Here are 10 things we’ve learned about the 2021 version of Florida football as the Gators' bye week comes to an end and they prepare to get back on the field next Saturday against No. 1 Georgia.
1) Changes need to be made
Florida sits at three losses before November for the first time since Jim McElwain was canned in 2017. It feels similar to last year with a good team losing games, in absolute head-scratching fashion, to teams it should beat. With that and the recruiting still performing well under-par, it shows Dan Mullen needs to adapt after this season or he'll metaphorically die.
2) The defense is better, but still spotty
This unit played some pretty good football at times so far in 2021. Despite the LSU result, it's not complete Swiss cheese this season. It's hard to argue with allowing just 20 points a game defensively. Although, lapses still maintain their presence. And the coaches on that side of the ball lose a ton of credit when the defense can't stop or adjust to a run play called over 15 times in a game.
3) No more air raid
Florida's reverted back to what Dan Mullen likes to do: run the damn ball. Average carries per game are up by 10 while passes per game are down the same number compared to 2020 and 2019 and the play breakdown actually matches those of the 2018 offense. Why wouldn't you want to run the ball though? Especially with the stable of backs and pair of quarterbacks Mullen has.
4) Florida still doesn't have its ideal STAR
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson made this position look easy when he started there for the Gators in 2018. Now he's an NFL corner. Since then, Florida ran through several guys they hoped could fill the spot. This year's man is Tre'Vez Johnson. One snap he makes a great play like those two interceptions and some big hits out in the flat. And then another he's getting beat in coverage or taking a poor angle on a tackle. He could very well develop into the position but right now Johnson is at best inconsistent in a very difficult role.
5) The QB position is still very fluid post-Kyle Trask
Emory Jones won/earned the job to start this season. He's done some things to retain it while doing other things that kept him from having a stranglehold on it. That coupled with Anthony Richardson's electric play at times have fans split once again on who should be taking snaps behind center. This leads to Florida's third big quarterback decision in 10 years. With how the season's played out thus far at the position, it'll be interesting how the rest of the schedule will affect its depth chart further.
6) Anthony Richardson can be the real deal
Everyone's been excited for "AR15" since he hit campus. We didn't see him much in 2020 but the excitement was still there for the hometown kid. Now he's getting some run and making the most of it. The kid has a rocket arm and elite athleticism. He showed in multiple games this season the propensity to make quick decisions and let it rip when the bullets are flying. My two cents? He's probably just still raw on the ins and outs of the offense and prone to freshman mistakes. More vocal fans are willing to live with those because the more playing time he gets can only result in him being that much better in 2022.
7) So can Gervon Dexter
As I've said before, I am a sucker for defensive linemen and tackles. Dexter is a bright spot on the Gator defense as the presence of Antonio Valentino and Daquan Newkirk alleviated some of the pressure at the position. Even without sack numbers he’s been quite disruptive in the passing game and is showing good strength. If he keeps playing and showing the promise he did to this point over the rest of the schedule, 2022 will be a big year for him.
8) It's definitely a "rebuilding year"
UF lost a lot of talent from the 2020 team and 2021 has featured a young secondary, some question marks as to who will step up at wide receiver and not to mention a first-time starter at quarterback. Fans likely expected the Gators to be competitive but probably not make any waves in the SEC (I saw a lot of 9-3 takes early on, it was personally my take too). But with those three losses coming so early and a Jekyll and Hyde team on the field, it's even more evident this season is supposed to build for 2022. That said, hard to not think it's been disappointing given how the Gators lost.
9) Offensive line is good but showing signs of regression
The Gators posted some insane rushing totals in the first few games of the season. Part of that was thanks to an offensive line mauling opposing defensive lines. But, as of late, the line's had a game featuring 8 false starts against Kentucky and couldn't find much of a push vs. LSU. They've had some really good pass protection but BJ Ojulari and the LSU pass rush seemed to abuse Gator tackles on both sides in that game. However, the line dealt with injuries through the first seven games so that might be a cause.
10) The young guns are showing promise
It's not just Richardson and Dexter, several of some young players showed out the first seven games. Injuries forced Jason Marshall Jr. and Avery Helm into the starting cornerback roles for a few games. After some shakiness, we haven't really heard their names called in a bad way. Rashad Torrence is coming along too making plays in the run and passing game. Don't forget Ty'Ron Hopper flying around too.