Andreu’s Answers: Gators in need of offensive balance

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Florida running back Lamical Perine stiff-arms a Kentucky defender Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Before every game, veteran college football beat writer Robbie Andreu comes up with five pertinent questions and then answers them after the game. Here’s Week 2:

1. Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks was benched in the second half of last year’s game. Will he atone? Or will he struggle against the ’Cats again.

He struggled at times, but this loss isn’t on Franks. It’s on both lines of scrimmage, which were dominated by Kentucky’s offensive and defensive fronts. Franks didn’t play great, but he got no help from the running game and was under duress for much of the night by the UK pass rush. Coach Dan Mullen said Franks never got rattled and only had a few bad reads. The one everyone will remember was his failure to see a wide-open Malik Davis on the go for two late in the fourth quarter that would have brought the Gators to within three.

2. Can the Gators generate some much-needed push up front in the running game?

We probably knew the answer to this a week ago. If you can’t run the ball against Charleston Southern, how can you expect to do it against an SEC defense? So, no, there was no push in the running game. The Gators have some talented backs, but if the line is inadequate, which this one obviously is, they’re not going to have a chance to give the offense any balance.

3. The UF defense held running back Benny Snell Jr. to less than 100 yards rushing last season. Can the Gators do it again?

Not even close. The defensive front could not get off blocks and Snell was able to consistently gut the Gators. When they appeared to have him contained, he’d break tackles and make plays on his own. He was the star of the game, rushing for 175 yards on 27 carries. He does have an adequate line — and the Gators now have big concerns about their run defense.

4. Who wins the matchup between the UK receivers and the UF defensive backs?

Any chance the Gators had of winning this match-up ended on UK’s second offensive play, when cornerback Marco Wilson went down with a season-ending knee injury. The secondary got burned on touchdown passes of 29 and 54 yards, the latter coming on a third-and-16. In defense of the DBs, they got zero help from their front, which generated almost no pass rush. When the Gators did bring some heat, they failed to contain Terry Wilson, who burned the defense with his ability to scramble.

5. Will the Florida tight ends be more involved in the offense?

A wide-open Moral Stephens caught an 18-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, but other than that, the tight ends were no factor. They are supposed to be key component in the offense, but through the first two games, they have not been consistently targeted in the passing game.

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

36 COMMENTS

  1. WILL THE NEW, IMPROVED S&C PROGRAM ALSO IMPROVE PLAYER MOTIVATION AND GRIT?
    Apparently not, against the majority of evidence in behavioral medicine and exercise physiology research. The problem appears deeper than muscle tone, fitness, and improved strength.

    WILL THE GATORS REBOUND FROM A LOSS TO KENTUCKY?
    You bet your ass they will, but it may not be as quick as we thought.

    WILL FANS ABANDON DAN MULLEN IF THE GATORS LOSE TO KENTUCKY?
    Some have, but the majority of true Gators get that this rebuild will take more than one year and will see it through.

  2. Regarding the O line, over the last few seasons, I’ve watched the better SEC lines hold their blocks longer, then get behind the pile and push, pull, or drag their RB for extra yards. The Gators, as a general rule, seem to lose contact with their initial block quicker, and then stand around and watch. Is this a problem with coaching, talent, strength, desire, or all of the above?

  3. The team had all year to get in shape. These are young kids that can get in really good condition in a short period of time. It won’t take years for that happen . The problem in this game was a lack of preparation and focus. Mullen tried the “didn’t know what physical training they had in the past, excuse” . They must have had better training, they never looked that bad. Saturday night game was colossal failure, and this one was on the Coaches.

  4. We may want to concentrate on just one kind of blocking. That is what the OBC’s teams did, and while they were usually in pass protection mode, we did rather well with the draw play disguised as a pass play.

    Just food for thought..

  5. As we see, in this game of football, who ever controls the line of scrimmage – usually wins the game. So Recruiting Dan – You and your staff need to really focus on the BIGS! Should have at least 5 big men in each recruiting class. And I mean, good BIGS. I believe there is enough finesse players on this UF team to win a lot of games, but if you cant block, then just bring me a loaded beer cooler to every game, because it gonna be a long day!

  6. I am reminded why I was really hoping for Scott Frost. I’ve tried to be a big believer in Mullen since he arrived, and is much improvement over Mac. But he still gets much of the blame here. Picking Franks as starter, poor game prep and discipline. That BS dancing on the sideline last week was the first sign this coach doesn’t have the eye of the tiger. The goofy plays at the O&B game were also a bad sign of things to come. Would never see Spurrier or even Meyer or Muschamp doing that stupid dance crap. Sorry Mullin fans, but the buck starts and stops at the top, and I have yet to hear Mullin (or Franks) take a responsibility for a horrible performance. Trask has to be given his shot, or I’ve lost all faith in Mullin’s judgement! imho

    • You do realize Frost lost his opener to a team that won 5 games last season right? Not sure how you think he’d do so much better. Does he get a pass because Nebraska was terrible last season, even though the Gators were arguably worse? Mullen took over an absolute disaster of a program where players weren’t held accountable for anything and haven’t been trained physically or mentally for the last 3 years. He brought life and excitement back to the fan base with those antics you’re criticizing him for, so it’s kind’ve odd to criticize him for it now after the fist sign of adversity. Sorry if you feel he’s the wrong coach for not correcting 3 years of ineptitude and poor coaching in less than a year, but that is just way beyond realistic and crazy to think that’s even possible. I have no idea how you’re so sure that Trask is the better option either. 3 coaches have now decided otherwise, but you somehow think differently. It’s 3 because his high school coach didn’t even think he was worthy of starting. What happens when he gets put in and is worse than Franks? Who do you blame then? Mullen didn’t recruit either one of them. Relax, this wasn’t going to be a quick fix. This team obviously has bigger issues than any of us thought. Bashing Mullen and bailing on him this soon is a bit ridiculous.

    • So CDM is the problem? Did you watch the game? Franks had no chance without a run game and was often running for his life. I guess Franks is responsible for Snell running for 175 yards, why wasn’t Franks playing both ways is most likely what you are thinking. Mullen will win and win big, give him a chance. Now because you know all what ails the program please remind us about your warning us the DLine was going to be pushed around like a rag doll. That Wilson would be lost on the 2nd play and that the defenders couldn’t tackle if a .45 was pointed at their head. I admit I thought we had the “horses” to be special this year, but it appears Mullen will have to work his magic before we are good again. Go Gators!

  7. We talk about dropped passes..how many interceptions were dropped by Kentucky!!!

    Franks is again..not the answer. look at his body language in the 4th quarter…his decision making on the 2 point conversion..his choice of routes on the 2 free plays when the defense was offsides.

  8. Teams now know that Florida can’t run well. So it’s time to do ”some MILLION DOLLAR coaching”, and make some quick adjustments. I, personally, hope they can create some plays that quickly evolve, and involve the R.B.s out in the flats. The receivers need to touch the ball more quickly, too. Let them both, R.B.s & receivers, ”make plays in space.” As U.F. cannot solely rely on this O-line, period!
    I believe Coach Mullen will get his players in here. But until then, it would be nice to see U.F. NOT getting manhandled by U.K., Tennessee, & Vandy. Ya’ know, the ‘3’ S.E.C. teams that U.F. beat last year. Otherwise, it’s called ”regression.” Lastly, they should sell U.F. to high school recruits by saying, ”Be that SPECIAL GROUP that brings Florida Football back to glory. Add your names to the list of Gator folklore, like Steve Spurrier, Emmitt Smith, Tim Tebow, etc…”

    • Good post. Based on his post game comment, “You never really know how physical you are until you get in a game” Mullen was shocked at the lackadaisical play of of the line as much as anyone. I am sure no one could anticipate how little interest these guys have in blocking anyone and how little they care about the team mates who rely on them.

      As you say, Mullen will now game plan around this group. The play calling was not great Saturday, especially during that span where they seemed to just be throwing desperation passes down the sidelines instead of trying to get something going in terms of moving the chains and putting a drive together. So, it’s going to be interesting. I am now watching more to see how the coaches deal with the situtation than whether we win or not. Mullen will get this worked out in time, but it will be very cool to see how he handles the Great Sieve of Florida.

  9. My responses to all of the above questions:
    1. Yes, the major blame cannot be put on Franks for this loss but, as the writer pointed out, his failure to see a completely wide open Davis (who was his primary receiver on the two point conversion play) and pull off him immediately when he did not instantly come open (and without any pressure on Franks) and turn and make an almost impossible pass attempt completely across to the other side of the field and to a completely covered TE who does not have good hands, is a reflection of Franks’ poor on the field decisions and innate mental skills as a QB that apparently are not going away. He is simply not a SEC starting QB and I am not sure he will ever develop into one. Jones simply, with his quickness and running threat skills, gives this team a better chance and a better chance in the future at the position as well. Time to give Jones experience, as this team is obviously not football skilled, physically or mentally, enough to win more than 4 to 6 games with or without Franks this year. Why not look to the future? And the future is NOT Franks. And it is time to look to the future. That is the reality with this team.
    2. All I can say about the OL concerning run blocking (or even pass blocking) is that most of the OL is way underdeveloped skill wise and lack fundamental execution of basic run and pass blocking technique. I think Taylor is playing at a fairly high level (the only one on the OL doing so). Ivey is playing just OK but gets no push on run plays. But the guard play (and in particular, Johnson) is just bad with no push on run plays and consistent mistakes in pass protection technique. And the current center is a starting center on maybe a non Power 5 team and should not be a starter on a SEC team. The Gators desperately need Heggie at center for multiple reasons but primarily for effective communication and push at the most important position on the OL. I think one of the reasons (other than Johnson executing so poorly) that the OL play has been so poor is that the Gators have not had a good center in a while. Come on Heggie, get well and up to speed ASAP, or this OL is not going to get much better this year. And, please, bench Johnson at RG.
    3. I was very disappointed in the failure of both Conliffe and Slaton to get disruptive push into the Kentucky backfield, as they mostly were stand up bricks within two inches of the line after the ball was snapped. But, again, not all the blame is on them and the other DL, as the linebacker play was simply horrible with one missed tackle after another and the linebackers being completely dominated at the point of attack. Jackson, who we have heard all summer how good he is now, clearly played like a two-star recruit, and Johnson is not physical enough to play inside. He is an outside linebacker, but the Gators no longer have outside linebackers. Clearly, the linebacker and defensive line personnel do not fit the defensive scheme Grantham is running. Florida needs much bigger and stronger inside linebackers. They do not have that now, other than maybe the injured Reese. But I am talking around 6’4″, 240 to 250 lb., quick and fast inside linebackers. And that does not describe Reese either. And finally, the current defensive ends are not good fits for the 3-2-5 defense either. They get pushed around inside and they consistently cannot hold the edge. They are mostly just pass rushers and their skills are not very effective in Grantham’s scheme either. Big issues on the Gators front seven on defense is the current reality.
    4. How do you give up a 3rd and 16, fifty-yard plus TD pass at a key moment of a game? But that TD was not the fault of either of the cornerbacks or Wilson’s replacement, Dean. Taylor allowed the QB to look him off and did not stay in his correct coverage zone and allowed the WR to run behind him into that zone when the front seven got no pressure on the Kentucky QB. If Taylor had trusted the process and had stayed in his correct zone coverage, that receiver would not have come open behind him and no TD would have been scored. Just a lack of fundamental execution by Taylor on that play. The game of football is more mental than physical a lot of the time. It was on that play. Overall the DBs played well, but DBs cannot afford mental breakdowns during key moments of a game and blow coverage assignments. But that has been a Florida problem for a while now, and it has not been limited to just the DBs. It infects every position on the team. Very sad reality.
    5. Mullen has clearly realized how bad his OL is and, like the previous coaches, is using two TEs primarily (Lewis and Raymond) who are mostly blockers and have limited pass catching skills. No Krull. No Gamble. No Parks. All three who currently have much better pass catching skills but are limited in the run blocking skill area. Until the OL gets better, I doubt you will see much catching of passes by TEs. Again, a sad reality, and a reality that has hit Mullen squarely and quickly in the face. A rotten egg hit in the face. Simply put, this team has major skill issues that cannot be fixed until they have better and more skilled players (both physically and mentally) on the field on Saturdays.

    But some good news, the FSU trolls cannot say much because FSU almost lost to a not very good FCS team this past weekend. Kentucky, at least, is a lot better than Samford.

    • #3…I agree completely. I was MOST disappointed in Conliffe and Slaton, who were heard were going to take the league by storm. Also, you are right…44 is a backup player…no shame in that, but his play was abyssmal. That said, I was not overly excited with the starter’s (Reese) play in the past….but he is a good locker room guy. Our front 7 is atypical top what we have had since the 80s…athletic freaks and studs….so combining that with poor offense gets us what you have seen the past 2 years.

  10. Coaches always take the blame as should Mullen but let me remind you he left a Miss St. program that is looking real good right now. Do you think he built that program in a year? We have had a huge problem on offense for 8 years and now it looks like our defense is following suit. I believe UK’s athletes wanted the game so much more than our guys did. Hell they really should have beat us a couple of times over the last few years but managed not to because of coaching errors which were admitted by Stoops. So my point is we have talent just not enough in the right places. What Mullen needs is a better QB not saying Franks is all the problem but we need a better signal caller. Watching UK’s QB had me scratching my head again as to why our opponents QB is better than ours again? Some of the blame can go to our super soft OL which cant push anyone off of the ball or hold a block for some reason. Our defense…I don’t even know what to think about it. We lost our best cover guy and then get torched all game in the air because we had to load the box and still got stomped in the run. Stopping the run requires holding an edge and getting a push up front which we couldn’t do. Our so called BAM BAM kids in the middle are playing more like BUM BUM kids why I couldn’t tell you but they look the part but just aren’t playing up to it. We will need a huge improvement from them if we want any chance to stay in SEC games this year. We can’t let teams run all over us and expect to win it just doesn’t happen. I do believe DM will get us back to Elite status it’s just going to take more time and more growing pains.

  11. No new recruits are coming this year. Maybe, maybe we have some OL backups that can compete for playing time, but no miracles here. Heggie at center is a possibility (if healthy) but have also heard it suggested that he take over Ivey’s spot, and slide Ivey to guard. Do you go back to a feisty but undersized McCoy at center? Not everyone was a big fan of him on this board either. Can one of the youngsters challenge Fres Johnson the sloth for playing time?

    I think CDM can coach up another 10 percent of technique, we can’t really change their size during the season, what we need is more want-to & pride. That can be inspired by coaching, and encouraged by competition for your job, but it must come from each player’s gut to get it done. After the last 3 years do these guys have it in them??

  12. Time to give Franks more of the playbook.

    The TV announcers said our O alignment was to simplify things for Franks. 2 WR’s on each sideline so he can count the defenders in the box. That’s too predictable. Plus you have to pass protect *longer* because then most of the routes take more time.

    If the O-line needs help then play 2 tight ends. I want to see tight ends that chip and then run outlet routes. Keeps the LB’s off balance.

    Just a suggestion. Hey if Nixon can draw up plays for the Redskins, then why not me for the Gators!

  13. Mostly Good discussion. I am not for giving up on the strength coach. He has to avoid injuries and we haven’t been that bad in that category yet. He has to get the team stronger over the year which we don’t know yet.
    The linebacker situation scares me more than anything. We put this group that was already limited in the hands of a rookie coach who I don’t see staying whether he is a success or not. Sorry young coaches you need to learn your craft at a lower level imo. The line coaches have been at the national championship level so they will get all there is from their guys. We are still dbu so we can absorb the stress there as well.
    For those who have concluded all is lost…and cdm is another muschamp or Mac…I won’t even offer any thing more than the statement that I vehemently disagree with you.