-5; 6. Florida State 20-4; 7. Butler 19-5; 8. FLORIDA 19-5; 9. Gonzaga 24-0; 10. Oregon 20-3
The SEC in national rankings: 8. Florida 19-5; 13. Kentucky 19-5; 23. South Carolina 18-5; 37. Tennessee 12-10; 48. Vanderbilt 12-12; 50. Arkansas 17-7; 58. Auburn 16-8; 59. Ole Miss 14-9; 63. Georgia 12-11; 67. Alabama 14-9; 92. Texas A&M 12-10; 115. Mississippi State 14-9; 142. LSU 9-14; 248. Missouri 6-16
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
Alabama: Now that Chip Kelly has officially made it known he has “no interest” in becoming Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator (wants an NFL job), the two hot names are former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich and former Houston Texans offensive coordinator George Godsey. Helfrich seems like the ideal guy since he coached the ultimate spread QB, Marcus Mariota, to the Heisman Trophy. At Alabama, Helfrich would coach Jalen Hurts and early enrollee freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who broke all of Mariota’s high school records in Hawaii. Both Hurts and Tagovailoa are dual threat guys who are probably better at this stage running the ball than throwing it. Godsey worked with Alabama O-line coach Brent Key at UCF and spent three years working for Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots before joining the Houston staff. Former UF assistant and New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley, who was recently promoted to a full time assistant position after a year on the support staff, remains an option.
Arkansas: One reason former NFL assistant John Scott Jr. was hired as the new D-line coach is because he’s comfortable coaching the 3-4 scheme that new DC Paul Rhoads is switching to starting in the spring.
Auburn: With the addition of the 2017 recruiting class, HBC Gus Malzahn says Auburn has the players now to compete for a championship. “We have quality depth here, really probably quality depth in all three phases, maybe for the first time since I’ve been here … I think we’ve got a chance to really do something special in the next three or four years.”
Georgia: Tray Scott has bolted Ole Miss to take the D-line coach at Georgia, replacing Tracy Rocker.
LSU: Dennis Johnson, who was promoted to outside linebackers coach when Les Miles was dismissed and Coach O reshuffled the staff, has signed a two-year deal that will pay $180,000 a year.
Mississippi State: The new tight ends coach is D.J. Looney. Scott Sallach has been named director of player personnel.
Missouri: Head coach Barry Odom hired younger brother Brian to coach outside linebackers. The younger Odom, who was on Mike Leach’s support staff at Washington State the last two years, will be paid $240,000 per year.
Ole Miss: Look for backup quarterback Jason Pellerin to switch positions in the spring. He could be an H-back or a stretch tight end in the Evan Engram mold. “He needs to be on the field somewhere,” says Ole Miss HBC Hugh Freeze.
South Carolina: South Carolina president Harris Pastides essentially says you can’t believe recruiting rankings Monday (Scout.com rated Will Muschamp’s recruiting class #20). Pastides said, “You know the pundits – #20, #19, still a pretty good number – but they don’t know. They really don’t know how all those players are going to pan out.”
Tennessee: Steve Stripling, who coached the D-line and was associate head coach last year, hasn’t been fired but has been reassigned as director of football program development.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are still recruiting for their 2017 class. Added Wednesday was all-purpose back CJ Jones (5-9, 179, Houston, TX Klein Forest). Jones will be a preferred walk-on next year.
Vanderbilt: Class of 2017 signee, cornerback Allan George, went on Twitter and announced that Vandy will win the SEC East next year. Yeah. Right.
Just a few days from the Super Bowl meltdown for the ages, Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn is reshaping his staff. Steve Sarkisian will be the new offensive coordinator. There will be a new defensive coordinator as Richard Smith will either take on another role on the staff or be gone completely. D-line coach Bryan Cox will not be retained. The Falcons had the most prolific offense in the NFL last year but the defense was #27 against scoring.
Baylor is withholding 25% of future revenue from the Big 12 Conference (about $8 million per year) to have the money it’s expected to pay out to settle lawsuits from its sexual scandals.
Malik Monk, held to 11 points by the Florida Gators last Saturday night, bounced back with 23 in Kentucky’s win over LSU on Tuesday. But, Monk played matador defense and didn’t grab a single rebound. He has 0 rebounds in his last 77 minutes on the floor, which prompted John Calipari to note Wednesday, “He’s probably got to play less minutes if he’s not going to rebound the ball. You’re going to have to be in there less.”
Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob had dinner with Michael Jordan and other NBA owners during collective bargaining negotiations. Lacob said when the discussion turned to the Warriors’ 73 wins last season that Jordan wasn’t all that impressed since they didn’t win the NBA title. Jordan, it seems is more impressed with the 72 wins posted by the Chicago Bulls in 1995-96 when they finished off he season with the title. Lacob went on to say that Jordan’s snub “kind of hurt, you know?”
Asked if he would trade Carmelo Anthony or fire team president Phil Jackson, New York Knicks diehard and film director Spike Lee told ESPN’s Steve Zeng, “I’ll pack Phil’s bags for him.”
Mel Kiper’s 25-man big board has Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis as the #15 player and corner Jalen Tabor as the #19. Of the 25 players on the Kiper board, 11 are from the SEC including the top four (DE Myles Garrett of Texas A&M; DE Jonathan Allen of Alabama; ILB Reuben Foster of Alabama and S Jamal Adams of LSU).
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Are Florida’s offensive problems simply a matter of personnel or do the Gators need to revamp the scheme completely?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
If you research the family tree of The Eagles, you’ll find three bands played prominently into the rise of the super group – Dillard and Clark, Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco. Gainesville’s Bernie Leadon was with Dillard and Clark and also with the Burrito Brothers before he became one of the founding members of The Eagles. Today’s music is the 1968 album “The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard and Clark” which features Gene Clark and Chris Hillman, both exiles from The Byrds, and Leadon along with bluegrass banjo superstar Doug Dillard. Best song on the album is “With Care for Someone.”