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Florida Football

Former Florida Player Feedback: 10 Observations

November 5, 2019

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Former Florida defensive end Johnie Church (1992-1995) shares 10 observations on Florida football after the Gators 24-17 loss to Georgia.

1) All is lost this season! Wrong!! We're at where we probably anticipated we would be at, as team at this point. Practice humbleness in your wins as well as your losses. Georgia out game-planned us early on, with the help of some loving referee 'play-calling'. Barring an after-game meltdown like we saw last season against Missouri, we should finish out at 10-2 and ranked in the top seven (maybe). This, in year two! The Bulldogs still have a November gauntlet of Missouri, Auburn and Texas A&M. It's unlikely they lose 2-3, but definitely not improbable with those three teams.

2) The biggest elephant in the room is that our offensive-line are pass blockers and not even decent run-blockers. It takes a lot of creativity to try to move the ball against probably the best defense in the country while trying to work around that unit in the run game. Regardless, we have to at least get positive yards and balance to make an opponent not be able to lean so one-sided when game-planning for us. The best players on our line just aren't good at run-blocking. Trust that these are our best as 80-percent are first year starters and not true freshmen. The depth and improved run game should come next season. For this year, it is what it is!

3) With all that "stemming" (defensive line movement pre & post snap) early on, I thought Kirby was Smart (do you get that reference) in understanding that our offensive line doesn't adjust quickly to movement up front. It made for a dismal first half for us offensively. I thought we should have went tempo by the third series to keep them from forcing our line to adjust on-the-fly on the snap. They would have had to sit in place or show their intended alignment from the start. It helped stifle the run game and helped to cause different levels for their guys to penetrate freely.

4) I never saw panic in our players or coaches, and that's a sign of a confident staff. Yeah, people think the pass on fourth and half-a-yard by our offense was stupid, but these coaches know the players and their capabilities vs certain other players. Our strength is our passing game! Whether short-yardage or not, with this line as a whole, we win more with passes to backs. It's not typical, but it's necessary at this stage and the coaching staff knows that.

5) Ours players are competing against elite competition! We are so close in such a short time frame, that we should be excited for our immediate future. We're fighting, scratching, clawing, etc....There’s fighters, and then there’s prey! Prey just give in at the first sign of danger without an ounce of resistance. There are people who die at sea within a few minutes of being in the water, all while knowing how to swim, and there are people who live for days on end while at sea while barely knowing how to swim. I think we need to recognize that our staff has conditioned our players to BELIEVE and ALWAYS go down swinging. I personally knew we were going to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter. I KNEW IT!

6) Watch the first few series on defense. Jabari Zuniga with Jonathan Greenard at top health is absolutely destructive in both the run and pass game. Zuniga was spot-played all day. That means the kid is still no where close to 100%. Our goal was to limit D’Andre Swift and we did that, for the most part. The BEAR Front (five-man front with the nose, heavy five-techniques, and stand-up end) is a run-stopping front, predicated on eliminating gaps. In obvious passing downs, we went with a four man rush while the Bulldogs were going with 5-6 man protection. They doubled the ends and isolated the tackles. It allowed for a lot of time on third and long; and we never got off the field.

7) Blitzing: Third & Grantham! We have won with dramatic finishes with this and have had a few horrendous third down days with it (back-to-back against UGA). We can't love the guys defense one minute and despise it the next. It's unorthodox, but I think it's solid and has some rules that most people can't see or decipher. The biggest thing I see is players understanding route trees and recognizing spacing relationships. Remember, we're in year two playing in his defense where 82% of our defensive starters weren't recruited nor analyzed for his defense. There's only two! That's Greenard & Trey Dean

8) Speaking of Trey Dean, the project with him as the STAR needs to end now! He's being exploited so badly, that it has to have an effect on his confidence and psyche. Let's move him back to safety, his more natural position to me, and allow him to showcase his range from a wide angle that showed so much promise last season. That position appears on TV to be more of a nickel type role (which CGJ mastered). He's too long and appears to not fully grasp the spacing and route concepts needed to flourish there. I think Shaw Davis would be better in this position and maybe interchange the two, as Davis appears to be more twitchy and a shorter body. Dean is a baller and looked much better playing off as a true freshman than playing tight coverage near the line this season.

9) One defining point I noticed during the last crucial third & long was the all-out middle blitz on Jake Fromm, which had to be expected to get home. Maybe this is on the player not recognizing the situation, or maybe it's coached this way (I don't know). But, why was our safety 10-yards off the tight end at that moment in a blitz that is definitely going to force it out of the quarterback’s hand, fast. Unless their name is Kyle Pitts, that tight end is not going to beat you on a route. I thought we needed to sit the safety back around 5-7 yards and semi-press him before he gets into an uncontested route. That ended our comeback bid.

10) All-in-all, we are a legitimate top 10 team again.  Maybe even in the top six before it's all over. We CAN beat any team on any given day in the country. I'm going to ride that fact along with the fact that we should only be getting better in the years to come, barring a letdown! I'm ALL GATOR, ALL THE TIME!!!!


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