- WCC Insider: Florida commit to see Miami
- Grading the offensive two-deep depth chart
- Grading the defensive two-deep depth chart
- Watch: Behind-the-Scenes look at the Rushing family’s visit to Florida
Former Florida walk-on quarterback Nick Sproles (2016-2018) shares 10 observations on Florida football after the Gators’ 45-35 loss to LSU.
1. Any football fan who watched this game knows how much Florida struggled on third and long. LSU was 8/12 on third downs and 2/2 on fourth downs, with many of those third down conversions being third and 8+ yards. While we do have some personnel issues, this also appears to be a schematic issue. Bail coverage and giving up easy stop routes beyond the sticks was a common theme vs LSU as well as vs Tennessee. At the end of the day, Jason Marshall Jr. and Jaydon Hill are highly recruited players and talented individuals. I would rather see these teams earn these third-down conversations instead of giving it up to wide-open receivers running through open zones. However, Jalen Kimber and Jayden Hill did both get beaten for touchdowns over the top. The Gators have many issues defensively and the secondary appears to be one of the weakest links.
2. When you think back to the 2020 team, you think of a very good pass-blocking team that was very poor at run-blocking. Flash forward to 2022 and the roles have been reversed. The Florida Gator run game is probably at the best it’s been in a while. However, our pass protection is not performing as well. The sack number may not be big, but that has more to do with Anthony Richardson‘s ability to move around. Poor pass blocking is apparent throughout the game, but the easiest way to see it is on our Hail Mary attempts. Think back to the Hail Mary vs Tennessee as well as our Hail Mary attempt vs LSU to end the half. AR had little to no time in those situations. In obvious passing downs without having the ability to use play action, our offensive line has struggled significantly.
3. Trevor Etienne has been electric with the ball in his hands all year and I think everyone wants to see him on the field more. However, we have to question if his pass protection knowledge is what is contributing to him not being on the field as much as one would like. On a third and six with five minutes left in the second quarter, LSU lined up like they were going to bring six defenders and that’s exactly what they did, no disguise, no delayed blitz, they showed six and brought six. The line went 3-man slide to the left and Etienne also went left causing LSU to have three rushers on the right side vs our two blockers. Despite the fact that they brought six rushers and we had six in pass protection, LSU had a free rusher. Under Dan Mullen’s offense, this would have been an easy pick-up and we would have gone 5 on 5 with the offensive line and the running back picking up the extra rusher. I’m not sure how the Gators were supposed to pick up this six-man blitz under Billy Napier’s offense, but however they were supposed to they did not execute, as AR was sacked causing a punt that the Gators could not afford in this shootout of a game. The same goes for Lorenzo Lingard. After a couple of big plays by him on the drive, on a third and four with just over seven minutes left in the third quarter he badly whiffed blitzing linebacker Gregg Penn, causing Richardson to have to throw the ball away while back peddling. I don’t remember seeing much of Lingard after that.
4. The defense had some moments where they looked impressive (not including 3rd downs) and moments when they looked very bad. One instance that caught my eye was the opening run of the second half. It appeared Gervon Dexter had a tackle in the backfield for no gain, but poor tackling and lack of pursuit turned a no-gain run to a 50 yard carry by LSU’s Josh Williams. Giving up runs like that and lacking the ability to contain Jayden Daniels on the ground was a big part of UF’s many defensive woes. UF gave up 106-yards on the ground to Williams and 44 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns to quarterback Jayden Daniels. However, as always, Ventrell Miller left his heart on the field and despite getting beat in coverage has continued to be one of the lone bright spots on the Florida defense.
5. Now on to Anthony Richardson, who is an unbelievable athlete and the expected QB to turn around this program. Anthony was 15/25 for 185 yards through the air and tacked on 109 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown. Richardson showed his explosiveness with some nice runs in big moments that kept the Gators in the game. He played well but there are definitely times when you would like to see him be more accurate and I think he would agree. Some short throws where he puts the ball low or on the wrong shoulder are throws that he is expected to be accurate with. Richardson has a long way to go but I believe he is the guy going forward and will be able to fully put it together at some point in his career.
6. The discussion around roughing the passer calls has taken over the game of football in recent years. The roughing the passer call against Dexter may have been the “right” call according to the rule book, but that needs to change. As a former quarterback, these guys need to be hit, and overprotecting them is just hurting the game of football. Under no circumstances should that have been a roughing the passer call on Jason Marshall’s interception. That play could have resulted in one of Florida’s few stops and would have put Florida in a position to tie the game. Speaking on the other end, the reversed call on AR’s fumble on UF’s final drive of the game also made no sense to me. Ultimately, the Gators lost this game and we can only point our fingers at ourselves and not the refs.
7. The Florida offensive line has been led by Louisiana transfer O’Cyrus Torrence this season, but with his injury the Gators needed an offensive lineman to step up. And despite mediocre play by the offensive line in passing situations, I thought freshman Austin Barber looked promising. I watched the first half with a former Gators’ offensive lineman and he made several comments about how impressed he was with Barber. I began to key on Barber and was impressed with his physical presence as well as his technique. And then the following week Barber goes on to be recognized as a Mid-season Freshman All-American. Hopefully, Barber can continue to improve and Napier can build a solid offensive line around him in the future.
8. Per usual, the Gators rotated in 3 running backs to tote the rock to contribute to the prolific rushing attack. However, this game featured Montrell Johnson, Trevor Etienne, and Lorenzo Lingard with Nayquan Wright receiving 0 carries. It’s a very talented running back room as I feel any of these guys have the ability to be electric with the ball in their hands. It will be interesting to watch this running back rotation as we continue throughout the season. Personally, I feel Etienne and Johnson have separated themselves on the field this year as far as running the ball goes. However, I am slightly biased toward Nayquan since we did play together and I know how dangerous he can be with the ball in his hands. I really do like all three and it will be interesting to watch this running back rotation as we continue throughout the season.
9. Florida’s pass offense is much different than we’ve seen in the past. Florida relies on the play-action and seems like it’s a big play or bust in the passing game. There have been a lot of 2 man or 3 man routes that leave Richardson with few options if the first read is not available. Our wide receiver room is not by any means a strength that could contribute to Florida’s lack of success in obvious passing downs. I’m very high on Trent Whittemore and thought he would be a huge factor this year. I’m surprised he hasn’t been getting more action.
10. A lot of things need to happen going forward to turn this program around and I hope Billy Napier is the guy to do it. He appears to be an authentic coach and a good guy who is recruiting very well on the trail. Only time will tell if he can be successful in the SEC, once he can fill this Florida roster with his guys. Let’s be patient with Coach Napier as the rebuilding process can be a difficult one. I still have faith in Coach Napier and hope he can make some adjustments in the second half of the season to keep these Gators competitive.