Florida Gators Offense Struggles with Brantley and Addazio's Conflicting Styles

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Florida Gators Offense Struggles with Brantley and Addazio's Conflicting Styles
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The usual conclusion to a John Brantley rushing attempt

Last year, the Gators managed to under-perform on offense despite being top 10 in rushing offense, total offense, and scoring offense.  That shows just how scary good the 2007 and 2008 Gators' offenses were and how high offensive standards are in Gainesville thanks to Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer.

This year, most Florida fans would kill to have 2009's offense.  The Gators currently rank 84th in total offense and 46th in scoring offense.  The rushing attack is a joke, and the preseason-hyped "real passing game" has yet to show any promise.

I touched on it earlier this week, but John Brantley is off to an awful start by Gator standards with a 123.15 passing efficiency rating.  From my not too-limited, but still not complete research, since Spurrier was coaching, only Jesse Palmer had a worse opening five games (2000) than Brantley. 

During that stretch, Palmer completed only 49 percent of his passes.  However, he managed significantly more yards than Brantley, bringing the passing efficiency rating closer than you would think it would be. 

Palmer rebounded enough to end the season with a passing efficiency of 127, or four points higher than Brantley's current efficiency rating.  If you're not familiar with passing efficiency, it's similar to the NFL's quarterback rating, only not limited by maximum ratings.  A 127 is not good; it's below average. 

Brantley's 123.15 is good for 79th in the nation.  USF's B.J. Daniels is 71st in the nation.  Brantley's two spots and .3 points over Tennessee's Matt Simms, a quarterback that most Vols fans would trade for just about anyone.  When I say John Brantley is disappointing, I mean it.

Despite being third in the SEC in completions, Brantley is only seventh in passing yards.  Only LSU's Jordan Jefferson and Vanderbilt's Larry Smith have fewer yards per attempt in the SEC.  At least those two guys can run.

Brantley doesn't fit inside of Urban's offense.  It's not just the option either.  A lot of it is the option though, so this is your segue to the part where we talk about Brantley running the option.

Addazio says that the option is gaining five yards per carry.  He's either a liar or he's counting one of Jeff Demps' long runs as an option.  From what I've seen of the Brantley option, it gains between three yards and negative five. 

When Brantley keeps it, Gator fans can't help but cringe.  He's a relatively small quarterback with zero speed.  Defensive players may as well be hitting a stationary tackling dummy.  Brantley is not built to carry the ball.  It's stupid that the Gators are making him do it, but that is the offense that Urban Meyer runs.

After five games of watching the running game suffer, it is painfully clear that Florida needs the misdirection that the option creates in order to succeed.  The Gators have one option quarterback on the roster, but he is a very raw freshman.  Meyer has been willing to use Trey Burton as a quarterback inside of the red zone, but he hasn't taken Brantley off of the field outside of those situations. 

Outside of the Alabama game, the lack of a consistent rushing attack hasn't mattered too much.  It mattered a lot against Alabama though. It will matter more going forward.

Discounting Miami (OH), who are inexplicably in the top 25 for rushing defense, the Gators have faced one rush defense in the top 50.  The Gators have five opponents on the remainder of their schedule in the top 50 for rushing defense, beginning this week with No. 6 LSU.

The best way to beat a team is to shut down the run.  If LSU shuts down the run, you have to pass against their secondary.  In case you haven't watched an LSU game this year, that is not a good way to win.

The option does more than simply gaining yards thanks to confusion though.  Go back and watch Tim Tebow's passing.  Forget about his wonky motion while you do this and focus on the DBs.  What do they do?  Instead of worrying about the receiver, the DB would often cheat into the box.  The same thing happens against Denard Robinson.  This leads to open receivers down field.

What does this mean?  It means that Denard Robinson and Tim Tebow, two "runners," are better passers than John Brantley in a spread offense. That doesn't mean that they have better arms or better mechanics, just that they create more on the offense because the offense is designed to their strengths.

The Gators offense isn't designed to throw the ball 30-50 times per game.  The Gators' offense is designed to force defenses into the box on four and five wide sets through counters, draws, and options.  Where most teams use shotgun runs after they've been set up by multiple passes, the Gators use shotgun running to set up passes.

Brantley's problem isn't just offensive scheme though.  Remove the disadvantage of playing in a scheme that doesn't fit his style, and Brantley has still been a very ineffective playmaker.  He is completely inopportunistic thus far, having missed every wide open deep receiver to date.  If Spurrier were the coach, Brantley would likely already be riding the bench. 

Meyer hasn't shown himself to be that kind of coach.  He managed to turn Chris Leak into an effective quarterback despite Leak's similar unfamiliarity with the option offense.  However, Leak was already an accomplished passer by the time Meyer got to UF, and never struggled to grasp the passing game.

Leak managed 5,500 yards and 43 TDs in his two years under Meyer.  If Tebow hadn't gone on to average 2,900 passing yards and 27 TDs per season on top of his rushing success, Leak would likely be remembered as a success story for the Meyer offense. 

Right now, Brantley isn't up to the standards of either of Meyer's previous Gator quarterbacks.  While Brantley completes a comparable percentage of passes to other spread quarterbacks, under Brantley the offense has not shown the explosive ability that Meyer's offense has become known for.

Gator fans may point to the 2009 offense and say that this is a Steve Addazio problem.  They are partially correct.  He has not shown the ability to adjust the offense to the "strengths" of the offense.  The bigger problem is that, right now, John Brantley has not shown a strength to adjust to.

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