This isn’t groundhog day but you’re about to hear numbers and stats – again – that you’ve heard about time and time again. You’re probably sick of them but with spring football about to begin Tuesday, they’re worth repeating.
The four critical numbers for offensive football are yards per rushing attempt, yards per pass attempt, yards per play and sacks allowed. If those numbers are good, as long as your defense holds its own and gets some stops, you’re going to win a lot of football games. In the case of the Florida Gators, the numbers are pretty bad starting in 2010. That the Gators have won the last two SEC East titles is a fairly remarkable accomplishment, all things considered.
Here are the numbers for the Gators dating back to 2008:
2008 (13-1, SEC/National champions; offensive coordinator Dan Mullen; O-line Steve Addazio, John Hevesy)
Yards per rushing attempt: 5.94
Yards per pass attempt: 9.1
Yards per play: 7.13
Sacks allowed: 16-(-104)
2009 (13-1, SEC East champions; offensive coordinator/O-line Steve Addazio)
Yards per rushing attempt: 5.59
Yards per pass attempt: 9.1
Yards per play: 6.97
Sacks allowed: 28-(-143)
2010 (8-5; offensive coordinator/O-line Steve Addazio)
Yards per rushing attempt: 4.31
Yards per pass attempt: 6.3
Yards per play: 5.17
Sacks allowed: 23-(-140)
2011 (7-6; offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss; O-line Frank Verducci)
Yards per rushing attempt: 3.96
Yards per pass attempt: 7.5
Yards per play: 5.42
Sacks allowed: 23-(-169)
2012 (11-2; offensive coordinator Brent Pease; O-line Tim Davis)
Yards per rushing attempt: 4.53
Yards per pass attempt: 6.6
Yards per play: 5.25
Sacks allowed: 39-(-283)
2013 (4-8; offensive coordinator Brent Pease; O-line Tim Davis)
Yards per rushing attempt: 3.63
Yards per pass attempt: 6.6
Yards per play: 4.79
Sacks allowed: 27-(-227)
2014 (7-5; offensive coordinator Kurt Roper; O-line Mike Summers)
Yards per rushing attempt: 4.36
Yards per pass attempt: 6.7
Yards per play: 5.24
Sacks allowed: 16-(-92)
2015 (10-4, SEC East champions; offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier; O-line Mike Summers)
Yards per rushing attempt: 3.48
Yards per pass attempt: 7.2
Yards per play: 5.11
Sacks allowed: 45-(-274)
2016 (9-4, SEC East champions; offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier; O-line Mike Summers)
Yards per rushing attempt: 3.69
Yards per pass attempt: 6.8
Yards per play: 5.19
Sacks allowed: 28-(-221)
One of the chief goals for the Florida Gators this spring has to be setting the foundation for improvement with all four critical numbers in the fall. Since the 2008-09 teams, which had the advantage of Tim Tebow at quarterback and five future NFL offensive linemen, the Gators have averaged more than 4.0 yards per rush three times but never more than the 4.53 per carry in 2012. The Gators averaged 9.1 yards per pass attempt in both 2008 and 2009, but the best they’ve done since is the 7.5 per attempt in 2011 when Charlie Weiss was calling the plays. The best average per play since 2009 was the 5.42 the Gators averaged under Weiss in 2011. Florida’s offensive line only gave up 16 sacks for -92 yards in 2014 under Mike Summers, but that was with four who now start in the NFL.
The Tebow numbers of 2008-09 are perhaps too lofty for this 2017 team to achieve, but the Gators have to do better than they have in the years since. If Florida is to contend for a three-peat as SEC East champs, it’s imperative that the Gators average 4.7 yards or better per rush attempt, 7.5 yards or better per pass attempt, more than 6.0 yards per offensive play and allow fewer than 20 sacks. With the exception of Tennessee, which loses a 3-year starter at QB, a likely first round draft pick at RB and its best wide receiver, every other SEC East team figures to be vastly improved on the offensive side of the ball. If the Gators are to compete for a title, they have to keep up with the Joneses in the SEC East and that requires the offense to perform at a higher level this year.
This will be Doug Nussmeier’s third year as Jim McElwain’s offensive coordinator and while he will be breaking in a new starting QB, there are no excuses for inexperience at the other skill positions. The offense will be tweaked this spring to take advantage of the mobility of quarterbacks Feleipe (Ball Park) Franks, Kyle Trask and Kadarius Toney. All three have strong arms and all three are far more mobile than either Luke Del Rio or Austin Appleby.
To that expectation, McElwain brought in Brad Davis to coach the offensive line. His coaching foundation came while working at Portland State for Mouse Davis from 2009-13 where the run and shoot required a mobile quarterback who could throw accurately rolling the pocket to either side. Davis inherits an O-line with 6 players with starting experience (LT Martez Ivey, LG Tyler Jordan, C T.J. McCoy, LG Fred Johnson and Antonio Riles and RT Jawaan Taylor) and 5 who have seen game action either on special teams or as backups.
IT WAS 27-6
The scorebook will read that the 12th-ranked Florida (23-6, 13-3 SEC) basketball team lost by 10 (76-66) at Rupp Arena Saturday afternoon, but that really isn’t the difference in the game. Kentucky went to the foul line 27 times (made 22) while the Gators got to the line for 6 (count’em) free throws (made 4).
I’m not going to blame this loss on officiating, because the Gators didn’t shoot well enough (26-71 overall and 10-30 from the 3-point line) and after shutting down Malik Monk in the first half they let him catch fire in the second. However, the zebra crew of Olandis Poole, Antinio Petty and Kipp Kissinger did the Gators no favors with a lot of touch foul calls that resulted in early foul troubles that killed UF’s offensive momentum. In the second half, touch fouls got whistles while the crew swallowed its whistles on hard fouls. It was almost as the crew had determined that it would be no body bag, no foul. If the foul calls had been more evenly distributed, Florida still might not have won the game, but the Gators had no chance when Kentucky shot 27 and they got only 6.
With the loss, the Gators have to beat both Arkansas (Wedsday night, O-Dome) and Vanderbilt (Nashville, Saturday) while hoping Kentucky (24-5, 14-2 SEC) drops one of its two games (Vandy at Rupp and Texas A&M on the road) just to tie for the SEC regular season title.
PITCHING, PITCHING AND MORE PITCHING
In sweeping Miami at McKethan Stadium this weekend, #2 Florida (6-1) pitchers allowed only 2 runs and 12 hits in 27 innings while walking only 9 and striking out 33 batters. Alex Faedo gave the Gators 8-2/3 innings of 2-hit baseball with 8 strikeouts Friday night while Brady Singer went 7-2/3 with 11 strikeouts Saturday night as the Gators scored 1-0 and 2-0 shutout wins. Miami finally got on the scoreboard Sunday but Florida’s bats came alive with 10 hits.
Although the Gators lost so much pitching to the Major League Draft from the 2016 team, Kevin O’Sullivan has plenty of live arms and two studs in Faedo, who will be someone’s #1 pick in the June draft and Singer, who should be a first rounder when his turn comes in 2018. The Gators still need to settle on a closer but there is no shortage of starters.
The Gators have the best infield in college baseball and Nick Horvath showed Saturday night he can run down balls in the center field gaps. He could also be a candidate for the closer’s job.
It’s too early to be concerned about the hitting. The Gators haven’t really hit the ball well yet, but they have too much experience. As the weather warms, they’ll hit the ball better.
PITCHING, PITCHING AND MORE PITCHING, PART TWO
Florida’s third-ranked softball team (15-1) came through with four shutouts in five games at the Citrus Classic in Orlando. The Gators outscored opponents 24-1 while lowering their team ERA to 0.58.
Kelly Barnhill is 6-0 so far with a 0.19 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 37-2/3 innings while Delanie Gourley is 6-1 with a 0.75 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 37-1/3 innings. The Gators have outscored 16 opponents 97-12 and their hitting is showing signs of coming around in a big way. Redshirt freshman shortstop Sophie Reynoso got hot in Orlando and leads the team with a .476 average. The Gators are getting good power numbers from their freshmen. Third baseman Jaime Hoover has 3 homers and 18 RBI while catcher/DH Jordan Roberts has 2 homers and 10 RBI.
OTHER GATOR SPORTS
Gymnastics: The #3 Gators got a perfect 10 from Alex McMurtry as they knocked off 13th-ranked Missouri at the O-Dome Friday night, 197.90-196.75. It was the fifth perfect 10 of McMurtry’s career at UF but her first on floor.
Men’s track: #1-ranked Florida got off to a rocky start at the SEC Indoors and never recovered although they finished strong enough Saturday to finish in a tie for third.
Women’s track: The 11th-ranked Gator finished a disappointing 8th place at the SEC Indoors.
Lacrosse: Fourth-ranked Florida handed #3 Southern Cal just its second loss in the last 24 games Friday night, taking a 15-10 decision. The Gators go on the road the next three games, first to Jacksonville, then up to Maryland to take on #19 Towson and Loyola.
Men’s Tennis: The Gators dropped a 4-1 decision to #2 Ohio State Sunday afternoon in Gainesville.
Women’s basketball: The Gators finished their regular season with a 14-15 record with a 65-58 win over Georgia on Senior Day at the O-Dome. The Gators play a first round game with Arkansas Wednesday at the SEC Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina.
Ole Miss has self-imposed a 1-year bowl ban and plans to do other house cleaning for its football program after being hit with a second notice of allegations that not only included the initial 13 violations but another 8 that included improper benefits and lying to NCAA investigators. Ole Miss is also charged with lack of institutional control, a charge that AD Ross Bjork intends to fight. Prediction: Hugh Freeze will survive and somehow Ole Miss will beat the lack of institutional control rap but will pay a price in other sanctions.
So much for Gonzaga going undefeated. BYU scored a 79-71 upset of the Zags in Spokane Saturday night to ruin Gonzaga’s chance of finishing the regular season 30-0. That loss probably cost the Zags a shot at the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Joe Lunardi has Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina and Arkansas making the NCAA Tournament with Vanderbilt and Tennessee capable of getting in. Lunardi has Kentucky as a #3 in the Midwest while Florida is a #3 in the East. South Carolina is a #7 in the West while Arkansas is a #10 in the Midwest. The #1 seeds are Kansas, Villanova, Gonzaga and North Carolina. I think Ole Miss will be in the discussion if the Rebels (18-11, 9-7 SEC) can knock off Alabama and South Carolina this week then win a first round game in the SEC Tournament.
Former Gator All-American Matt Elam is being slammed by ESPN as the Baltimore Ravens’ worst #1 draft pick ever after he was arrested Saturday night on drug charges in Miami. Stopped by Miami-Dade police, a search of Elam’s Range Rover found 126.2 grams of marijuana and 6 oxycodone pills weighing in at 3.1 ounces. Writes ESPN, “He couldn’t stay in the starting lineup, couldn’t stay healthy and couldn’t stay out of trouble.” Sunday, Ravens management issued a statement that said, “Matt is not in our plans for the 2017 Ravens.” Prediction: If he beats the rap he will wind up in Atlanta to play for Dan Quinn.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Can the Gators regroup after their loss at Kentucky and close out the regular season with wins against Arkansas and Vanderbilt or is the loss of John Egbunu about to catch up with them?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Asheville, North Carolina has become a hotbed for new bands to show off their stuff. While listening to some music from bands playing the Asheville Music Hall I came across this video of Maradeen, which is based out of Nashville. They opened for Bon Jovi earlier in February in Atlanta. They have two albums, “Mirage” and their newest, “Above the Horizon.”