Meyer challenges offense


Tennessee’s Malik Jackson taps Florida’s John Brantley on the helmet in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, September 20, 2010 at 11:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 20, 2010 at 11:01 p.m.

It’s official now. The Florida Gators are on a winning streak. Three in a row — that’s a streak.

But for it to continue, Florida’s offense needs to start playing more efficiently in the passing game and producing more yards and sustained drives.

That was the word from UF coach Urban Meyer on Monday.

“Offensively, what do we have to do? We just have to improve,” Meyer said. “Johnny (Brantley) and his receivers and the offensive line, yes, yes, yes (they all need to improve). There is a lot of urgency. I have been saying that.

“We have to start seeing results. We are, but I’m a little bit more down on the offense right now. But they’re getting better.”

The Florida offense has been practically non-existent in the first quarter this season, and gone through sustained periods of inconsistency in every game.

The Gators’ record looks good (3-0), but their offensive stats don’t. They don’t reflect the record.

Florida is next-to-last in the SEC in total offense, averaging only 317.3 yards a game. That’s better than only one team — Vanderbilt. In passing efficiency (usually a strength of Meyer’s teams), the Gators are eighth in the league.

The sporadic offense has been good enough to get by in the first three games. But the standard changes this week with Kentucky bringing a high-powered offense to The Swamp.

Unlike the Gators, the Wildcats appear to be operating at peak efficiency. They’re averaging 44.3 points and 497.3 yards a game — and they’ve committed zero turnovers.

“We’ve got to score some points (this week),” Meyer said. “We’re working hard to get that done.”

Some of those points need to come in the first quarter, Meyer said. The Gators have been shut out 13-0 in the quarter thus far.

“That’s awful,” Meyer said. “You lose this game if you don’t do that (score points in the first quarter) this week. We’re facing the best offense we’ve faced so far.”

After getting off to another slow start Saturday in Knoxville, the Gators scored 31 points in a very hostile environment, an encouraging sign for sure. But, overall, the offense still seemed to lack consistency, especially in the passing game.

“I’ve seen us win some games and I’ve seen us do some good things,” Meyer said. “But I’ve not seen enough to say we’re right on that edge.

“The thing I have seen is some receivers stepping up and making plays. I’ve seen Johnny Brantley go into 100,000-something people and control the game. I was very concerned about that. I don’t think we looked great, but at least Johnny managed the game and we did what we had to do to win.”

Meyer is looking for/expecting improvement from Brantley and the offense.

“He’s got to get better,” Meyer said. “There is one way we evaluate quarterbacks here, and he’s 3-0 as a starter at Florida, so that’s pretty good.

“But I’m not thrilled with where we’re at offensively and he’s the focal point of the offense. We just need to improve. If we’re where we’re at (now) in a couple of weeks, I’d say no, (Brantley and the offense are not making progress).”

Because Brantley is inexperienced as the starter, the Gators have limited some of the things they usually feature in the offense. One thing UF hasn’t shown is a five-man blocking front with five eligible wide receivers going out for passes. The Gators have been keeping an extra player in the backfield or on the line to support pass protection, but that’s going to change, Meyer said.

“Our efficiency isn’t really high in passing right now,” Meyer said. “But I understand why. Because we have a new quarterback settled down, sort of like when we first got Chris Leak (in 2005). We just settle him down, protect him and make some plays.

“But you’re going to see a little bit more five-man protections, which means you’ll have five eligible receivers (going out for passes).”

Brantley said he’s encouraged by the progress he and the offense have made over the first three games.

“I think we’re really developing as a team,” Brantley said. “We’re doing a lot of great things. There is some really promising stuff in there. We all know that. We want to go out this week and have a great week of practice and continue developing as a team. We just need to go from (the UT game) and keep moving forward.

“I feel very comfortable. I’ve been in the system for three years. I feel comfortable with that. I’m getting more comfortable as (the season) goes along. When you prepare during the week, it makes it a lot easier on Saturday.”

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

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