There is a reason why the Florida Gators were ranked by the preseason ESPN Coaches Poll and AP Poll as a top five team in the nation. To put it simply, it was the offense that could potentially lead Florida to the SEC Championship and arguably the BCS National Championship game. This offense was proclaimed by experts as the fastest offense in college football because of the speed Florida has at its skilled positions. Eight players on offense have been clocked to run a sub 4.3 forty yard dash. These players include perhaps the most explosive player in college football Percy Harvin, running backs Chris Rainy and Jeff Demps, and wide receivers Louis Murphy and DeonteThompson. This speed combined with Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow running through and passing over defenses is a reason why the Gators offense is projected to put up points reminiscent to the 1999 St. Louis Rams Greatest Show On Turf offense.
However, through the first two games of the season, the Florida Gators offense has looked mediocre at best. The Gators put up 56 points on an outmatched Hawaii team, but that number is misleading. The defense accounted for two scores, two interceptions returned for touchdowns, and the special teams scored a touchdown off a Brandon James punt return. At the end of the first quarter the game was tied at zero and the Florida offense looked out of sync. Running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps helped boost the Gators offense by breaking off touchdown runs of thirty three and sixty two yards. Although the running game looked much improved against Hawaii than all of the 2007 season, the Gators struggled with the passing game. Tim Tebow completed 9 out 14 passes for 137 yards and looked uncomfortable throwing to his receivers.
In Florida's second game against Miami, the speed of Miami's defense and the blitz packages called by Bill Young, Miami's defensive coordinator, flustered Tim Tebow and the Gators offense all night. The Hurricanes blitzed the majority of the time and caused Tim Tebow to scramble to find receivers. Tebow did not have time to sit in the pocket and look for his receivers and as a result the Gators players, especially the offensive line, looked confused. In watching this Florida Gator team all of last year and for two games this year, the Gator offense has some flaws it needs to fix if it wants to live up to the hype.
First, the Gators should expect their opponents to constantly blitz and put pressure on Tim Tebow. Last year Georgia and Michigan and this year Miami, all decided to bring pressure on Tim Tebow and all three defenses succeeded in getting flustering the Gator offense. Because the Gators like to line up in a five wide receiver formation to spread out the defense, the offense is vulnerable to blitzes. It seems as if the Gators want to try and hit the big play and thus are sending their wide receivers deep. Before the wide receivers can get out of their break, Tebow is scrambling to avoid getting tackled by unblocked defenders instead of having his eyes glanced at his receivers down field. Numerous times in the Miami game Gator wide receiver Riley Cooper was left wide open, but Tebow either had his eyes stared on another receiver or was scrambling away from the Miami defenders. It took the until the fourth quarter of the game for the Gator coaching staff to call shorter routes such as bubble screens to their wide receivers to counteract the Miami blitzes.
Second, the offensive line has to do a better job of communicating to each other of where the blitzes are coming from. The offensive line did a poor job of picking up blitzes and if it wasn't for Tebow's instinctive ability to elude pressure, the Gators might not have scored a touchdown the entire game.
Third, the coaching staff needs to trust the Gator running backs and allow them to get more touches. The gators need to become more balanced on offense. If the Gators do not run the ball, defenses will not respect the run and only focus on putting pressure and trying to rattle Tebow. Seldom does a team with an unbalanced offense win championships so for Florida to even think about winning a championship, must improve its running game
The Gators now have a bye this week before they play Tennessee in Knocksville on September 20th. If the Gators do not figure out a way to fix the flaws in its offense quickly, the Gators will be watching another SEC East team play in Atlanta on December 6th for the SEC Championship.