Need for speed: Now well-versed in Mullen’s system, Gators focused on going up-tempo

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Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson scores a touchdown against Florida State in Tallahassee last November. The Gators' offense did quick work on the 38-yard score. [File]

Florida’s overhaul of the strength and conditioning program has been well-documented, and the mission statement — become faster, more physical and more aggressive — is well known.

Yet just how that translates to UF’s play in 2019 remains to be seen; although there has been no shortage of speculation inside the program.

When the Gators open the season in 10 days in Orlando against Miami, Florida’s pass catchers expect the offense will operate noticeably quicker than it did merely a season ago.

“We’re going to blow it up this year. The offense is way different than last year, way different. Everybody is just being used around, spread apart. It’s going to be way different. Faster, everything,” redshirt freshman tight end Dante Lang said.

That admission may come as a breath of fresh air for Florida fans who are disgruntled with having one of the SEC’s slower offenses.

The Gators ranked No. 91 among NCAA Division I teams in plays per game last season, good for eighth in the conference. Throughout preseason camp, Florida’s offense has been installing multiple no-huddle packages designed to catch the opposition off-guard.

“We don’t operate any differently, it’s just different pace,” quarterback Kyle Trask said. “We have packages where we’re supposed to go extra fast, eyes to the sideline as soon as you can. Whatever the call is, run it, try to catch the defense off balance.”

Much of Florida’s stagnation on offense could be attributed to Dan Mullen’s offensive reboot after arriving back in Gainesville. Each and every student-athlete, even transfers familiar with the rigors of the SEC, had to essentially start fresh.

“I think coming in, first year we didn’t have an idea of the offense. But now, second year under Coach Mullen, I think everybody has a good idea of it, so just coming out, it’s just about executing now and getting the plays down and getting it fast, the tempo,” Van Jefferson, who transferred to the program from Ole Miss prior to the commencement of the 2018 season, said. “Now that everybody has had a year of the offense, I think we’re going to be fine.”

It seemingly didn’t even take a year, however. By November, signs the team had grown more knowledgeable were apparent.

Over Florida’s final three games, the Gators averaged 77 plays on offense — up from UF’s season average of 69.1 plays per game. The results weren’t surprising: UF’s offense averaged 36.7 points per game in the final three contests, compared to 27.5 points a game in the team’s first nine regular season games.

Suffice to say, with the inaugural season in the books, Florida sees the benefit in increasing the tempo on the offensive end in Mullen’s second year. Now the task becomes implementing it Aug. 24.

“We’re trying to score faster. Score faster and get on the field and get off, convert more third downs,” senior wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland said. “Just have a complete offense and play together fast.”


Up next

Who: Florida vs. Miami

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 24

Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

27 COMMENTS

  1. i agree with most of this but the last three games of last year might indicate a trend but arent definitive at least to me. if we can get some of this uptempo on tape early that will help, and if we can hold back a surprise or two for the rivals we play thats ok by me as well. first, lets go out and win some games though, not that i have doubts, but winning is first, how you do it second as long as its not violating florida statutes etc

    • Something in the back of my mind, Mveal ……. and this certainly is not meant to criticize or call you out in any way, as I think you know I have a great deal of respect for your opinions. Several months back, you were expressing some concerns about a possible step back in Year 2. Given all that has transpired since the start of the year, still harboring any concerns? I haven’t heard you express it lately, though you never said if you were seeing something or not.

  2. I’m excited for Aug 24. I just hope …… that this enthusiasm and excitement is warranted and not just typical preseason talk. I don’t doubt that it is …..but I’m a LONG time Gator fan and I’ve heard lots of (un)warranted preseason hype before. Sorry….not trying to be pessimistic … I guess that’s the Doug Dickey era coming out in me 🙂