A few things have to be acknowledged when looking at this season's Florida football team. They've suffered a remarkable number of injuries, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Between losing Matt Patchan before the season and James Wilson during the year plus other guys getting nicked up, there's been a less than ideal blend on the line. The kicker's not available for around half the season. Jeff Demps is banged up and missed the most recent game after he shouldn't have been used against Alabama. John Brantley himself is also not right physically, although just how badly he's hurt isn't clear. It's impossible to know how big a factor those things have been in the poor play of the Gator attack, but they clearly do play a role. Having said that, with the season at the halfway point it's impossible to ignore the reality that this group is not coming close to fulfilling its potential.
So what needs to happen now? Here are my thoughts:
1. More receivers have to play. Deonte Thompson and Carl Moore have been useful, but there has to be a way to get young guys on the field. Andre Debose, Robert Clark and Stephen Alli have athleticism that can help a team. If they don't know the full package, figure out one they can run and use it. This edition of Florida is not good enough to refuse to use players as a motivational tactic. Trey Burton is not Percy Harvin - there's no reason he should be the primary weapon at this point of his career.
2. Mike Gillislee almost always seems to be productive when he touches the ball. He's a sophomore. Emmanuel Moody's a senior, and while people have waited for him to be the force he was touted as coming from USC it's never really happened. Gillislee averages two more yards a carry and a yard more per catch, plus he's someone who's still improving. It's time for more 23 and less 21.
3. There has to be a more efficient way of calling plays to avoid wasting timeouts and rushed snaps that lead to penalties. The perfect example came in the first quarter with a first and goal at the 6. There was obvious confusion by the 17 second mark on the play clock, and time out called at the 10 second mark. What did Steve Addazio come up with? The exact same Burton up the middle "wildcat" look that everyone in the building anticipates for a one yard gain. What was the problem there? Why is the playcalling process so slow? Why have the gameplans been so poor that the only team Florida's scored on in the first quarter is Kentucky? Shouldn't those early plays be creative stuff you've got to attack the opponent based on what you've seen on tape?
4. It's understandable when a freshman like Jon Halapio gets blown up by an SEC defensive lineman. It's not when it's happening to seniors like Marcus Gilbert and Mike Pouncey. Whatever people may think about his playcalling, Steve Addazio is a good offensive line coach. Do some of these guys have senioritis, and if so what can be done to change that?
Florida could desperately use a bye week this week. Instead, they get Dan Mullen and a decent Mississippi State team coming to town. Florida should be able to beat the Bulldogs, but the contrast between what Mullen is doing with a stable of players nowhere near as talented as UF's and what is happening in the Swamp could make some people very uncomfortable Saturday evening.
When Florida changed their offense in 2005, Mullen told me they went to Chris Leak and asked him what plays he was most comfortable running in various situations and built the plan around that. At this point, it appears a similar conversation with Brantley would be wise for the Gator staff.
There are fewer obvious issues on the defensive side of the ball, but LSU repeatedly exposed UF directly down the middle of the field with Terrence Tolliver because of horrible tackling by the Gator secondary. For all the hype about the fake field goal (and for the record, I think it was a forward pass although I've given up trying to figure out what replay refs are thinking), it was actually not that effective a call. All it netted LSU was a new set of downs with no timeouts and 27 seconds remaining at the UF 31. The killer for Florida was once again getting gashed down the middle to the three on the next play. If Will Hill doesn't feel like playing this year, put him back on the bench and keep him there.
Georgia finally getting a win was a positive for Mark Richt, but the happiness didn't last too long. Tailback Caleb King was taken into custody on a bench warrant for failure to appear in court or pay his fine from a speeding ticket. Should Richt hammer him for that? I'd think not, but considering the "enough is enough" tone he set with the dismissal of the most recent player to run afoul of the law Richt might feel he needs to do something to discipline King and show he's serious about getting the Dawg arrest issues in check. Meanwhile, can someone explain why athletes seem to constantly trip up on stuff like this? Sure speeding tickets are annoying, but you still have to pay them. It's not that hard a concept.
North Carolina football's performance this season has been remarkably strong considering all the players who've had to miss time while in NCAA limbo. After winning three in a row, they finally got official word yesterday three of their stars won't be back. The really puzzling part of the whole thing is that two of these kids could have gone pro but chose to return for another year. Maybe they thought their stock would go up with another successful season, but if Marvin Austin and Greg Little wanted trips to Miami that bad they could have had as many as they wanted. By returning, they chose to delay that another eleven months. Apparently they thought this was a "best of both worlds" option. My wife did a story on Robert Quinn in high school and liked him. This is a kid who beat a brain tumor to emerge as a top college football player and likely first rounder. He couldn't wait a few more months for "two black diamond watches, a pair of matching earrings and travel to Miami"? There should be ways for star kids to make money while in college - my suggestion remains allowing them to do endorsements - but this stuff appears to had little to do with needing money and everything to do with wanting to live the NFL lifestyle before it was actually available to them.