This weekly column is called Schemin’ with Seth, and we often talk about just that. We look at plays,talk about the scheme, and the design. What makes them work or why they may not work. But that is not the only side of coaching, and it may not even be the most important part.
One of the most important parts of coaching is understanding when adjustments are needed. This can be over the course of a game,a season or even over the course of a coaching tenure. One of the most difficult things to do as a first year head coach is understand why things aren’t working and when adjustments need to be made. When you are coming into a new program presumably there are some issues. That’s why they’re hiring a new coach. When you have problems in the first year, sometimes these issues can be attributed to problems stemming from the previous administration or they can be signs that things need to change to work.
It’s hard to decipher if things aren’t working because they need more time or things aren’t working because they’re never going to work. This is where Billy Napier stands now five games into his second season at Florida.It’s still early in the season, and the team is quite young in a bunch of spots, but it’s also a good examination point in terms of your process.
For example, let’s talk about the offense. There has been a lot of hand wringing about the offensive scheme and play calling under Billy Napier. In my opinion, the scheme is fine in a vacuum. I think most people say it’s bad, because it’s not the style of football they enjoy watching. However, the scheme does require certain things that Florida does not seem to have at the moment, the scheme requires good to great offensive line play. There is a lot to put on the front and I don’t think this is a surprise to Napier. This is somewhat by design. He understands the importance of the offensive line group and that’s why his offensive staff was built around having two offensive line coaches. If that unit is humming then this offense is really really tough to stop. In my mind, the schematic proposition of the Napier offense is this:
- Diverse Run game to force a heavy box
- Explosive shots over the top if you play run too much
- Intermediate crossers to explosive receivers if you try to stop the run and limit explosive shots
With this reliance on your group up front that means you need to recruit that position at an elite level. If you can do that you can be successful running this scheme. If you can’t, I think there’s going to be a little bit more variance than you would like. After the Kentucky game, and taking into account the whole season, I don’t think you can say Florida has a good to great offensive line group. They got pushed around at Utah, but you didn’t have your full starting unit out there. You could still convince yourself that when healthy this was a good to great unit. After the Kentucky game, it becomes a little tougher to convince yourself of that fact.
I am interested to see if there are any adjustments made to what you do offensively. There are things you can do that don’t require offensive lines to be great and those things are already built into the offense. We have seen them on occasion but maybe you have to rely on them a little more. You might see some more RPO or some more quick passing game. You may try to lighten the box a little bit formationally because, when you play the best defenses in the conference, this group is not gonna be able to get it done on a consistent basis. At least not based on the results so far this season.
Off the field, you can also look at the coaching staff structure. Special teams were not great last year and while I think they’ve gotten better, they continue to have a seemingly glaring mistake in every single game. At Louisiana, they did a good job on special teams using this exact same structure, and if you are Napier, you know you have had success with this structure.
Louisiana did a really good job investing in the football program in terms of building out that off the field staff. Napier often said he had a power five level off-field staff at a group of five job. Now, few others in the conference had that level of staffing investment. In similar fashion, Florida hired a bunch of people when Napier came on. Does the edge that this particular strategy gave you at Louisiana get minimized in the SEC where investment in staffing is on a more similar level? These are the questions you have to ask yourself. The answer could be simply that these things need more time, and sometimes you’re right. Sometimes you just need young guys to grow up a little bit. You take your lumps and once they grow up you’ll be the bully. But sometimes it’s not gonna work and the quicker you can see that the quicker you can move on, and in some cases save your job.
Now for the Kentucky game. Defensively, Florida got caught in bad calls a few times and Kentucky took advantage. The Wildcats also ran a lot more gap scheme runs than they had shown on film. That‘s the benefit of playing an easier out of conference schedule. Florida did not do a great job negotiating the pullers and I’m sure some fans had 2021 LSU flashbacks. Beyond a few wrinkles, the game was about physicality.
Let’s look at two basically identical plays. It looks like Duo for both teams. Florida puts a bunch set into the boundary and the back runs behind the bunch. Kentucky’s corner is left free and he’s able to make the tackle after a six or seven yard gain.
Kentucky came back with basically the same play. They have a bunch into the boundary and the back runs behind the bunch. Florida is caught in a slant call it appears and the corner is also left free here. And, unlike the Kentucky corner, he is unable to make the tackle.