Florida Football: Grades for Each Positional Unit after the First Four Games
It's hard to believe that the Florida Gators have already finished a third of their season. It seems like just yesterday we were getting ready for the start of the college football season and now the Gators are already three games into their SEC schedule.
The Gators came into the 2012 season with questions surrounding the team. There was no starting quarterback, and a new offensive coordinator, and no clue as to who would step up and be a playmaker on offense.
Through the first four games we have some answers to those questions and we have a much better idea of the kind of team Will Muschamp has built in 2012.
Let's find out who's at the top of the class and who needs to pick it up.
The biggest unknown coming into the season was who would be the starter at quarterback. Jeff Driskel won the battle and while the decision was questioned at first, his play has quieted those detractors.
Driskel started off slow against Bowling Green and Texas A&M, but had a coming out party against Tennessee.
Against the Vols, Driskel completed 14-of-20 pass attempts for 219 yards and two touchdowns. He also added eight rushes for 81 yards. This was the first time that he was more than just a game manager and played a critical role in his team winning the game.
On the season, Driskel is 55-of-79 for 698 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Two things keep Driskel from grading out with an "A." The first being his tendency to get a little wild with his passes at times and his indecisiveness. Driskel has gotten much better with making quick decisions, but he is responsible for more than half of the sacks the Gators have given up. While he is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes, he has a tendency to be high on some of his throws.
The second thing that holds him back from getting an "A" is that I don't think we've seen his best performance yet. Driskel gets better and better every game, and as the season continues his play should continue to progress.
Running Back Grade: A+
Mike Gillislee has been the engine that makes the Gators offense go. Gillislee has carried the ball 69 times for 402 yards and five touchdowns. Gillislee is second in the SEC in rushing yards and touchdowns, despite missing a good chunk of the game against Texas A&M and not being 100 percent against Tennessee.
Gilly is averaging over five yards per carry and is living up to the expectations he, the coaching staff, and Gator Nation had for him coming into the season.
Behind him Mack Brown and Matt Jones have been battling for carries and they have both been efficient in their roles as backups.
Fullback Grade: A
Hunter Joyer is everything you look for in a fullback. He can carry the ball and catch it out of the backfield, but blocking is where he really makes his mark during a game.
Joyer has sprung big runs for Mike Gillislee, Trey Burton and Jeff Driskel all season long. He doesn't fill up the box score with his statistics, but what he does as a blocker helps his teammates fill it up for him.
Tight End Grade: B
As expected, Jordan Reed is one of the Gators' best playmakers on offense. The junior is leading the team in receptions with 16 and has given Driskel a big target in the passing game.
After Reed, the Gators haven't gotten much production. Clay Burton has just one reception on the year and Tevin Westbrook doesn't have any.
What is really holding the position back is their blocking. Reed is a vertical threat and isn't expected to be the best blocker, but Burton and Westbrook were brought over to give the position some strength in the blocking game. Burton is by far the best blocking tight end, since Westbrook has looked lost at times on the field.
"F" Position Grade: A
This position is a FB/TE hybrid. Omarius Hines and Trey Burton make of the "F" position for the Gators and they have both been a pleasant surprise in 2012.
Burton has continued to be a jack-of-all-trades for the Gators offense. He has lined up at quarterback, tight end, receiver and full back. Burton has six receptions for 66 yards and five carries for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
Omarius Hines has all the physical tools to be a huge playmaker, but through three seasons, has bounced around and not really made an impact. This season, Hines is doing a little bit of everything for the Gators. He had a big reception against Kentucky and his size and speed gives the Gators some mismatches when he is on the field.
If the position was called "Frankie Hammond and Quinton Dunbar," then the grade would be considerably higher.
Frankie Hammond is leading the team in receiving yards and is second on the team in receptions. He has turned two 10-yard passes into 70-plus yard touchdowns and has been the Gators' most reliable receiver.
Dunbar is also having a productive year with 10 receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Other than those two, the receivers are doing nothing in the passing game. Solomon Patton has been effective running end arounds, but has just four receptions on the year.
The biggest surprise has been the absence of Andre Debose. Debose hasn't recorded a single reception this season and was benched for the first half against Kentucky. Debose was called out by his coach for not practicing the right way, and at this point it doesn't look like he will make any kind of impact this season.
The big stat that jumps off the page is the 12 sacks the Gators have given up this year. That's the worst in the SEC.
When you take a second look at the tape, not all of those can be put solely on the line. Jeff Driskel has had some issues going through his progressions and making decisions quick enough. Driskel was responsible for four or five of the eight sacks surrendered against Texas A&M and two more against Kentucky.
What is most troubling is how the line has been unable to get a push on short yardage running situations. Against the defenses that the Gators have played, the offensive line should be able to push all of those defensive fronts back and get positive yards on every rushing play. They're not and it's forcing Brent Pease to get creative with his play calling on short yardage situations.
The biggest surprise along the defensive line has been Omar Hunter. Hunter has racked up 17 tackles form his nose tackle position. Hunter was named "SEC Defensive Linemen of the Week" last week against Kentucky, the first time he earns the honor in his career.
The defensive line has been forced to move some people around due to injury, but they are much deeper this season and they have been able to hold up despite the injuries.
Lerentee McCray is having the best season of any defensive linemen. Filling in for the injured Ronald Powell at Buck, McCray has been able to get the most consistent pressure on the quarterback and has 10 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble on the season.
Two freshmen, Dante Fowler Jr. and Jonathan Bullard, have seen extensive playing time through four games and they both appear to be stars in the making for Florida.
Sharrif Floyd is playing better after moving back inside and Dominique Easley has been disruptive at defensive end, before missing the Kentucky game with an injury.
The Gators defense has only been able to create five sacks on the year, worst in the SEC. Of those five, only two come from defensive linemen. The Gators need to find a way to get more consistent pressure and get to the quarterback, if they want to compete with the better teams in the SEC.
Losing Jelani Jenkins early in the second game of the season would have been a devastating blow to the Gators a year ago. Thanks to good recruiting the linebackers haven't missed a beat in Jenkins' absence.
Antonio Morrison and Michael Taylor are filling in at Jenkins' linebacker spot. Morrison is fifth on the team in tackles, while Taylor is eighth but added an interception to his resume against Kentucky.
Jon Bostic is having another productive season totaling 22 tackles through four games. Bostic has stepped up as the defensive leader in Jenkins' absence and is playing a solid middle linebacker.
Neiron Ball and Darrin Kitchens have been serviceable at strong-side linebacker but are not on the field when the Gators run their nickel and dime packages.
Take a guess at who leads the Gators in tackles.
Matt Elam? Jon Bostic?
Did you guess Josh Evans? If you did, then go ahead and pat yourself on the back.
Evans and Elam are first and third on the team in tackles respectively and Elam also adds a sack and an interception to those totals.
The safeties have played exceptionally well this season but the overall grade is dragged down by the inconsistency of the cornerbacks.
The cornerbacks have struggled tackling this season and at times have looked overmatched against opposing receivers.
Watching college football should make you appreciate having a kicker as good as Caleb Sturgis. Sturgis is 8-of-10 kicking field goals on the season and has hit on all 14 extra point attempts.
Kyle Christy is doing an excellent job at punter. Christy is averaging 43.35 yards per punt, which places him third in the SEC. Christy's biggest contribution came against Tennessee. Florida was backed up deep on their side of the field for most of the first half but Christy's 48.6 punt average was able to keep Tennessee from having good field position.
The Gators haven't gotten anything going in the kick/punt return game as of yet. In what has been a strength for Florida recently, the Gators are still looking for a big return this season.
The coaching staff has done an unbelievable job at making adjustments at halftime.
Florida has gone into the locker room trailing in two games and come out looking like a completely different football team.
The offensive scheme is much improved from a year ago. The Gators are a much more balanced team offensively and that is due in large part to Brent Pease.
You have to include the recruiting that this coaching staff has done into this grade. The injuries that Florida has had through four games would have crippled the 2011 team, but due to great recruiting the Gators haven't missed a beat. Antonio Morrison, Jonathan Bullard, Latroy Pittman, Dante Fowler Jr. and Matt Jones are all freshmen who have received playing time and have been able to hold their own this season.
Will Muschamp has assembled the right staff and has his program heading in the right direction in 2012.