Dooley: Chance to see what Mullen’s offense is capable of

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Orange wide receiver Trevon Grimes runs upfield Saturday after making a catch near the sideline as Florida Gators defensive back Trey Dean III (21) chases during the annual Orange & Blue Game on Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

In a spring game with summer weather Saturday, Florida decided to make defense optional to have some fun. It’s an entertainment business, right? And the easiest time to entertain is when you can script the unscriptable.

So you don’t want to take too much of substance away from the Orange & Blue Game or you might be standing on your head worrying about the secondary. All of the offensive records set will be forgotten by the time you read your Monday paper and a year from now you won’t remember that the Orange put 60 points on the scoreboard even with a running clock.

But there is one thing you can take from this pretend game.

Coach Dan Mullen is closer to running the offense he wants to run.

That ideal offense has weapons all over the place forcing defenses to pick their poison and poison choices never end well.

One of the big reasons is that Trevon Grimes looks like the last guy you want to leave with single coverage.

Grimes, the transfer from Ohio State, came on at the end of last season, catching 12 passes for 218 yards in the final four regular-season games. The Florida State game, when he got a big chance after Tyrie Cleveland went down, was one of those days (five catches, 118 yards) that showed you what he could be, possibly as soon as this year.

“All of the coaches stayed on me every day last year, holding me to a higher standard,” Grimes said. “Feleipe (Franks) would pull me off the field and give me route hints.

“So I was never down. I trust the coaches. We have great receivers, but I knew my time would come. You can’t be a stingy teammate. The ball goes where it’s supposed to go.”

It could be going in his direction a lot in 2019. At 6-foot-4, Grimes is a match-up problem who can go over you or past you.

And now he has the confidence to go with it.

“I’ve always believed in myself,” he said.

On Saturday, he set a spring game record with 195 receiving yards. No, I didn’t know they kept track of spring game records, so we’ll take their word for it.

I just know what I saw.

Sure, it was just a spring game. But there is a feeling that Grimes could be on the verge of a breakout year.

“He’s always had the ability,” said Van Jefferson, last season’s leading receiver for the Gators, “We’ve just seen it unfold in the spring. He’s had an awesome spring. Last spring, he was near the top in dropped balls, but he has worked really hard at it, catching balls from the JUGS gun after practice.”

So this day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was about Grimes and an unstoppable offense. Franks and the other quarterbacks lit up a defense that was so bland it gave vanilla a bad name.

But that’s not the point.

The point is that Grimes (and Jefferson) were brought to Florida because Mullen looked around when he took the job and didn’t like what he saw in the receiver room. There was talent, but not enough of it.

The Mullen offense is predicated on getting a bunch of receivers on the field and daring you to pick one to cover with your worst DB or linebacker.

“I didn’t think we had great receiver depth (when he took the job),” Mullen said. “I like to have a lot of receivers on the field and we like to roll guys through. I don’t like guys having to play 40 plays at that position because of how fast and how hard we ask them to run on every play.”

What he has now in Year Two is a veteran quarterback and a bunch of talented receivers who have had a year in the system. And this system has a chance to work at full speed because of players such as Grimes and Kadarius Toney, who is a totally different match-up problem, and Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond and on we can go.

That’s the offense.

Lining up with a lot of danger on your side.

“You build that depth and it makes it hard,” Mullen said. “When we go play with three or four who can create match-up problems, you can take what the defense gives you.

“That’s what I want from the offense. It’s not about getting the ball to one guy and you can try to take him away.”

Let’s see, eight touchdown passes (plus one to Chris Doering) and 762 passing yards on only 34 completions?

For a day anyway, we got to see what Mullen wants to see.

The real games are still in the distance. There will be a lot more hot days before we see if this was a spring-game wonder or the future of Florida’s offensive football team.

Perchance to dream.

Isn’t that what spring games are all about?

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

11 COMMENTS

  1. There were some interesting things I saw at the game. The team appears crazy fit compared to last year. Eyeball Test. FF is making faster decisions. FF still looks down receivers. But he delivered faster at times. Much better at touch passes. Trask has some talent but made mistakes. The Joneses will be special in time. Like aging a fine wine. Jalon showed some speed crazy speed on edge. All missed some passes but because of for at not sure if the target was for learning. Hotter than hades for April. Defense was throttled back. But still there were some picks and they looked well read. Didn’t show enough to say look out to opponents. Some on OL played both orange and blue. Most important no one was hurt that I saw. But there was some good execution going on. Team looked sharper than last year. My opinions of what I saw. I May have been delusional from heat toward the end.

  2. Thanks 65 for your comments. I didn’t get to see the game so I’m glad to hear some independent commentary. Especially excited to hear that they pass the eyeball test. S&C has been the major weakness for quite a while and it’s good to see us getting caught up in that area. Four more months now of S&C to continue the rebuild. I sure hope the OL guys are working hard to rebuild as they are the key to the upcoming season in my opinion.

  3. 65 — “FF STILL looks down receivers. But he delivered faster at times. Much better at touch passes.“ The second and third observations MAY make up for the first IF…..

    ….. Franks truly commits to running the ball with Tebow-like abandon and frequency. THAT will force safeties to play much closer to the LOS, which will leave one or more of our now experienced receivers running free, or beating one-on-one coverage. Add an effective TE to the mix and THAT will be fun to watch!

    Knowing what Jefferson did last season and reading about what Grimes is capable of doing this year, the Gator passing game may return to looking like it did back in Tebow’s last season, 2009.

    GO GATORS!!!

    • STL there are a lot of moving pieces on a squad. Defenses will have to plan differently. You are correct if he is a real run threat the safeties have a lot more pressure. The team looks more fit than I’ve seen.
      The TE’s were heavily involved in catching yesterday. Of course the defense was throttled back a touch.

      • 65 — There are always very few reliable takeaways from spring games. You caught a couple of them.

        The team IS more physically imposing. Franks DOES appear to have a quicker release and better touch on his passes.

        One thing that was clearly concealed was the OL’s pass blocking progress. The DL was handcuffed with no stunts or blitzes, which are Coach Grantham’s bread and butter. That left me wondering how bad the pass blocking still is.

        Also, note that the running game wasn’t featured. That left me wondering how bad the run blocking still is.

        Oh well, they still have summer practice to get their act together.

        • Saw some OL pulling, shifting, even when the play went a different direction. The moves were for the coaches to look at later I suppose. Of course it could be they moved the wrong way. They weren’t getting pressure from the DL of any sort. Again by design. I think our blocking will be adequate to start and get better over time.

  4. Id love for franks mindspeed (evidently now known as critical fusion factor) to magically move from 100 milliseconds to 250 (which is that of a fly, which is too fast for me to swat one very often). but there are a ton of things for him, such as leadership, game management, turnovers, injury management, physical tools, running, and playbook mastery that, even though are strengths, might improve faster than the more challenging things. Likewise, there are a lot of questions open about the offensive line, the safeties, and developing depth, that while important, we might be better off focusing on the strengths, which is what Clemson did last year and won it all –