Andreu’s Answers: Offensive line still cause for concern

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Florida running back Lamical Perine (2) attempts to break through an opening in the Kentucky defensive line during the second half Saturday in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Before every Florida game, veteran college football beat writer Robbie Andreu comes up with five pertinent questions and then answers them after the game. Here’s Week 3:

1. Will the Florida offensive line, which has given up only two sacks in two games, be able to protect quarterback Feleipe Franks?

Franks may have been sacked only once, but he spent a lot of his night scrambling out of the pocket to avoid the rush. And, of course, on the fourth-down try late in the third quarter, the offensive line collapsed around Franks, he was bent backward short of the first down and sustained a dislocated ankle that has ended his season. So, no, the big guys did not protect their quarterback. “They (medical staff) feel pretty certain there was a break or dislocation, so he will be out for the year. That will be a huge loss for us,” UF coach Dan Mullen said.

2. Can the Gators, who got gutted on the ground a year ago by UK, stifle the Wildcats’ running attack?

The goal coming into the game was to shut down the running game and then put steady pressure on quarterback Sawyer Smith, the Troy graduate transfer who was making his first SEC start. That plan, however, was not carried out. The Wildcats rushed for 140 yards, just enough to give the offense some balance and take the pressure off Smith, who had an excellent game, throwing for 267 yards and two touchdowns. As for putting pressure on him, it just wasn’t there. He was sacked only once and appeared comfortable in the pocket throughout the game.

3. Will UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham bring the house against UK’s new starting quarterback?

After Jon Greenard’s early sack of Smith in the game’s opening minutes, the Gators rarely got a hand on the Kentucky quarterback. Give credit to the ’Cats’ veteran offensive line, they picked up blitzes and protected their first-time starting quarterback. The Gators, who came into the game leading the nation in sacks with 15, sacked Smith only that one time and hurried him just three times. Grantham tried to get to Smith, but the Gators just didn’t make it happen.

4. Can the Gators finally make something happen in the running game?

Let’s put it this way, if you take away Josh Hammond’s 76-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep with 33 seconds left in the game, the Gators would have rushed for just 62 yards on 26 carries. For three-plus quarters, the Gators did nothing on the ground. There was no push from the offensive line, and no holes for the running backs to run through. UF managed to win the game and the final numbers look OK — 138 yards rushing for a 5.1-yard average — but the lack of a ground game continues to be a troubling issue as the Gators move forward with even tougher defensive fronts to contend with.

5. How will the Florida secondary hold up without starting cornerback CJ Henderson?

Henderson is UF’s best defensive back and it was obvious the Gators missed him Saturday night. With Henderson out, a lot of the pressure falls on Marco Wilson, who basically missed the 2018 season and is still in the process of regaining the form he had before he was injured against Kentucky a year ago. His coverage was tight for most of the night, but he continues to give up plays on 50-50 balls. And, once again, he had a pass interference call against him. Overall, the secondary gave up too many big plays and surrendered 267 yards passing and two touchdowns.

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


Up next

Who: Tennessee (1-2, 0-0 SEC) vs. Florida (3-0, 1-0)

When: Noon

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

45 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for being honest, Robbie. No sugar coating it. It was yet another ”amazing finish” in Lexington, but there are areas of concern. Florida only ran for a 2.4 yds. per carry avg. (with the Hammond T.D. run taken out of equation). But you really cannot say it didn’t happen. That ”jet sweep” was a great call, and beautifully timed call, and it will go into the books. But I do see the glaring ”concerns” as well.
    But it’s only 3 games in, and Florida’s 3-0! Now suddenly, the starting QB is out for the season, and Trask and Jones are at the helm. Well, it does make for a very interesting season, and hopefully entertaining, too. I know, I want to be ”entertained,” too. What an awful fan I am, LOL.
    Go Gators! Just win baby!

  2. I’m not so sure that the Gators will face offensive or defensive lines better than Kentucky’s but that remains to be seen. Both lines mauled the Gators last year and they did again this year. Stoops got a bunch of monsters on both lines and has them working well. All he needs is some studs on offense to go with them and some DB’s and LBs. I think the Gators will be able to rush against most teams and will also be able to compete on defense at the line of scrimmage. What has been really disappointing is the play of the Gator DBs who don’t seem to be in the right position much of the time.

    • Have you not been paying attention? I am (obviously) not a ‘Cat fan by any stretch, but I don’t think one can call Kentucky a “lesser” SEC opponent. They finished with the same record as UF last year, and I seem to remember one of their wins being over the Gators. Without Trask’s heroics Saturday night, UK would have turned the trick again Saturday; our boys were fortunate to have pulled out that win.

      If it’s a line of scrimmage league, our guys on both lines better sack up, or October will be brutal.

        • I don’t dispute the fact that Kentucky football has been an afterthought for many, many years. I don’t recall UF amounting to a whole helluva lot until the arrival of the HBC. Things change, and Kentucky is giving Stoops time to build the program. The days of them being a pushover are gone, IMHO.

          The fact remains the UK pretty much had their way with the Gator lines each of the last two years on both side of the ball. If UF can’t control the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball against a basketball school, how exactly do you think they will fare against Aubarn, Georgia, and LSU?

          • Well, that is after all the crux of the matter right there, my friend. I still don’t agree that Kentucky is all that much of a football power as the SEC goes, but I sure as hell take your point on what’s coming up on our own schedule, Albert. I think Joe Shiver pointed out the other day that we’ve still got work remaining to do — I’ll add to that, that we don’t have all that much time to do it, either.

          • The ’80’s were pretty good. Even in the suspension years, UF was still over .500, and do not forget 1984, when because the snarling kitty kats of Michigan couldn’t beat BYU in the Holiday Bowl, BYU was national champion instead of UF; maybe the biggest joke and cruelest hoax of 20th century NCAA football.

          • @Ias: 76-38 for ten years is pretty good? You have some not-too-high standards.76-38 is pretty average if you ask me. Might be good for a “lesser” SEC school like Kentucky, but it won’t consistently contend for championships, which is the UF standard, especially since the arrival of the HBC.

        • Ias, I think you and Albert agree that both the Gators’ OL and DL must step up for the Gators to be competitive against the best teams on the schedule. Your disagreement seems to be in the current state of UK football. Yes, the UK program has been lower echelon SEC for years, however, Mark Stoops and the UK administration are on the road to changing that. Last year’s team won 10 games, including a bowl game. They were ranked #14 in the final CFP poll prior to bowl season and the playoffs, and they finished #12 in the final AP poll after the bowls and playoffs were done. With their starting QB out for the season, they have an uphill climb to replicate that success this year, but they’re still a very good team. Their O & D lines, which dominated UF’s again this year, are loaded with Sr.’s and many of the same players that handled UF last season. It’s true the Gator lines got manhandled, but it’s also true that they were manhandled by some excellent players, so there is a bit of hope that with more practice and game time, the Gator lines, especially the OL, can improve over the course of the season as they did following last year’s UK game.

          • In defense of the ’80’s, averaging 8 wins per year, especially when suspended for 2 of them, is no small feat, and something Kenturkey has never done. We didn’t have an HBC era yet for comparison, but the idea UF didn’t contend in that decade is simply not so. Apart from the suspension years, UF was in the conversation, and had a NC stolen in ’84.

          • No argument here on that point. Could’ve been even better with a little more luck against UGA. Close losses by identical 26-21 scores in ’80 and ’81, including the Lindsey Scott heart-breaker, and then a 10-9 loss in ’83. Also lost 14-12 to Auburn in ’81 and 28-21 in ’83 when Neal Anderson fumbled just before breaking the plane of the goal line on what I believe would’ve been the tying TD. Finished in the Top 6 for three straight years in ’83-85 before the full effect of the NCAA sanctions hit in ’86. When looking at total wins, I think some tend to forget that in those days, the regular season was only 11 games, so averaging 8 wins back then is equivalent to 9 today, because the 12th game is always another patsy and a guaranteed win.

            I have no disagreement with you on the Gators success in the ’80’s. Where we might differ is on the state of UK football. I agree that they were, and perhaps still are, a lesser SEC program, but they were a good team (10-3, #12 AP final ranking) last year. With decent QB play, they have a chance to be a good team this year, since their O & D lines are pretty much the same and are among the best in the conference. If the SEC truly is a line-of-scrimmage league, then a team that can dominate UK has a shot at being very good.

            Wherever we may disagree, I’m sure we agree on one thing: Go Gators!!!

  3. So, are we seeing the PC culture raring its commie head when it comes to Trask being named the starter, and folks seemingly worried about the image of having a person of his pigmentation as the starter, and not Emory? Why does it have to be expressed in “oh we will have Trask and Emory both”? Is not Trask the starter and now the head of this team? Has he not paid his dues in spades and earned it? It was obvious years ago in passing drills that Trask has always been the most accurate passer of all of them.

    Not trying to stir it up, but I am wondering if anyone else is picking up the same thing, or is it just me?

    As for this Gator team, they will be 9-3 on the year, and unless they get some people that know how to tackle (make sure your recruits are not eating soy) and how to block, it won’t matter who is at the helm.

    Go Gators.

    • I see what you’re saying, Hogtown, which is that we are not truly a color blind society if we keep making these distinctions? I’d have to agree with that, but while I was honestly surprised to see Trask go in over Jones, because I thought Jones was all along first up with Trask second up — what I had been led to believe — I never thought that there was anything discriminatory about it. Rather, that Trask just had a skill set Mullen thought was needed right then and there — with Jones maybe to come in later with yet another skill set. That may still happen, but I’m absolutely convinced Trask won the starting job Saturday night!

      • Thanks for the feedback G6.

        I remember watching a head to head competition in passing drills between Trask, Emory and FF, and Trask was always laser spot on target when the others were not. With an ace front line, Trask will be a beast and one of the best. But alas, an ace front line seems so much wishful thinking at this point.

        We all know how critical it is to allow a QB to be THE leader and to make the team his; I’d just hate to see Trask or anyone else that has gone through what he has and stayed a Gator, to not have the surety of knowing he’s now the leader of this team. He’s a pro caliber QB and I believe he deserves to be given the opportunity now to show us what he’s got the remainder of this season and prepare himself for the next steps in his career.

        Go Gators.

        • I think Cody Alan would agree with you 110%, Hogtown — and I hope he comments soon too on this most recent development. Go back a day or too while you’re at it and read STL’s excellent commentary on extrapolating Trask’s performance……this young man has a lot of fans on here, me being one of them, and I think he’s more than up to the task.

        • Well I didnt get the popup on this article so ill comment(i also found a way around the popup to read the articles but cant usually comment).
          Trask…. This guy just cant get any respect!!! 2 years ago in the spring game he beat out franks only to have McElwain proclaim that Franks won and hand him the starter position(yes, franks ran the #1 offense against the #2 defense all game and Trask ran the #2 offense against the #1 defense{so franks had the advantage} and neither ever moved the ball downfield, THEN Trask got to run the #1 off. against the #2 defense one drive and he promptly drove down the field and scored, thus clearly beating Franks). He beat franks then just as he did against UK. He was head and shoulders the MUCH better QB. He alone is responsible for that win, everything else was the same but the results were dramatically different. Amazing how when a QB sees open recievers and is deadly accurate how the flow of the game changes along with the results! … YET, though Franks was the clear starter, sharing snaps with no one, poor Trask, who overwhelmingly won the job doesnt get the respect of the coach to name him the undisputed full time QB, rather a part time QB! NO RESPECT! Anyone with a brain , having watched Jones play, knows he is NO starter. He even isnt that successful with his legs because to do that you 1st have to have the defenses respect for your passing game, which he is average at best! maybe one day like franks he will improve but I dont ever expect much more than a Franks performance from him. He just doesnt even come close to Trask’s talent. No one has mentioned the reason why that end around by Hammond was so successful. It was how well Trask played the fake handoff to the RB. All the defense that was watching bit on the fake and he slipped it to hammond like a magician!!! Go back and watch that play and you will see, yet NO sports writer or commenter has made that observation that Ive read!
          The offensive line is offensive in run blocking! I know its Perine’s time but , sorry, he’s not the type of back to have behind that bad line. Malik Davis is who should be starting and Mullen should only be using the pass to set up the occassional run and NOT trying 2 running plays back to back like he foolishly did the one time he used Malik. One great surprise run, then a dud against a defense that was ready for the 2nd one! This line cant open holes and a quick shifty back is the only one that will be successful and only if he is used sparingly.
          UK… did you see their 1st 2 wins, anyone is delusional if they think they are anything but a average SEC team. Ive watched Ga and LSU play and UK and UF arent in their class yet this year, just a fact! Im ok with that, i love the team and coach, just being realistic. Now having said that, Im so excited to see Trask and this team with him at the helm all 4 qtrs! It may be a clemson Qb type experience and they may jump up from average! But with this line and holes on defense, because of injured players and poor tackling they arent going to any playoffs and Ga is in the drivers seat for the SEC east, just saying. At least we are further ahead than we were last year, at this time. We will probably still have 2 losses, trading UK for LSU and then Ga, maybe Auburn also(havent seen them play yet).
          Back on Trask, he showed he can run just fine and that option for the TD was a thing of beauty. The defender thought he had a tackle but forgot trask also has arms too! I havent seen a heads up play like that at UF in a long time. That with the magicians handoff to hammond showed real skill!!!! This win had NOTHING to do with the UK defense not being “prepared” for Trask and everything to do with the superior ability of Trask in that game.
          You may have a point about Pierce but I wasnt that impressed with what i saw last year, Ill go with Malik.
          So now you have my months worth of comments, Go Gators Love ’em or Leave ’em

          • Having just got up from the floor, thinking that I just had a coronary, I realized that indeed this was none other than DAZ WAZLLE!!!!!!!!!!!

            I know it’s not the money, but if you send me you’re address on messenger I’ll pass the collection plate to pay for a year! Deal?

          • Hey, lookie here, it let me comment again without the popup! Its really hit and miss! I appreciate it. Its not the money. I come here to read the articles and comments. I have several other sites where I can read great gator articles too. Commenting was just an extra that I dont care to pay for. I know how to read the articles without the popup and now I see that I can occasionally comment. Im good, thanks though. Just know Im seeing what youre saying. I had a laugh at the conversation you had with yourself.

    • Hogtown Mullen said all his QB’s are capable of starting. I think that says a lot about the three of them.
      Franks was the best leader and with the younger team sometimes that is what is needed. He was a good at passing, running and leadership. Trask for what we have seen is a better pure passer and has a better understanding of where targets are or will be in space. His leadership abilities we don’t know much about but I feel we are going to find out soon. Mullen has said his QB’s need to be willing runners in his offense. Trask has had foot problems that sidelined him twice. Now even if we were a pure passing team QB’s have to move and they move on their feet. Emory has a running ability to him that would keep defenses on their heels and a passing game that we saw wasn’t as good as Franks or Trask (likely due to less reps) Mullen is a gamer and he is going to do what he thinks will win games regardless of what any of us think. Since our OL has been struggling Mullen will call stuff to not pressure them and that is where you will see maybe two QB’s maybe even at the same time (wildcat with QB or RB or WR) a defense would be forced to defend the pass and the run taking pressure off the OL.
      One last thing here yes Trask has definitely payed his dues and I am looking forward to seeing him start. But the game is about winning and look what happened to UK defense when a different QB came in. They were over prepared for Feleipe and not prepared for a different QB. Their DL and secondary didn’t know how to react to a change at QB. Saban did it with Jalen and Tua. I thin we are going to see more of this throughout the season if the offense struggles.
      Lakeland below. Yes I think UK is much better than the ratings. If they finish with this as one of their only losses it will in hindsight make this game a much bigger win.

    • “So, are we seeing the PC culture raring its commie head when it comes to Trask being named the starter, and folks seemingly worried about the image of having a person of his pigmentation as the starter, and not Emory?

      Where are you seeing this? I just skimmed all of the articles and comments and and cannot find anything remotely close to what you describe.

  4. I agree that Kentucky is not a lesser team. They are equal to the Gators and obviously better than us on both lines of scrimmage. We were beaten for three quarters and should have lost the game given our injuries. The fourth quarter gives me hope for the rest of the season. I believe the coaching staff was forced to use the strength of this team which is the passing game. I know Mullen wants to be balanced and want to have a strong running game. I believe going forward they will use the passing game first. They will use the short passing game to supplement their running game. I will have no issues with this team becoming one dimensional since we could develop into the best passing attack in the SEC. Start the next game like we played the fourth quarter, You have the QB that can make quick decisions and get the ball out quickly. Bring back the Fun and Gun.

  5. Trask did a terrific job vs. UK. UK is defintely a top 25 team, no doubt. Best O and D lines in the league so far. Trask’s passes were mostly on target although 2-3 could have been picked off if UK had not needed to play their third team secondary and if they had not been gassed in Q-4. In Q-4 our conditioning really showed up and shined. We looked more fresh on the field.
    Trask needs to get even sharper and fast. He has two games to do it. Moving forward, unless our O Line improves dramatically, against Auburn’s and LSU’s pass rush, we may need the greater mobility of Emory Jones. Lets kwwp on eye on this and in the meantime, keep both QB’s sharp with ample time on the field.

  6. Several quick points.
    1. Opponents loaded up to stop the run – they wanted Felipe to throw to try and beat them. Trask appears to be decisive and accurate. Things should loosen up for the run game going forward. Look for plenty of high% passes.
    2. Never play prevent defense on 3rd and 21 – never, ever.
    3. Never go for 2 with more than 6 minutes left in the game.

  7. So the OL concerns/issues were well know and articulated before even the first snap against Miami. The problem is, there has been zero improvement. I love Perine, I do, but he is not the kind of runner that can create without help and we all know our OL is giving zero help to the run game. Malik Davis is similar to Perine in that he needs some holes opened to be successful. I would take either one of these two straight-up against a Safety or CB in the secondary. The issue is our OL cannot get the RB to the secondary because that flat our cannot run block. So …

    We do have a runner that can create *something* without help. Pierce runs straight downhill and can pound the snot out of a LB and get those five yard gains we desperately need. I know pass blocking is important so that is an open question but Dameon has shown that he can catch. I know Perine and Davis are “ahead” of Pierce so should get the carries but given that the OL cannot open the holes, why not try something a little different?

  8. Extremely happy to get the W on the road and I thoroughly enjoy reading the comments on here. I agree with the posters that the O-Line seems to be a weak link in the Gator chain and hope they can improve on their run blocking. I knew we would probably need to make some plays in the passing game to win this game. I was mildly surprised however with the lack of physicality on our D-line. Based on the performance thus far this year, I hoped they would be stronger against the run and apply more pressure on their pass rush. It appeared Savage has some more work to do on both lines of scrimmage. Last year and this year, I thought Kentucky had excellent game plans for us and we seemed a little slow to adjust. Just super glad we won. I really thought going into the 4th quarter this game was lost. I’m so hurt for FF and pray he has a speedy recovery. I don’t think I could ever appreciate enough the mental toughness it took for Mr. Trask to come into a game like that, a hostile environment, victory in doubt, and perform with calm and precision as he did. My deepest respect for the team to rally around him and keep fighting and pull out this victory. Remarkable! Great to be a Gator.

  9. Was watching SEC network. Spears compared FF to KT. Trask got there ball out quicker and took pressure off the OL. Felipe was a few fractions slower which made a difference. In our line of scrimmage league that is big. Mullen just came out and said we are going to use both QBs. Don’t think it’s going to be run only with Jones or pass only with Trask that would be to predictable. But now defense have to plan for two options at QB and then what play we will run. UT is going to be a tougher game than we thought. We had better not take them for granted. Go Gators. Feel the Chomp