So after 4 games and a quarterback change, it seems that we might want to have a checkup on the Gator Offense before they head into the meat of their SEC schedule. To this point, UF has averaged 33 PPG this year and currently has the #27 best Passing Offense in the nation. The Gators have struggled thus far to establish a consistent running game.
After Feleipe Franks’ season came to an abrupt end against Kentucky, Kyle Trask stepped into the starting role. The redshirt junior has shown his ability to run the offense proficiently thus far. Trask is able to keep the chains moving with the short/intermediate passing game on which Dan Mullen relies. The backup from Texas has done an excellent job keeping poise in the pocket and is more decisive than Feleipe Franks. Trask doesn’t have Franks’ arm strength, but is still able to make many of the same throws. He does seem to lean on his fellow Kyle – Pitts – as he’s connected 5 times for 92 yards and a touchdown. Trask also looks for veteran wideout Van Jefferson, hitting him 6 times in the Kentucky game alone.
Moving forward, I would like to see Emory Jones throw the ball more, but I think that Mullen may be saving this for either the LSU or UGA games in order to catch the defense off guard. We saw this a bit last year, as Jones threw one pass against UGA in which ended up being a DPI call. He threw a few short passes against Tennessee, but did not showcase his arm strength. Jones worked throughout the offseason with QB trainers back in Georgia and has been putting in extra time. It’s no secret Jones is a speedster and fits the Dan Mullen dual-threat QB mold quite well. Emory Jones is a threat on his feet, and that’s clear by the way Tennessee played him last Saturday. Jones’ presence on the field allowed for Perine and Pierce to post solid gains.
Lamical Perine is widely considered to be RB1, as the senior has made plays throughout his time at UF. Perine has struggled in the run game so far this season, partially due to starting four new lineman. Perine has had trouble hitting holes, and doesn’t seem to be the same explosive back we saw last season. However, he has done well in the passing game and has done his job in pass pro. This is why he’s getting this much burn – he is the most complete and experienced back on the roster.
I hope as time goes by he’ll get back into his groove and start to break those longer runs we saw last season. Perine ended last year with 6.8 yards per carry, and through four games in 2019, sits at 3.8. By the numbers, it looks a bit concerning, but I think he’ll get back to his old ways with more touches.
The sophomore Dameon Pierce has established himself as a viable alternative to Perine, as he runs hard and loves contact. Pierce has gotten a few more touches recently, finishing the Tennessee game with 11 touches for 39 yards. Pierce doesn’t offer as much in the passing game, but he has thrown some blocks on multiple occasions. Malik Davis has struggled to hold onto the ball, fumbling once already this season. He fumbled again in the Tennessee game, but the UT player stepped out before recovering the fumble. Davis is quicker than the other two backs and is shiftier, but ball security is the major issue here.
I’m not going to spend too much time on this group, as it’s UF’s strongest position group, but Tyrie Cleveland has surprised me this season. Cleveland has 108 yards on 7 touches and a touchdown so far this season coming off his collarbone injury last season. Van Jefferson is the best and most consistent receiver on the roster. Josh Hammond is still Mr. Sticky Hands, as he still has yet to drop a target going back to the start of the 2018 season (I probably jinxed him with this, oops). The redshirt freshman Jacob Copeland found a few touches this past week and made the most of them – aside from the dropped pass that would’ve gone for 6.
Kyle Pitts has led this group, even though he practiced with the WR’s throughout camp. Aside from Pitts, Lucas Krull has played the most snaps, but has not caught a pass this season. My main issue with the tight ends is run blocking, as many tight ends have missed edge assignments. Pitts did well last week, but I would like to utilize Gamble a bit more to help out the line. He’s has played sparingly, seeing most of his time in goal-line sets.
Finally, we look at the biggest question mark on offense – the line. UF had to replace four starters, with only senior center Nick Buchanan returning. Pass blocking has been functional and has given both QBs time to get the ball out most of the time. I think some changes could be made at RT, as Jean Delance hasn’t played great recently. Richard Gouraige has gotten a few reps at LT, with Forsythe moving to RT. Gouraige has played well, and I expect Mullen and Hevesy to continue adjusting the tackle spot this weekend against Towson in preparation for Auburn. Gouraige excels in making early, aggressive contact, which is something Delance had struggled with early this year.
I don’t expect much to change inside, with Heggie, Buchanan, and Bleich starting at the two guard spots and center. Currently, Delance is listed as the starter at right tackle for Towson on this week’s depth chart.
Wrapping It Up:
With all the hurdles so far this season, UF has played well. October’s schedule will undoubtedly define this season as a success or failure. If Florida can play to its strengths against quality competition, this team could be a fringe playoff team. Sure, no one wants to play Auburn, LSU, and UGA within 5 weeks of each other, but that’s the draw the Gators have, and it’ll show us exactly what this team is. The defense is playing lights out and make quality adjustments at half. Mullen and Co. are only allowing 18 2nd half points through 4 games. If the O-Line gels and avoids injuries, come December, we might be getting up for some big games.