Florida's shortcomings in the passing game have hit a new low.
The Gators have sputtered through the air in recent weeks and are averaging a meager 175.4 yards per game.
And this is no mere aberration.
Under the tutelage of coach Will Muschamp, Florida's offense has passed for less than 200 yards in 22 games he's coached. Just last year, the Gators threw for less than 100 yards in three consecutive games.
Nothing has changed.
Muschamp said the coaches have scaled some things back for the players so they can go out and play faster.— Robbie Andreu (@RobbieAndreu) October 28, 2013
It's fair to say offensive coordinator Brent Pease has underachieved, albeit operating with patchwork offensive line play and key starters missing on offense.
Florida's recent struggles, echoed by its sluggish play versus Missouri, prompted Muschamp to give his offensive coaching staff a public vote of confidence.
"Yeah, this is the same staff that came a game away from playing in a national championship, OK," Muschamp said in an interview via Gatorzone.com ."So obviously, we're not where we want to be right now, and nobody knows that more than our staff."
This season, Florida has thrown for less than 200 yards in five of its seven games. In their 36-17 loss to Missouri last Saturday, the Gators managed only 151 yards of total offense.
Jesse Simonton of the Miami Herald reports Florida is keen on making changes.
"Muschamp pulled several assistant coaches off the recruiting trail Sunday, cancelling a two-day trip for an emergency meeting to address Florida’s endless offensive woes," Simonton reported last Thursday.
Since Pease took over at Florida, he's operated a pro-style system, which often uses 22 (two backs, two tight ends, one extra lineman) and 30 (three backs, two receivers) personnel groupings.
But it's growing increasingly clearer that Florida's passing game is predictable and fails to create confusion.
Tyler Murphy on UF offense: "We feel like the guys we have we can be very successful with." Says inconsistency has been biggest detriment.— Phillip Heilman (@phillip_heilman) October 28, 2013
Pease's go-to receiver Solomon Patton has 31 catches from virtually every spot on the field: flanker, slot and split end. But production ends there.
To the second-year coordinator's defense, Florida just isn't equipped with enough versatile receivers who can produce in the offense's entire route tree.
Can Florida be successful in the passing game under Brent Pease?
Other than Patton, only Trey Burton and Quinton Dunbar have hauled in more than 20 receptions. Both, however, have had only produced modest showings through seven games, and have failed to produce explosive plays consistently.
Schematically, Florida has left a lot to be desired.
The occasional bubble screen to press the edge of opposing teams can only stretch a defense so much. And a lack of formidable tight ends who can line up away from the core formation only compounds Florida's ailing passing game.
Consider this: Florida hasn't had a 1,000-yard receiver in over 10 years since Taylor Jacobs eclipsed the mark in 2002. And if that's going to change, Florida, under the guidance of Pease, will have to bring ingenuity to its offense.