Notebook: Third-and-short now a strength
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 12:01 a.m.
In Florida's first three games this season, third-and-short was not one of the offense's strong points.
The Gators were a combined 4-for-18 (22 percent) when facing third downs of four yards or less.
The percentage in the last two games?
UF went 8-for-8 against Kentucky and 7-for-7 in Saturday's 14-6 win over LSU. All seven conversions against the Tigers came on the ground.
"We've put a huge point of emphasis since the first couple of games on failing in short yardage,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “To be 100 percent against a front like that (in LSU), that says a lot about our players, No. 1, and scheme-wise that our offensive staff put in place."
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease said most of the earlier attempts in the year were straightforward runs into tight interior gaps, and now he's mixing it up more to keep the defense off balance.
“It's a sign of improvement and some focus of what we put on the kids and what we're trying to design up each week,” Pease said. “Credit to them also in the downs leading up to that because they're putting themselves in good situations that we're not in third-and-long.”
In his third year at UF, junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins is playing the best football of his college career.
He's made an interception in each of Florida's last two games and has already matched the number of pass breakups (5) he had last season.
Congratulating him along the way has been his younger brother, sophomore Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.
“We both text each other after the games or before the games for motivation,” Watkins said. “It's a good thing to have a brother that's doing pretty good, too.”
Watkins led the nation in receiving yards per game, all-purpose yards and touchdowns for freshmen in 2011 and was only the fourth true freshman in college football history to be named an AP first-team All-America.
The two train together in the summer, and Jaylen's recent success is no surprise to his brother.
“He knew from working out with me that I was capable of all that and he's ready to see it happen even more,” Watkins said.