Grading the Gators Special Teams and Coaching

In part three of our mid-term look at the Gators professors Vettel and Redman pass out some more grades, this time for the Gator Special Teams and Coaching Staff.

Special Teams:

Bob: (A-)
Brandon James is second in the SEC in punt return average; he is third in the SEC in kick return average. Jonathan Phillips is the only perfect full time kicker in the SEC going 9-for-9 so far. Chas Henry hasn't punted enough to be listed among the conference leaders but would be ranked third in the SEC with his 43.95 yard per punt average. The Gators have blocked a hand full of kicks this year already. The only thing keeping this grade from being perfect is one blocked extra point that would mean the Gators possibly sitting atop the polls right now and the fact they still give up between 70-100 yards a game on kick off returns. They have played some very good return teams, but the coverage could be better.

Larry: (A-) I hate giving the same grade as Bob but there really isn't another choice. Florida's special teams have been superb in five games, but no good at all in the loss to Ole Miss and no unit can get an "A" when it plays a major role in an upset defeat. Bob, you are wrong about the kick coverage needing to be better. It's the kickoffs that have made it easier for teams to get better field position. If your opponents average 21.7 per return, you are doing a good job. Opposing punt return men get just 5.4 per try and have only attempted to return seven of Chas Henry's 21 punts. Jonathan Phillips being perfect on field goals is just an ironic reminder that Florida should have let him try to beat Ole Miss from 48 yards out instead of going for it on fourth down.

Coaching:

Larry: (B)
Overall, I feel the Gator coaches have done a good not a great job through the first six games of the season. On the positive side a defense that is extremely young is making significant progress, especially the secondary where they start three sophomores and a freshman. Florida's defensive line has made progress at tackle, particularly Lawrence Marsh, but moving Carlos Dunlap all over has been counter productive. Offensively the Gators were slow to adjust to what Miami was doing, failed to put Ole Miss away and couldn't pull away from Arkansas until late. Still, the game plan and execution against LSU was spectacular. On special teams the main issue is getting someone to kickoff properly and trusting Jonathan Phillips when a long-range field goal is the thing to do. I don't think these coaches would give themselves an "A" either.

Bob: (B+) I refuse to agree with Larry on two categories in a row and actually, as usual, we have differing opinions on coaching. I agree on the slow change to the game plan for the Miami game, but the Gators had a 10-point lead against Ole Miss, opened up the offense in the game, and save for about ten plays with lack of execution, the Gators were put into position by the staff to not only win that game, but win it handily. Now I do understand that execution inevitably falls back on the coaching staff, but they don't preach three fumbles, four overthrown long bombs to open receivers, a blocked field goal, and numerous penalties. Any of a combination of two or more going the Gators way could have been the difference in winning or even a blowout in the Gators' favor. The players weren't focused, for one reason or another and it hurt.

On offense the Gators lead the SEC in pass efficiency, lead the league in scoring offense by almost five points a game, and are second in the conference in rushing yards per game. The passing game isn't where I thought it would be and is the big reason, other than losing to Ole Miss, for the grade not being an A.

The Gators have the league's best special teams, with arguably the best return man and punter in all of college football. Urban Meyer gets props for challenging Jonathan Phillips into coming back and has been rewarded with a kicker that has been perfect on nine attempts so far.

The defensive stats aren't quite on par with offense as far as ranking but we have said all along that this defense was most likely a year away with its youth and experience. Still, the Gators are doing well on defense in some categories like being 3rd in the SEC in fumble recoveries, 3rd in passes intercepted, 2nd in turnovers gained, third in rushing defense, second in scoring defense, and surprisingly third in sacks. There is not one senior on the defense that has played a meaningful down this year and very few juniors. A year away, this defense has played well and is getting better as we thought when the season started.

All in all, we both agree that the Gators are on a path to finish the season strong after a start lacking in a bit of direction. Most of our grades have been on the higher end of the scale, as it should be for a team ranked in the top five mid-way through the season. We seem to both agree that there has been a lot of progress with this team over the last few games and that it appears the best is yet to come.


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