No. 21 Florida’s offense rolls, defense now worrisome

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Vanderbilt wide receiver Trent Sherfield and Florida defensive back Chauncey Gardner Jr. (23) and another DB battle for the pass Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

For the first time in a long time, the No. 21 Florida Gators are coming off a game where they’re feeling good about their offense and concerned about their defense.

It’s usually been the other way around.

In the 38-24 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, it was an improving offense, led by five rushing touchdowns, that had the back of a struggling defense that consistently got scorched in the passing game.

Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns and had receivers running open in the UF secondary for much of the game.

“These guys are kind of known for running the ball and they threw it all over the park on us,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “So, I’m sure that the people next week are going to be licking their chops ready to throw it all over the park on us.”

UF plays LSU on Saturday, and the Gators will be facing a team that’s coming off a shocking home loss to Troy that turned the ball over four times and struggled on both the ground and through the air.

But, as the Gators discovered Saturday, what happened in a previous game isn’t necessarily relevant in the next one. The Commodores came into The Swamp coming off a 59-0 loss to Alabama in which they made only three first downs.

That same offense that did nothing against the Tide exposed major holes in Florida’s pass defense. Certainly, LSU will learn from watching the tape and will try to exploit the same weaknesses in UF’s secondary.

“Some of their shifts and motions (threw us off), and then they got matchups on our linebackers and our linebackers didn’t cover,” McElwain said. “I didn’t think our eyes were very good at all. And we’ve got to get that solved.

“And yet, the guy put it in some places where we had guys right there, and their guys made plays. That’s going to happen. It’s when the guys are running open, that you kind of get the concern piece of it.

“They took advantage of the middle of the field. They took advantage of where we weren’t ready for it.”

While the Gators come out of the 38-24 win feeling concern over the defense, they’re feeling better about the offense after putting together a productive and balanced performance.

UF rushed for 218 yards and five touchdowns and rolled up 467 yards of total offense, the most in more than a year. The Gators had 564 yards of offense in a 45-7 win over Kentucky on Sept. 10, 2016.

“Yeah, (it) builds the confidence and I guess more than anything, a lot of it comes with, ‘Yes you can.’ It’s OK to go do that,” McElwain said. “I think from a mindset standpoint, I think it’s really important.

“Now, obviously (LSU) is going to load the box next week with the best players there are and we’re going to have our work cut out for us. We’ll see if we’re able to handle that.”

The Gators, of course, are moving forward with one less quarterback after new starter Luke Del Rio sustained a broken collarbone late in the first half that has ended his season.

Feleipe Franks, the former starter, came off the bench and threw for 185 yards. Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire now moves up as the No. 2 quarterback, while Kadarius Toney would be the second QB off the bench. He moved to wide receiver during camp, but has been running a package of plays out of the wildcat formation.

“We’ll be ready,” McElwain said. “We’ll get (Franks) and Malik ready to roll. Obviously, expanding the package with Kadarius bit by bit back there as well. That will be something that will continue as we look and just see how he handles it, in feeding it bit by bit as we move through the season.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.

 


Up next

Who: LSU (3-2, 0-1 SEC) vs. No. 21 Florida (3-1, 3-0)

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: CBS

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


30 COMMENTS

  1. So many question marks in what is clearly a transitional year. Each opponent will offer different matchups
    but the inconsistency in the passing game and now at pass defense is concerning. Both units will develop with experience but the schedule is favorable for a mid-range bowl game. That being said nothing will come easy this year and obviously nothing is certain. That being said there have been enough successes this year so far to make the Gators an intriguing team to follow. Beat LSU, Go Gators!

    • Oh look, it’s MW. Guess he’s gotta pull at some straw. Because no one anticipated this defense with it’s youth and injuries would take a step back..

    • I was surprised not to see more blitz packages. Actually, I didn’t see any. Vandy had way too much time to throw. Etling (LSU QB) gets rattled under pressure so please dial up some speed packages.

    • I can tell you are really educated about Florida’s defensive schemes. Do you even know what a base 2 over strong means? There are still 7 or 8 games left and the D is starting 2 true freshmen, 1 redshirt and 3 sophomores. I believe the weakness is in the pass rush, so I’d like to see more 5-man rushes and let the other 6 play cover 2. The danger there, of course, is over the middle about 10-12 yards downfield is left to a lone linebacker.

      • We must be watching different teams, the pass rush is just fine. Taven Bryan is routinely in the backfield, Sheritt, Polite and Zuniga are playing real well.
        The safety play is attrocious, the DBs are up and down with one big play followed by a blown one and the tackling is almost non existent.

    • Can someone PLEASE TELL MCELWAIN AND SHANNON TO TELL THE DBACKS TO LOOK BACK AND PLAY THE DAMN BALL IN STEAD OF WORRYING ABOUT GETTING BEAT ON THE ROUTE, PLEASE!!!!!!

    • I understand your concern but I think they’re doing pretty well for true freshmen. They’re winning games and that’s all that matters. Give them some credit, they’ll get better with experience. Remember we lost our best safety, Harris. The suspensions also hurt us a lot. Go Gators!

    • Not seen during the Vandy game. The front 4 are not yet good enough to generate solid pass rush so blitz packages might help.

  2. Gator offense rolls? Come on now, be serious. A good offense yesterday against a very weak defense. It appears that LSU’s defense is nothing to brag about. It appears that there are only three teams in the SEC that are any good (Ala, GA, Auburn). Since Florida will only play GA, that will be the game to gage the Florida offense. As for the defense, I have to say ‘NO”, they do not have a blitz package. Why is it game after game the opponent seems to always make the third and longs?? I have to assume bad coaching/call playing.

    • Sam , It’s fairly clear that LSU players have not bought in to Ed Orgeron for what ever reason. The LSU defense (and offense) is made up of many former 4 an 5 star recruits most brought in by Less Miles who was a fantastic recruiter. If they decide to play for pride and catch a few breaks early, they certainly have the ability to challenge Florida’s offense so I wouldn’t take them lightly. The same is true of their offense exploiting a young and thin Gators defense. Another factor is that this has become a rivalry game and a grudge match based on what transpired last year. Of course the Florida coaching staff is well aware of all these issues.

      • The typo, “Less” was a Freudian slip since “Less” stopped competing successfully with Nick Saban and got LSU less SEC West and SEC Titles that the fans and administration expected.

      • I appreciate the comment and I agree that the Florida coaching staff is well aware of the upcoming issues against LSU. They should. That is part of their job whereby the entire coaching staff collectively is paid millions of dollars. Unfortunately, what they are aware of and how to address it successfully are two different things. It has come apparent to me and many others including the so-called football analysts that the coaches, primarily McElwain, do not have the ability to make adjustments during the game. A quality that is critical to be a successful coach. It also amazes me that coaches who are attached to a winning record on prior teams are identified as a great caliber coach who deserves a salary of millions, but on their own as the head coach cannot successfully coach. Talent of the players equates to about 80% of a winning team. Coaches just have to mold them to be successful, play to their strengths, and call the right plays. In my opinion, no coach is worth a million dollar salary let alone 4.5 million. Shame on the college AD’s that are dishing out such salaries. I understand the football and basketball revenues are in the billions, but such money should mostly go to their College educational priority and perhaps a little to the players through a dedicated savings account :). Definitely not the coaches.

    • I heard Trask is walking in a boot. We may have to rely on Jake Allen after Zaire. That may not be bad. I like to see what he’s got. He was an early enrollee right? I got a feeling he’s got what it takes between the ears. I believe that’s more important than raw arm talent. If given the choice, would you take Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, or Jay Cutler?

    • Scott. Kyle Trask had a serious injury during summer camp and is no longer in the picture for this year, I believe. Too far behind the other QBs on the team now. He might get a medical 6th year if he stays at Florida and continues to develop as a QB. He came in very raw as a QB with very little experience even in high school.

  3. Every body relax the secondary is young remember when we had Joe hadden Ahmad black major wright and janoris Jenkins in the secondary for the first time back in 2007 when tebow won the Heisman our secondary was horrible but after those guys got experience that whole year look what happened after that they became one of the best secondary in college football.. Gators have faith.

  4. The linebacker or safety play has not been up to par this year. Hopefully, Kaylan Johnson will be 100 percent soon and will help the LBs get better each week. He is the Gators best LB by far. They all need to play with physically, but be under control and smart first. And Gardner and Washington cannot be playing with 100 percent health either. They are shells of the players they were last year. I guess Washington is really missing Maye and Harris back there as well. He just does not seem instinctual and has not been good in coverage so far. One of the better tacklers, however. Something Gardner seems to have forgotten how to do. But the entire group of LBs and DBs seem to be struggling with Shannon’s defensive scheme, which is nowhere near as aggressive as the previous DC’s scheme. It is a very soft defense that is both bending and breaking at the same time. Way too many receivers finding holes in all the zone defensive schemes Shannon runs. And, like others have posted, what has happened to blitzes? None to be found, it seems. And even though they do not blitz, they still get burned on screens and draws. Perplexing, the D, right now. Too much talent on that side of the ball to not be performing better. Funny, that has been my view of the offense for the last seven years. My itch is now the defense. Figures.

  5. Been saying this about the defense and Shannon. Every year we have many freshmen yet we have had excellent defenses since Meyer, now the 1st year Shannon has control of our defense we take a step down. Sorry, theres no excuse for youth, for Shannon. Every year we have freshman. we r thin in the secondary but the experienced ones arent playing well either, the only difference I see is that Shannon is now in charge and he said he changed the defense, said he “simplified it”. Why? What he’s doing isnt working, he needs to return to what those before him did that did work, that gave us the DBU moniker because we no longer are DBU! Our defense kept us in games and gave us a decent season even up thru last year under a different DC!

  6. Gardner needs to be benched until he can figure out how to tackle better than my 4 year old son. The guy gets run over at least 2 times a game. No idea how someone who can’t tackle becomes a 4 star recruit. Shows how flawed the star system is.

  7. Gator defense lines up and never changes til snap of ball. No faking blitz (or even real blitz), no movement of defensive players before snap, no different defensive looks, etc. Smart qb has enough time to change play. If we can’t or won’t blitz, at least some faking at times.

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