The Florida Gators: Does This Team Have a Weakness?

GatorHerbCorrespondent INovember 12, 2008

Imagine yourself as the coach going up against the Florida Gators.  What would your game plan be and how would you motivate your team?  What would you say to pump them up?

I find myself asking these questions more this year than any other since I began following Florida football in 1995.

Mark Richt tried kicking an onsides kick in the 2nd quarter.

"They run the ball extremely well inside. They run the ball extremely well outside. They run the option. They have an outstanding passing game. You try to defend all those things.  It's pretty tough to do.'' said Vanderbilt's head coach Bobby Johnson after last week's game.

This week defensive coordinator for South Carolina, Ellis Johnson, was trying to find a way to stop the Gators.

“We’ve had other teams with these same philosophies, but they don’t have the talent surrounding them that Tebow does." said Johnson.  "He’s very strong. He can run the football, and he’s got a little durability to him. At the same time, he can throw the ball and he’s got so many good wideouts and skill people. It just makes it really difficult.”

“They’re so talented at every position." said Johnson. "That’s the thing that makes ’em so good. There’s not a weak link anywhere on the field.”

The Gators success starts at the top.

Urban Meyer, Dan Mullen, Charlie Strong and the rest of the coaching staff have been truly impressive this year. They have set the tone for this team and continue to dial up amazing game plans.

Defensively they have stopped prolific passers, while, offensively their runners have put up numbers that have them leading the SEC in points per game and rushing. 

The biggest compliment to the coaching staff is the frequency with which their coordinators are being mentioned for open spots as head coach.  It's likely that Strong and Mullen will soon be leading teams of their own.

Offensively, the Gators are just plain SCARY. 

Let's start with quarterback Tim Tebow.  While the Big 12 QB's might get the well-deserved praise this year, Tim is putting up mind-blowing numbers, considering how few times he actually throws the ball. 

Here are Tebow's numbers over the past 4 games:

- Average QB rating: 207
- Nine TD's, One INT
- Average of 12 completions and 17 attempts per game. 
- Completion percentage: 72%

Tebow is throwing one TD for every five completed passes, which is highly efficient.  With 17 attempts, that is lower than some of the more highly touted QB's like Harrel, Stafford, and McCoy.

You can't argue with the Gators' 51 points per game average over the past four games or their SEC leading 47 percent third down conversion rate. 

Tebow is a huge advantage inside the red zone, which allows him to stand out among other QB's.  This year the Gators are 38-40 in the red zone.  One stop was voluntary when UF took a "mercy" knee at the end of the Tennessee game, while the other stop was on a controversial fumble call in which replays indicated no fumble.   This red zone efficiency is due in large part to Tebow's ability to power his way into the end zone.  He has rushed for eight TD's in the last four games. 

Florida also boasts the fastest team in the country with 12 players running under a 4.4 40. 

Seven of those players are on offense, including Harvin, Demps, Rainey, Murphy and James. These guys comprise the big play threat for the Gators and almost guarantee that at some point in the game there will be a severe mismatch with a linebacker or a strong safety covering one of them.  They are the reason that the Gators, and not Georgia or Alabama, lead the SEC in rushing. 

Special Teams is truly the "X" factor for the Gators. 

At Florida, special teams are truly "special" and they are coached personally by none other than Urban Meyer.  They are HIS guys.  They get the very best team privileges and both offensive and defensive starters fight for playing time on special teams. 

Look at the players who have blocked punts in the past two games: Jeff Demps (RB), Chris Rainey (RB) and Carlos Dunlap (DE).  These are major offensive and defensive contributors going after the punter.  If they don't block the kick then watch out.

Brandon James has run back two for touchdowns this year and is averaging almost 20 yards per return, while Chaz Henry, punter for the Gators, has consistently been able to pin opponents down inside the 10 yard line with well placed kicks.  Only punting 28 times this year, Henry is averaging 43 yards per kick.  All of this allows University of Florida an incredible field position advantage. 

The biggest surprise of the 2008 season has been the young Gators defense and their ability to dominate football games. Boasting a +14 turnover ratio, they have picked 14 passes this year and returned them for 391 yards.  Add 19 sacks and there is a vast improvement from last year's defensive squad. 

Back to my original question: How would you attack this team?  Where is the weak link? 

I look forward to the input here.  I admire the collective football IQ here at BR.