For the purpose of this analysis I limited myself to the eight regular season SEC games plus FSU and the SEC Championship games. The weak non-conference opponents of 2009 would skew the numbers in a way that I would consider misleading. Here are the numbers on a per game basis for the two seasons in the most important categories:
|Red Zone TD %||74||37||50%|
For those of you mathematically challenged you don't subtract percentages to find the difference you divide them. Thus the 2009 was half as efficient in the red zone as the 2008 team was.
These numbers are pretty dramatic and go a long way towards documenting how much less productive the Gator offense was and gives us a pretty good idea why. A drop off of more than 16 points a game can't be shrugged off as simply the need to executive better. A huge drop off in the red zone is at the same time puzzling and illuminative.
Tim Tebow, dramatic increase in work load is something we discussed here throughout the season and it's not a stretch to think that lack of diversity in the running attack was a big factor in the lack of productivity. In the eight SEC regular season games it was even more dramatic as Tim carried the ball almost eight more times a game. I didn't break this down in the red zone, but I suspect there the numbers are more pronounced.
The over reliance in No. 15 (or Tebow's decision to do it himself most of the time) made the Gators incredibly predictable this past season. That was particularly true in the red zone where Florida repeatedly came up short by turning it over or settling for field goals. Florida attempted eight field goals in eight SEC regular season games in 2008. This year they tried for three points a remarkable 24 times.
Lessons Going Forward
For the Gator offensive staff and players these numbers point out the need for some significant changes going forward to return Florida to the explosive offense it was from the end of 2006 through the 2008 season.
Diversify the running game ---- Tebow carried the ball the most for the Gators in both seasons, but those extra carries in '09 made his team much easier to defend. Not only is he a big target, but Tebow also lacks the speed to generate as many big plays as Jeff Demps or any of Florida's other backs. Last year the top three ball carriers had 58 more carries than the QB. This year that number was nine.
Involve multiple receivers ---- Florida threw just eight TD passes in the eight regular season SEC games. Riley Cooper caught five of them with three teammates getting one each. A year ago the Gators connected 18 times with Harvin catching seven, four guys catching two each and three others with one score.
Speed kills ---- Florida dropped off by more than a yard a carry in the running game this year because too high a percentage of runs went to the guy with the least speed. Florida won two BCS Titles thanks in large part to exploiting their superior speed. They need to get back to that strategy in 2010 and it might as well start in New Orleans.
Don't get the idea that any of this is targeted at Steve Addazio or Tim Tebow. It's directed at everyone. Without being on head sets it's hard to know where things went awry this season. Certainly we who evaluate the team knew the impact of losing Harvin and Murphy but we failed in other areas. We did not give enough consideration to the loss of tackles Phil Trautwein and Jason Watkins. We did not give enough consideration to the fact that the offensive staff went through dramatic changes in the off-season with a new coordinator, quarterbacks coach and tight ends coach. In many ways we failed you, the fan by losing our sense of skepticism.
Florida will be a completely different offense in 2010. Well, let's say it should be completely different. The scheme should look a whole lot more like what the Gators ran late in 2006 then what we saw this year. The downfield passing game should be much more dangerous and the addition of Mack Brown could give the Gators the prime time back this offense has never had the chance to feature. It should be interesting to watch it all start to develop this spring.