Florida Football 3-2-1: D-Line improving, O-Line regressing

Dec 7, 2020 | 0 comments

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With the SEC East title clinched, the No. 6 Gators will look to continue their defensive progress and get the offense firing on all cylinders in their regular-season finale against LSU (3-5). The Tigers are loaded with talent and are the defending national champions but are limping to the finish line this season. Florida (8-1) could use an emphatic ending to the regular season to build momentum heading into the showdown with Alabama in Atlanta.

Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction as UF enters LSU week.

Three Observations

1) It goes without saying, but the offensive line’s performance against Tennessee was abysmal. They generated only 19 rushing yards and gave up multiple sacks for the first time this season. The longest run by a running back was just four yards. After starting off the season strong, the offensive line has regressed over the last three games. While far from a dominant rushing team by choice, the Gators were able to run the ball when they needed to in their first six games, which allowed Dan Mullen to use his full playbook on key downs. Now, he’s having to call passes on third-and-short just like he did last year. That’s not a recipe for success against Alabama. They’ve got to get the offensive line going again and possibly make a change at right tackle.

2) Meanwhile, the other line of scrimmage is going the opposite way for the Gators. The defensive line is starting to dominate games more consistently. They recorded a season-high six sacks and gave up just 143 rushing yards (not counting sacks) to a team who’s only hope to win the game was predicated around running the ball. Outside of one long touchdown drive, they also controlled the line of scrimmage against Kentucky. It’s true that both of those teams are offensively challenged, to say the least, but that’s still a far cry from earlier in the season when you could count the number of times they touched the quarterback per game on one hand. Brenton Cox seemed to hit Tennessee’s quarterback on every play and, unfortunately, sometimes after the play as well. Zachary Carter has been in the backfield consistently. It’ll be interesting to see if their progress is for real or if it’s merely a mirage created by playing a couple of bad offenses.

3) The atmosphere following this SEC East championship felt very different from that of the 2015 and 2016 titles. When UF won those two titles under Jim McElwain, they celebrated on the field for a long time. The school immediately started advertising division title merchandise. It felt like winning the East was the pinnacle of their season, and they were just happy to be in the SEC Championship Game. The celebration felt more subdued this time. The postgame press conference was filled with discussion of what they need to improve on and how clinching the division wasn’t their only goal this season. It feels like they’ll head to Atlanta this year expecting to win instead of hoping to win as they did in 2015 and 2016. Maybe it’s because they clinched the division on the road in front of a small crowd this time, but the mood felt vastly different.

Two Questions

1) Can the offense snap out of its funk against LSU? The offense hasn’t been bad over the past three games by any means, but when you set the bar as ridiculously high as they did early this season, the past few weeks have felt disappointing. Due to missed throws, penalties, and a missed field goal, they arguably left 24 points out on the field against Tennessee. Fortunately, they’ll get to play against an LSU team that appears to have checked-out for the season. The Tigers gave up 55 points and 650 yards to Alabama on Saturday. They’ve also given up 48 points to Auburn, 45 points to Missouri and 44 points to Mississippi State. The defending national champions have nothing left to play for this season, so this should be a game where Kyle Trask puts up huge numbers in the first half, and they’re able to take him out by the end of the third quarter.

2) Will Trey Dean get more playing time moving forward? Shawn Davis didn’t make the trip to Knoxville, and Rashad Torrence left the game with an injury in the first few minutes. That left the Gators with two safeties that they trust for the bulk of the game. Dean played well, finishing second on the team with eight tackles, including a sack. Some of his tackles were tough plays in space that the safeties that normally play over him might not have made. He’s played well in his opportunities all season, but he’s been the clear No. 4 safety in a four-man rotation. Does that change after his latest performance?

One Prediction

1) Trask will break Danny Wuerffel’s school record for passing touchdowns in a season on Florida’s third drive against LSU. Trask currently sits at 38 touchdowns, which is one behind Wuerffel’s mark. He’ll tie the record on UF’s opening drive, and, after a punt or a field goal on their second drive, he’ll claim his spot atop the record book late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter. With the SEC Championship Game and at least one postseason game remaining, he’ll have a chance to finish the season with around 50 touchdown passes.


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