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Florida Football

Former Florida Player Feedback: 10 Observations

January 12, 2021
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Former Florida defensive end Johnie Church (1992-1995) shares 10 observations on Florida football to close out the 2020 season and look ahead to 2021.

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10 Observations Newsfeed

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1) Well, how do we sum up 2020? We start with the most prolific offense in quite some time in Gainesville, and we end with the worst defense I've ever seen in the Orange & Blue. I'm praying that this paradigm stays constant for the offense, yet paradoxical for our defense (I really need my statement to sound absurd next season for the defense). In total, a season that showed so much promise ended on a moderate slide and left everyone with a bit of a blank stare on their faces. We must move forward!

2) I said prior to the year that this will be a transitional season on defense (August 10 Observations). The number of new bodies in the front-seven, coupled with COVID-19 and no spring practice was an early abomination waiting to happen. So, I knew the offense would be in sync much faster and capable of carrying the load earlier in the season as the defense figured it out. However, THE DEFENSE NEVER FIGURED IT OUT! We just looked lost 50-60% of the time, and that was from the front to the back end. That alone cost us A LOT of big plays over the course of the season. By just simply being able to line up correctly, we could have put some sutures on and saved LSU, Texas A&M, and possibly even the Alabama games. Shootouts are spectacular to watch, but not when we are having shootouts with everyone! Our players defensively definitely added to the share of on-field issues as well. Hell, in the SEC Championship game, we literally got off the field on third down on three different possessions in the first half; and a player somehow gave them new life with each stop. They scored a touchdown every possession we did it! At this stage (three recruiting cycles), we should have players in the wings to snatch up reps for the starters who constantly make grave mistakes during crucial periods.

3) Let's switch it up: We played an all-SEC schedule, dealt with COVID-19 issues weekly, beat Georgia, got to the SEC game, where we took the Tide to the wire! Where there's a frown, one can SMILE; and I believe the silver lining isn't far off. I'm still wondering how NO ONE could really stop our offense with nary a running game & an immobile quarterback in a passing offense. There's some helluva adjustments, tweaking, and strategizing going on in our offensive playbook. We developed a Heisman Trophy candidate, a Mackey Award winner, and one of the most exciting offenses in the history of college football. Here's a prophetic reality, we should be downright scary with a big-play running game to match next season. Get your Forrest Gump shoes ready, because we will be run-ning, and run-ning, and run-ning!

4) I can't believe it: I still don't see our special teams as being "special" for us, BUT, Evan McPherson has been amazing, and I did not see him declaring for the draft (but I do understand it). We've been so outstanding with placekickers and punters in recent times that I'm nervous when we have to find another prematurely. We STILL need a kick and punt return dynamo. We've been without one for too long in that special team's category. They are GAME-CHANGERS, especially late in close games.

5) Regardless of how our season ended, our brand is re-emerging! People are talking about Gator football again with some respect attached to it. We must acknowledge brand builders (or rebuilders if it fits) within our athletic departments. The "brand" is alive again and the "marketer" is Coach Dan Mullen. We must understand that every top brand doesn't always hit on all cylinders & have misses as well. What we must respect is that they know what they're doing from experience and that their ability to innovate and get above the curve is what increases the brand value. We're not going into games with sinful prayers of being able to keep it close anymore. We're going into every one with the expectation of a win now! That wasn't a reality a short time ago!

6) Let's fast-forward to 2021: The offense will look entirely different! We will have an unbelievable amount of balance next season and more of a power element on offense instead of finesse. There will be a lot of two-tight end sets I believe. One will probably operate as an H-back type, while the other operates in a more traditional role. We will most likely have a 1,000-yard rusher next year coupled with a 1,000-yard receiver as well. Our offensive line needs the biggest improvement in run-blocking, because I believe they will be counted on to open holes with the same consistency they have as pass-blockers.

7) We need that powerful, home-run hitter that we don't have to take out for any reason on offense. We've been a back-by-committee for Mullen's tenure, so it's time to find "the back" (see Travis Etienne/Najee Harris). Therefore, we can run plays without many personnel changes; which slows the game up, allows for defensive changes, and keys coordinators as to our potential plays we will call. Who will that back be?

8) At wide receiver, it appears we have our hands full at developing what's on the roster (via the Oklahoma snapshot). There was some horrible route-running in that game, more drops than an Internet artist trying to get signed to a label, and a lack of competing for contested balls. What that group put out there left a lot to be desired, but I'll put that on youth and timing. They looked more cohesive with Emory Jones in the game, and that makes sense, since they most likely are playing together in practice.

9) We've made some changes to position coaches on defense & it will be a wait & see as to the benefits that may come from that. Everyone with Gator blood flowing through their veins wants the defensive coordinator gone! I get it, the defense looked putrid often, & everyone looks confused. I equate what I've witnessed from Coach Todd Grantham's defense to what I've seen from say, Brent Venables at Clemson. It's complex as hell, without any visible base concept, yet can give offenses fits when executed. My point would be, simplify it for kids to just go out and fly around naturally, OR, put together a football I.Q. test and query new players on the concepts associated with his defensive philosophy. Everyone loves a mad scientist until they blow up the lab! I LOVE unorthodox concepts and creating systems for the pieces you have on the roster (which I think he does), but I also know that a dawg that knows how to hunt, attacks prey without rules instead of the one who can't decipher which prey to attack because they're "thinking". Probably a bad analogy, but it makes sense in my head.

10) With that being said, our head coach believes in Grantham, and he is staying. He needs to fix his third-down efficiency, as that has peeked out far too many times over these initial seasons, BUT, we've still yielded Top 10 defenses under him in a wide-open CFB world. On offense, we've scored a lot faster than most offenses because we haven't had balance running the football and lengthening drives. He's been tasked with incorporating his 'wild-style' defense with minimal times to make adjustments in between series time and time again. There is a sweet science to balancing a game between the offense and defense as well. I'm assuming Coach Mullen understands that behind-the-scenes and looks to see how it comes out with a balanced and more time-consuming offense that should arrive next season.

Former Florida Player Feedback: 10 Observations

2,294 Views | 8 Replies | Last: 3 mo ago by cyclogator
gatrkd50
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I don't understand how we are going to have a power run game. We couldn't run the ball these last few years with the same OL and this season we will have some other pieces that are unproven. I see alot of holes to plug in this sinking ship .
From the Swamp
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Because Jones will keep defenses off balance because unlike Trask he can run.
OrangeandBlue
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I'm worried about our receivers too. They showed in the bowl game that they aren't ready for prime time.

Our passing game is going to take a big step backwards next year.
Comountaingator
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Bowman and a healthy Lingard will make major strides, improving our running game when combined with a running QB. The addition of a few portal transfers on the O line wouldn't hurt either!
gatrkd50
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I understand the players that will be returning to run the ball . I have no issues with the problem is doesn't matter who is back their if the OL is shaky.
UFgator52-20
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This is always the best, most real, outlook we get on the team.

He doesn't let being a former player make him a cheerleader but he doesn't take any cheap shots on the players either.

I would like to know what he thinks are record will be next year?
Jchurch40
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You can't really call those things with a new QB (most likely an entirely new offensive philosophy) at the helm and the losses of Pitts/Toney/Grimes. I'm sure offense will still be one of the best on a national level. What transpires with the defense will be where our wins/losses will be determined. It will take game 3 or 4 for me to grasp a feel what our record might be.
cyclogator
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Jchurch40 said:

You can't really call those things with a new QB (most likely an entirely new offensive philosophy) at the helm and the losses of Pitts/Toney/Grimes. I'm sure offense will still be one of the best on a national level. What transpires with the defense will be where our wins/losses will be determined. It will take game 3 or 4 for me to grasp a feel what our record might be.
I have no worries about the offensive side of the ball with Coach Mullen on our sideline. I am very critical of Coach Mullen about some things but what the offense did this year was beyond expected and shows he can put a quality product on the field when we have the ball. The offense has gotten better every year since Coach Mullen took over and when he did take over it was horrible. There are very few formation penalties, false starts and delay of games. It is a solid team of players all on the same sheet of music and Coach Mullen gets all that praise for it.

However, the defense looks to be the exact opposite. The defense Coach Mullen took over was a very good defense. Solid and stocked with some good talent. Since taking over as the head coach, the defense has trended downward each year. This year there was no improvement to be seen with exception to the DL getting some depth 3-4 games in to the season. They look lost and confused regularly and commit dumb penalties all the time. Compared to the offense, it is opposite ends of the spectrum.

To me, this seems obvious that Coach Mullen doesn't really get involved with defensive game planning or coaching. The offense is there for all us to see as an endorsement to Coach Mullen's ability to visualize a game plan and develop of coaching strategy for the team but we don't see the same pattern on the defense. It is very frustrating to see everything line up on one side of the ball while seeing the other side of the ball look lost with no hope.

Does this raise any flags in your mind about how far Coach Mullen can take a program?
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