With three out of twelve regular season games in the book, it’s time to release the Florida Gator First Quarter Report Card.
The numbers the Gators have posted in the three games they have played are somewhat impressive but they also tell a tale…
The quizzes against Charleston Southern and Troy gave Meyer and his Gators two opportunities to rehearse, post huge numbers, and get timing and assignment issues nailed down but how well this prepared them for Tennessee remains questionable.
When the Gators had the ball against the Vols, it seemed as if the entire playbook was dumbed down and Tebow was tasked as being the mule for the team. How different this was from what was expected.
Was Tennessee really that good on defense or is Florida’s weakness at the wideout position worse than previously thought?
Meyer attempted to address this issue in a roundabout fashion by claiming that the flu had weakened his roster and that he played to win, not crush, Tennessee. There is no reason to disbelieve his claim of illness but what is distressing is that the entire offense, from the booth to the huddle, appeared to be playing as conservatively as possible.
Is this yet another ploy by Meyer to keep hidden what he wants to show later in the season or is this an eerie repeat of last year when it took a loss to Ole Miss to really light the fire of the squad.
Grade – B-
Too many unanswered questions makes the Kentucky game all that more interesting.
In Gainesville, silence is golden.
Once Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin started stirring up the pot in February with a variety of poorly thought out comments mostly aimed at Florida, Urban Meyer focused his laser beam stare on the mouths of his Gator players and all but sealed them shut prior to the start of the season.
No Gator player or assistant coach would be allowed to participate in a war of words with an opponent—even with Tennessee.
Even public comments made by Tim Tebow, and a few other Gator players, regarding making an undefeated season a team goal resulted in some muzzling by Meyer.
With as much media attention as the Gators get, it is impressive, actually kinda scary when you think about it, that the Gator players behave as well as they do in front of the cameras and microphones.
Grade – B+
Meyer has his team on a very tight leash and they behave well. This grade would have been an A if there was some sort of torrid, tabloid issue to deal with…but until Tebow is videotaped at a gentlemen’s club we’ll just have to stick to Meyer’s remarks about flu casualties resulting in yet another bothersome comment from Kiffin.
Florida has taken a lot of flak over the past several years for not being more aggressive when scheduling non-conference opponents and this year is certainly no different.
Early season games hosted at the Swamp against Charleston Southern and a weak Troy fared poorly in comparison with Alabama playing Virginia Tech, Georgia traveling to Oklahoma State, and Tennessee hosting UCLA.
Specifically, the arguments seem to be centered on the Gators reluctance to travel outside the state of Florida, let alone the SEC region, to challenge an opponent in a rival conference that doesn’t share a similar geographic footprint.
Matter of fact, the last time Florida traveled out of the SEC region to play a viable regular season, non-conference game was in 1991 when Spurrier and the Gators headed north to New York and were routed by the Orangemen of Syracuse.
Yes, there is a counter argument that the Gators play a tough SEC schedule, regardless of the rotation, and close the season with a monster game against FSU. Proponents of Florida’s schedule practices also state that Miami is now back on a skip rotation as are several other of the Division 1 Florida schools.
But this argument, as sound as it may be, is being overshadowed by a growing desire, on part of the college football community, to see the Gators prove a bit more mettle by packing their bags and heading into unfamiliar territory early in the season.
Grade – D+
Florida does play a tough conference schedule and closes with FSU but the remaining 3 games on the schedule (two played early) certainly don’t do much to inspire the Gator Nation—or the rest of college football.
Florida opened the 2009 season with a revised chain of offensive command which finds Steve Addazio as the offensive coordinator and Vance Bedford as quarterbacks coach. Big shoes to fill now that Dan Mullen has gone off to Starkville.
For these coaches, early season games are key when it comes to ironing out the play calling chain of command and smoothing out the communication lines from the booth to the huddle.
How important is this? Over the last several seasons the Gators have been leaders in the league with regard to delay of game, false start, illegal procedure, and illegal formation penalties.
The Gators were fortunate that their high octane offense could burn through the excessive penalty yardage last year but now it could be cause for concern since issues have cropped up regarding the passing game.
Each game this season has seen improvement in offensive communication and coordination. Penalties are down and drives are not being stalled.
Grade - A
Replacing Dan Mullen was no easy task but the new faces in the booth and on the sidelines have done a very credible job of keeping mistakes to a minimum. Some say that this is a reflection of a lack of aggressiveness in the offense but anytime you keep a penalty from occurring you’re in the positive.
Charlie Strong’s defense has allowed only 22 points in three games this season. They need to continue to own the playground.
Sure, this figure doesn’t have the same umph once you remember the issues facing the Gator opponents this September, but the fact remains that Charlie’s squad did their job and they did it very, very well.
A more balanced review of the defense will come when the Gators travel to play Kentucky in Lexington but until then the Florida faithful can take pleasure in knowing that even when Tennessee had to live or die on a possession running game, Spikes and crew bent but didn’t break.
Again, with concerns hovering over the ability of the Gators to truly construct a dynamic passing attack the success of the season may fall on how well the Florida defense keeps opponents out of the end zone and off of the field as quickly as possible.
Grade – A+
Bonus points for completing the task with minimal direction!
The entire defensive team needs to realize, quickly, that they will have to carry a greater load that they did last year. Forcing turnovers, three and outs, and few big plays are mandatory components of the Gator D game plan.
Participation in Duck and Cover Drills
Mandatory participation not required… yet.
The sky isn’t falling but rehearsals may be included into the schedule should a lack of deep passing production prevent bombs from falling on opponents.
Plays Well With Others
Florida did little to ruffle the already frustrated feathers of Charleston Southern and Troy —the Gators acted respectful and did little to overplay the situation.
Against Tennessee, the Gators showed remarkable restraint on the field—amazing.
The same can’t be said for fans on either side of that game. Leave it to us to keep those fires burning…