I'll spend three hours today discussing the Gamecock situation on the air, and since the core readership for this blog is my old Gainesville audience that's going to be the sole focus today. I'll look at the rest of the weekend tomorrow when I've had more time to watch my DVR'd games like Arkansas/Auburn. Fairness requires me to note again that injuries/stupidity are playing a significant role in the debacle the Gators offense has become this season. The current run of losing and total offensive futility dovetails with Jeff Demps getting hurt and being available only in an extremely limited role. Chris Rainey might have been able to help, but he texted himself out of commission. Caleb Sturgis being out at kicker has been gigantic. Matt Patchan's still missing at tackle, as are guys like Jon Halapio and James Wilson at guard. Andre Debose going out early in Saturday's game with an ankle injury removed someone who supposedly was going to play a meaningful role in the attack as well. Chris Dunkley might have been a factor at receiver this season but will likely redshirt with a hamstring injury. All of these things are clearly out of anyone's control, and have to be taken into account when judging the situation.
To me, the biggest thing Florida fans have to be concerned about can be summed up in a comment Chris Spielman made early in Saturday's game. After noting UF's struggle with blitz pickup (on a play where neither of the tackles Marcus Gilbert or Xavier Nixon either one came close to blocking the defensive ends either), Spielman mentioned he had discussed the topic with offensive coordinator and line coach Steve Addazio leading up to the game and Addazio said they were fine. To quote Spielman, "Right now, you're not fine." If Addazio refuses to acknowledge problems, it's hard to have a lot of faith he knows what's necessary to solve them. The things he tried at times to get the offense going Saturday night were nothing short of bizarre.
Going for it on 4th and 1 at your own 39 down ten early in the second quarter is the act of a desperate team. If you're doing it, you have to come with the best possible play call you have. Addazio inserted Jordan Reed to run a wildcat look at quarterback, the first time he had taken a snap in the game, and brought Robert Clark in motion toward the short side of the field. Reed handed it off to Clark - not sure if he had the option to keep it himself or not. The timing of Reed and Clark wasn't good (go figure, since neither guy had touched the ball yet) and MSU read it all the way. It didn't have a chance in hell of succeeding. The defense bailed them out, or the game would have been over right then.
Later in the quarter, once Florida actually put together a drive into MSU's red zone, it was time for another critical call. It's 3rd and 5, and you again need one of your best plays. Addazio's call was for Brantley to run an option to the right which was clearly supposed to set up a pitch to what appeared to be Deonte Thompson lining up in the backfield. The play was blown up and never had a chance, because it made no sense. If you want to run option against a blitzing team that's been blowing up your OL all half, you can not do it with your slowest possible choice at the QB position. How could that possibly have seemed like the best choice in that situation?
Was the idea behind the bizarre Brantley call that MSU wouldn't expect it? That certainly wasn't a priority on any of the Trey Burton stuff, because he never threw a single pass to force them to respect that threat despite being a quarterback. The Bulldogs weren't even covering John Brantley on numerous plays when he lined up at WR, meaning whatever offensive numerical edge is gained by having a running QB is nullified. There's never been any indication of using Brantley off a reverse from a sweep to throw deep either - so why bother even having him out there?
As frustrated as people justifiably are with Addazio, Brantley's level of play has not been good enough to win. Whatever the factors are - his injuries, concern he won't have enough time to make the throw, being shuffled in and out of the position, maybe inexperience too - he's not making accurate enough passes or going through enough reads. There were times in that game where plays were actually there to be made and he either settled for shorter options or failed to make the necessary throw. There's no question the failure of his line to deliver plays a significant role in that. The continuing inability of guys like Mike Pouncey to play at the level they have previously shown they are capable of is baffling.
I hope Gator fans haven't all gone completely nuts - lord knows some of my friends apparently have. Among the suggestions/ideas I heard on my drive back from Charlotte were to fire Steve Addazio immediately, fire Teryl Austin immediately, bench John Brantley permanently "because he sucks", and demand Urban Meyer resign if he doesn't get to Atlanta "because the talent's too good not to be there". Midseason firings of staffers accomplish nothing (ask Tommy Tuberville how well his decision to do that his final year at Auburn worked out for him), and while there are people on Florida's staff like Brian White with previous OC experience I'm not sure the schemes he's run square up well with either Florida's current personnel or the schemes they've been using.
Anyone suggesting UF should remotely consider ousting a guy who's won two BCS titles and another BCS bowl game in his first five years if this year turns into a total failure is too stupid to boil water. If Urban Meyer had actually taken a full year leave of absence and this was going on, fans would want him to come back and fix it. Do some of the current problems stem from the "leave of absence" situation? Probably, but that doesn't mean Meyer's lost his coaching mojo for good. The next two weeks will determine whether this season turns into a disaster or a semi-disappointing transitional year in Gainesville. With time to focus on improvements rather than a game and for guys to heal, perhaps there will be meaningful progress versus Georgia. If there's not, even Steve Addazio won't be able to say things are fine.