Andreu’s Answers: A positive approach in easy win

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Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) talks with coach Dan Mullen during the opening game of the season against Charleston Southern at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Before every Florida game, veteran college football beat writer Robbie Andreu comes up with five pertinent questions and then answers them after the game. Here’s Week 1:

1. With a new offense and a new coach, will there be noticeable improvement in quarterback Feleipe Franks?

Many were wondering how Franks’ skill set would fit in Mullen’s offense. It appears it’s a good fit because Mullen shapes his offense around the capabilities of his QB, something that seemed obvious. Franks looked like a different quarterback, making quick, decisive decisions and consistently moving the offense. He seemed comfortable from the start and and his confidence seemed to grow with each snap. Yes, it was against Charleston Southern, a team from the Football Championship Subdivision, but it’s a positive first step for Franks.

2. Will Jordan Scarlett, or another UF back, rush for more than 100 yards?

Probably the biggest concern coming out of this game is the fact the Gators’ struggled to run the ball for most of the first half, which led Mullen to go to the air. UF played five running backs, but no one got more than eight carries and no one threatened to reach the 100-yard mark. Scarlett had only 24 yards on six carries. The leading rusher turned out to be true freshman Dameon Pierce, who gained 75 yards on eight carries and flashed a big up side.

3. Special teams were weak last season. Can the Gators make something big happen in them Saturday night?

They did. Redshirt freshman defensive end Zachary Carter blocked Tyler Tekac’s 22-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the first half, a play that energized the Gators and The Swamp. Then, after the Bucs scored their touchdown early in the fourth quarter, Jeremiah Moon blocked Tekac’s PAT and walk-on defensive back Austin Perry scooped up the ball and returned it for two points. The Gators blocked two kicks, nearly blocked a punt and were three-for-three on field goal attempts (two by Evan McPherson, one by Jorge Powell), so that’s making something happen. Mullen and his staff have been stressing special teams since the spring, and the attention to detail is already starting to show.

4. Will the transfer wide receivers — Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes — have an immediate impact?

Everyone thought they would, and they did. Grimes took a quick wide receiver screen and turned it into a 34-yard touchdown on the Gators’ opening possession. Jefferson caught two touchdown passes, one coming on a spectacular catch despite being interfered with on the play. Grimes and Jefferson appeared to be UF’s top two receivers in camp, and they had a nice debut, combing for seven catches for 84 yards and three touchdowns.

5. What kind of momentum will the Gators generate heading into SEC play against Kentucky this week?

Coming off a feel-good performance like this one, the Gators will carry great momentum and confidence into this week. But no one seemed to get too carried away with the win over an opponent not even close in talent to what UF will be facing in SEC play. Mullen and the players quickly turned their attention to the Wildcats after the game, which is a good sign. Mullen and Franks both talked about how the Gators have only scratched the surface and have a lot of improving to do. So, the Gators have momentum, but seem to be level-headed about what they accomplished Saturday night and where they go from here.

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

44 COMMENTS

  1. Nice column Robbie. Agreed the running game was my biggest concern. Not much to take away from this game. Mullen has a plan for franks. If first read not open run. If first read not on then immediately dump or run. And that’s okay. It’s better than being sacked or throwing a pick. As for the running the game, Charleston southern did what every single team is going to do this year, stack the box. They are going to make the gators beat them through the air. Becuase no opposing coach feels Franks is good enough to do that. I thought franks took a positive first step. Yes it’s chatkeston southern but he needed that. But the OL needs to get prepared. Teams are gonna load up against the run. Until Florida proves they can throw the ball teams are gonna make them beat them that way. Defense was against Charleston southern, but they were having fun and flying around the ball. They were playing fast. The defense was a lot of fun to watch.

    • Bobby it was said in these posts we would use the run game to set up the passing game. Looks like that might be flipped. Somehow I think we’re not showing our hand yet. Plus with 7 suspended I’m sure that altered game plan. Anyone here how long their out? Tommy I don’t recall us exciting as well in any game with Mac or Muschamp.

  2. I agree that the failure of the OL to dominate in a situation where they should have been able to do so is a concern. On the other hand, I do not think that the Gators turned away from running the ball for this reason. It appeared to me that the game plan was to give Franks plenty of opportunities to pass the ball, probably to give him game experience as a passer and to help his confidence. It’s hard to know, of course, but if the game plan was to run the ball a lot, they abandoned that plan awfully quickly.

  3. We knew going in that the OL was a concern. Looks like it still is. Too much talent at RB not to use them effectively. Hopefully this will not be an issue all year. Mullen has built a lot of the offense around what Franks can do. He did the same with Chris Leak and it paid off. Great to see the WRs have a good game with Franks spreading the ball around to different ones. He didn’t seem to lock in on one WR like last year. Did a much better job with his reads. Glad to see the team enjoying themselves but taking the win over CSU for what it was. Good business like approach about this week by not putting too much emphasis on this win against a lesser opponent. UK will be a good test to see if we’re really ready to play SEC football. Mullen and the staff seem to have kept the team focused on what’s next.

      • Steve. I think it was very obvious that Florida did not want to show much in the running game vs. Charleston Southern, and particularly with Scarlett. You will see more of focus on the running game vs. Kentucky, I can assure you. And you will see a lot more of Scarlett in that game. Florida clearly focused on executing the passing game and getting the fans excited about that aspect of the offense, as well as to build up Franks’s confidence before the Kentucky game. All those goals were met. But I am also sure that much of the focus this week will be on blocking technique and proper play execution on running plays by the offensive line. Much improvement is still needed. The guard play, in particular, was poor I thought. And Johnson repeatedly missed and did not continue through the play his blocks on running plays, resulting in short gains instead of bigger ones. I would not be surprised to see both Heggie and Bleich start vs. Kentucky at the guard positions. But I also thought Buchanan looked good at center. It will be interesting to see how he holds up against better and SEC DL competition next week. And it will also be interesting to see the improvement in the running game next week and which players start on the OL; which clearly is now the weakest unit group on the team. Go Gators.

        • TampaGator – if I remember the game and our RB’s, they were all mostly trying to run up the middle. I think we have RB’s that have to speed to be able to bounce to the outside on misdirection plays or screens. With Franks running a RPO – someone will be open for business. I just hope Franks can recognize the correct developing play and the sky is the limit. I can’t wait to see what happens against KY next Saturday. We will know a bit more about our team after that game. After that game I ordered my winter FLORIDA GATORS wear. Now it is time to support my team in public. GO GATORS!!!

        • TampaGator. Buchanan did play well and I’m excited to see how our run game does in this next game as that will tell us a lot about it. We need a strong running game especially a power running game. The defense looked fantastic and our passing game was excellent as were our special teams. Go Gators!!!!!

        • Agreed on Buchanan. I thought he did a great job.

          Coach Mullen showed lots of stuff against CS in my opinion both to get lots of guys an opportunity to get in the game and to excite the fans. When the games get tougher….starting this Saturday Night, I think he’ll narrow the focus to putting in players he thinks can execute…and I think he call the plays needed to win. There won’t be any “fun stuff’ just to make players or fans feel good. It’ll be all business going forward in SEC matchups. The fun will be in the winning.

      • Steve we had over 200 yards rushing in the game. They clearly wanted to get Franks some confidence and let him air it out. What that accomplished was it showed a lot of teams, Kentucky especially, that they can throw the ball so they’re going to have to account for that now and not stack everyone in the box. You will for sure see the running game open up because of it.

  4. “Yes, it’s Charleston Southern”. A new jingo working it’s way into the Gator lexicon? I hope not.

    Kind of sad that apparently our two most talented wide receivers are transfers from others programs. Sure glad to have ’em, but very telling perhaps about the coaching abilities of the previous staff.

    One mention of Dameon Pierce? I hope he’s not still lost in the shuffle of running backs.

    That is all.

    • My guess is that we will see mostly Scarlett at RB vs. Kentucky, with Perrine and Davis alternating giving him a break every third series. Pierce will likely be used in a mop-up situation if Florida is able to blow out Kentucky next weekend, and I see that as a possibility (if the OL improves dramatically in the running game in that game). And it does not seem that Lemons has painted himself into a corner with Mullen due to attitude and behavior. Sad to see that. That kid has so much potential, but he also had major attitude and behavioral problems at Clearwater High School when he was there. It seems he is reverting back to old ways. Sad to see that. I certainly hope the suspension gets his attention, like him being sent to secondary school in high school did previously, and he becomes 100 percent committed to the game physically, emotionally, and mentally in the future. I would sure hate to see the kind of talent he has wasted because of a lack of mental focus and effort. Maybe Lemons can earn more playing time in the future by becoming a dynamic kickoff returner and player on special teams. Go Gators.

      • I can see Coach shortening the bench with the RB’s, but I’d think that Pierce earned himself some playing time. I’d agree that Scarlett needs the bulk of the carries to get into a groove. It’ll be interesting to see the rotation because Perrine, Davis, and Pierce all seem to be doing the right things to get on the field. And then there’s Iverson Clement…..

    • Dare I say that watching Dameon Pierce in his first game as a Gator made me think of the first time I saw Emmitt Smith carry the ball against Miami way back when. He seems to have a sixth sense to anticipate what is coming before it is there. I look forward to seeing more of him Go Gators!

  5. CSU stacked against the run and part of their game plan was to force Franks to throw the ball. I still think Florida should have been able to generate some more push with their OL but Mullen’s offense did what it should have done and took what the defense was giving it. Kudos to some of those CSU kids who could really play some ball most of all QB London Johnson and DB Jonathon Slaton. Sometimes we forget to credit the other team for making good football plays and certainly CSU didn’t just lie down. All in all a good start. Florida did enough to help their confidence grow while they still have areas that need improvement. I think Kentucky gets a little more complicated game plan than CSU.

  6. MidCoastGator. The Gators had over 200 yards rushing with little focus on running the ball. But you are correct, I watched video of the game and players on the OL and at TE are still missing their keys on blocks and not blocking through the play, both resulting in too many short or no gains. I was particularly unimpressed with the blocking of Jordan and Johnson at the guard positions (very little push and extending blocks by either). I thought both Ivey and Taylor executed most of their blocks well and did get that push. I also though Buchanan played well at center and it will be interesting to see if he can continue with that type o play vs. SEC competition. I would not be surprised to see Heggie start at left guard and Bleich (who looks like a road crusher) start at RG next weekend. It will be interesting to watch who steps forward on the OL in the future and who steps back. Right now, the stepping back is particularly focused on guard play by Jordan and Johnson from what I witnessed. Much improvement needed from those two next week. Go Gators.

  7. Charleston Southern is very knowledgeable on how to defend the run due to practicing against their option offense. Their problem is pass defense due to the fact that 90% of the teams in the southern states run the ball 90% of the time. These smaller colleges recruit pretty heavily on the local side thus they have some players that understand the run and how to defend against it. Georgia Southern University being another one of those rural universities that has some hellacious ball running skills. I think we will see better running against Kentucky since they tend to have coaches who worship the passing game. My biggest gripe with Florida is they seem to have a fondness for running backs who are fast but can be brought down by arm tackles. They need to find a real bruiser who can punish tacklers and wear them down in the trenches and then let the faster, quicker backs come in after the defense is sucking wind.

    • UK wasn’t worshiping the passing game against Central Michigan. Their starting QB threw for 78 yards and 2 picks with a QBR of 9.3, easily the worst performance of any SEC starter over the weekend. Doesn’t look like they’ll be loving the forward pass anytime soon, unless their back-up QB takes over and performs well. Unless they make a drastic improvement, the Gators should be able to stack the line against the run without much fear of their passing game.

      As for UF’s running backs, Scarlett, Perine, and apparently, Pierce are pretty strong runners inside. I think Tampa’s right when he says some of the OL need to hold their blocks through the play. I’ve thought for several seasons that the best O lines in the SEC hold their blocks longer and push the pile more aggressively than the Gators. Hopefully, that changes under coach Hevesy.

  8. Appreciate TampaGator’s astute observations/analysis re: our O-Line. We simply MUST get 1,000% execution on the O-Line if we expect to complete with the likes of LSU and Georgia. If we don’t, we may not even win against UK or UT. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – the Gator O-Line MUST “Get’r Done”!!! Surprised by Dameon Pierce outperforming our other RBs. We are talented and deep at this position – we need all of our RBs to give their best performance each and every game, if we expect to see a decent bowl game or compete for the SEC Eastern Division crown. Overall, I rate the Gators a “B+” (would have been an “A” if they had won against an SEC opponent). GO GATORS!!!

  9. Hard to run with 8 men on the line. It was clear to me CSU was playing against run. That’s why the passing game was open all night. I have to give it up to Franks who has improved. Complete turn a round from last year. I have’t had that much fun watching a game in 8 years. OK the easy game is over. Playing Kentucky in the next game will tell us alot about who we are. I hope the fans will fill up the Swamp for this game. Yes a fun game to watch………….