It’s no secret Florida’s offense looked in sync in the first half Saturday night.
Feleipe Franks and Co. helped lead the Gators to a 38-0 halftime advantage over Charleston Southern, with Franks’ five touchdown passes paving the way in UF’s season-opener.
The potent offense was the main takeaway for many, but it overshadowed the revamped up-tempo system that coach Dan Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson have implemented this offseason.
The Gators ran 45 plays in the first half, as opposed to 21 plays in the second half with backup quarterbacks Kyle Trask and Emory Jones under center.
Following Saturday’s contest, Franks said the emphasis on an up-tempo style of play gives him an advantage when it comes to reading the opposing defense.
“It’s kind of like we can see what defense they’re in with 30 seconds left on the play clock,” Franks said. “So you have time to kind of adjust or whatever we want to do at that point. It’s definitely to our advantage. It’s a good thing.”
Considering Florida has struggled with penalties over the past decade — from 2010-14, Florida’s 3,834 penalty yards ranked atop the SEC, and recent history hasn’t been much better — the transition to an up-tempo offense wasn’t expected to be seamless.
Yet the Gators were penalized just twice for 15 yards in the first half, a noticeable improvement for an offensive line that seemingly struggled with clean play last season.
And that’s the message in Florida’s locker room: Avoid penalties to keep the offense moving swiftly and decisively.
“Playing clean is always great. You get a holding call or an illegal procedure or something like that, it’s going to set back the whole drive,” senior left guard Tyler Jordan said. “Makes it harder to move down the field.”
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And the key to clean play? That often comes from the cerebral facet of the game.
Every player on the roster is experiencing a transition when it comes to the mental preparation aspect, yet Florida’s veterans on offense said they have taken the onus upon themselves to mentor the underclassmen about the cognitive requirements that come with an up-tempo offense.
“I would say the most difficult thing would be thinking fast. You just got to click, you got to know what you got, hurry up and get it. I think being younger, it’s kind of harder to do that, but it goes with confidence and then knowing the playbook,” redshirt senior wide receiver Dre Massey said. “(We) just make sure the younger guys understand what to do within their plays. We know how to line up and how to line up fast. We run a little bit of a tempo this year, and we didn’t have that last year. So you know, just make sure the younger guys understand it’s a lot different than last year’s offense. We got to pay attention to the details.”
For an offense with as much skill position talent as the Gators have, an up-tempo offense gives Mullen a chance to get everyone involved, which should keep the unit fresh — and potentially lethal — in the process.
Now, with SEC play swiftly approaching, it’s a matter of Florida implementing what it has preached and practiced.
“I love that. If we can go up-tempo, get our guys — we want to get reps, get plays in. I think it keeps the defense on their toes,” Mullen said. “I was worried. That was one of the things for us going into the game, I want to play with great tempo, get up, get down, get adjusted to doing that. And I thought they handled that. I thought our (offensive) line, I think we can be a little bit faster at getting moving at times, but I thought they did a good job.”