Some Surprising Offensive Numbers

The cry has come from many different directions this year and the offensive staff is well aware there are issues with the offense, just as there always are. Still, you might be surprised to find out a few things about this 2009 edition of the Florida offense. I was. Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio spent some time with the media this week and shared some thoughts.

The biggest thing we need to remember is that in college, every year, teams are going to have a different identity. It may be a greater difference one year than the next, but with players only being allowed to compete for four years, there is constant change over.

Last year the Gators relied heavier on the passing game led by quarterback Tim Tebow and receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy. This season, according to Addazio, the running backs are the big playmakers on this offense.

"This is a different team with a different identity and that isn't necessarily a bad thing," Addazio said Tuesday. "These are different cats, this is a different deal. We are a really good rushing team, because we have really good backs."

In fact, the Gators are always a good rushing team but are averaging an eye popping 240 yards rushing per game this late into the season. Addazio takes a step further and tries to make people understand why this helps the other phases of the team.

"At some point, it isn't about '08 or '07, they are all different years," he said. "What I do love about what we do tight now is that we have great time of possession. That feeds directly with great defense. We drive the ball and hold the ball and that is a good thing. When you compare scoring (between the 2007 and 2008 seasons), we drove the ball much more effectively against Georgia (this year) than a year ago. We just happened to get the ball on a short field and made a couple of big plays a year ago, but we couldn't drive the ball."

Right now, the issue is the red zone. Usually a high 90 percent finisher in the red zone, Florida is sitting at 77 percent with only about 44 percent of those resulting in touchdowns. This is something they are well aware of and are working diligently on.

"I just think we have to finish," Addazio said. "We are driving the ball very well, we just have to finish things off."

There are a lot of good things that the Gators are doing. They lead the Southeastern Conference in rushing yards, total yards, touchdowns, rushing touchdowns, first downs, passing efficiency, completion percentage, and are second in yards per carry and points per game. The running game has become the identity of this offense, and it has allowed the Gators to still be ranked No. 1 in the country and stay undefeated.

"Right now we are taking care of the ball, we are running the ball, possessing the clock, and playing with good field position," Addazio said. "Those are positives and a reason we are 9-0. We are 19-0 because we have done a good job of managing the people. If you try to be something you are not, sometimes that fails. You have to be careful."

"There is a reason we are pretty good in every category in the SEC. But, I am a realist and I know where the warts are. A year ago we were trying to fix some warts, although it may not seem that way to you. There are other ways to score. What we are doing is working the long field right now and we have done that well. Let's just do better in the red zone, it still has our attention."

The red zone is the main issue, but compounding that one is the lack of huge plays. The perception is that the Gators don't have many big plays. A common term used by offensive coaches is "explosive plays"; these are plays of 20 yards or more. The fact is, in SEC play, Florida has two more explosive play this year (31) than they had through the first seven SEC games last year (29).

"It is a little misleading, so we did a little study on big plays," Addazio while working with the Florida staff to see what is going wrong and different. "We are exactly where we were a year ago in big plays. It is a very deceptive deal right now. We define big plays as 20 or more yards. There are a lot of big plays happening. We are at the same number at this point of time, a negligible difference."

"Here is what we are doing a good job of. We are moving the ball more consistently than we ever did. We didn't have more big plays, but we had (longer big plays). With Percy and Murphy we had some of those extended ones that might have gone 80. They create momentum and they pop games. That is what we haven't been able to do on a regular basis."

In seven SEC games Florida has produced four plays of forty yards or more in 2009 while they a year ago the number was nine. Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy accounted for a third of the huge plays, but were responsible for 17 of the 29 explosive plays of 20 or more yards.

"We want to create those, but it is hard to create Percy Harvin too."

"They are happening in the run game at a much higher level right now. "Jeff Demps has a number of (explosive plays). The question is, how do you create them? You put them in your most explosive guy's hands. That is what we are trying to do. We need to finish drives and finish the red zone, we have to do a better job of that."

He elaborated further about the players that are creating the explosive plays.

"Where are your explosive guys?" he asked. "Hernandez has a tremendous amount (6) of explosives, he's an explosive guy. Riley Cooper (6) and Demps (5) have tremendous amounts of explosives, those are your guys. When your backs become those guys, they take on a different life. When it's Percy Harvin that is different, he is going to run by someone."

"At the end of the day, you are fighting to make sure you have the best play within your structure, but your goal is to win. Being 9-0 and going 10-0 is really terrific right now. You work your tail off to be as consistent and as productive as you can be which I think we can be more of. You also want to be comfortable in your skin."

"What does that mean? We have a pretty good running game; in fact we have the number one running game in this conference right now (240 yards per game). How do we find ways to keep that at a very high level? Because we have some tailbacks that can be very explosive."

In the meantime, the Gators want to play within their own skin. That means relying on a high octane running game that can bust some long plays and making sure they hold onto the ball. The Gators have the best defense in the SEC and the best kicking game. It takes all three aspects to win a game and Addazio is part of a team of coaches that are in a structured format to utilize all three aspects during each game.

"That is the plan to win," Addazio said when asked about the importance of a staunch defense among the Gators' arsenal. "We went into the Tennessee game with that mindset. We went into LSU with that mindset. At LSU we worked hand in hand with the defense. Charlie Strong said they had 47 plays on defense against LSU and nobody talked about that. This is one of the biggest reasons we work well together. Our coaching staff has really gelled together and we have one objective. To win."

"...Along the way, don't stick your head in the sand, if you have a problem fix the problem. If you aren't consistent, you have to fix it and that is where we are right now. I can tell you we are ecstatic to be 9-0 right now. We are in the toughest defensive conference in America and 9-0. I am not preaching, but we have to go and focus on getting win number 10."

There is a lot to be proud of with this team and with this offense. Yet, this staff will tell you they have to work on as well. At the heart is punching the ball into the end zone.

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