Last week, we talked about knowing when to make adjustments versus letting things play out. Florida is playing a lot of young guys on both sides of the ball, so there is always the possibility that those guys will improve as they get more opportunities. So the question is do you stay the course or make some changes?
Against Vandy, you saw a little bit of both.There were a couple adjustments made on offense and you saw some young guys step up and play the best ball of their careers
First, let’s talk about a couple of those offensive adjustments. This week in the Gators Breakdown Plus Discord, we discussed that you may want to emphasize to Graham Mertz that when in doubt, throw it out. At times in the Kentucky game, Graham Mertz seemed to err on the side of running the ball when he could’ve just as easily thrown it to the perimeter. Doing so will give you more favorable numbers in the run game and also make the defense cognizant of defending the full width of the field. And if they don’t and you throw it to Tre Wilson, you can pick up an easy seven or eight yards seemingly every time. I thought Mertz did a much better job in handling these pre-snap looks against Vanderbilt. There were even a couple times where the read was a little foggy but he let it rip and Wilson was able to make him right by breaking a tackle. These perimeter throws were especially important because of the missing pieces you had on the offensive line. Florida was again down multiple starters upfront, but the plan did a great job of getting those guys in a comfort zone. There were a lot of quick plays to the perimeter and some window dressing to hit the ball up inside.
The other adjustment offensively wants to run some more gap run schemes. As we spoke about after the Tennessee game, gap runs involve down blocks and pullers. These types of schemes allow you to get good angles for your lineman and pulling people creates extra gaps for the opponent to defend. According to one charting service, Florida was about 50-50 between zone runs and gap runs against Vanderbilt. This will be the highest rate of gap runs this season. The line did a good job executing these. I wonder if we see this frequency stay higher throughout the season.
Additionally, Florida didn’t just run the same gaps schemes they had previously. They added some new wrinkles and one of them was a toss sweep into the boundary.
In the red zone, Florida got into 12 personnel, and shifted into a bunch formation into the boundary.
After the shift the Gators had Vandy outmanned into the boundary. The outside receiver and the point man (top of the triangle) of the bunch both block down with easy to execute angles. The inside receiver and left tackle pull and the Gators get a big run.
Florida also used a similar gap scheme on a jet sweep to Tre Wilson.
I really like the added wrinkle here of having Montrell Johnson as a lead blocker. It’s basically the same idea as the toss sweep. Except in this look Johnson is the “inside receiver” in the bunch. The outside receiver and point of the bunch block down. The left tackle and the inside receiver of the “bunch” (Johnson) pull. Adding him to the perimeter springs this for an easy touchdown.
When Billy Napier was hired, I wrote that I thought his scheme was sound and it showed a good eye for planning. His concepts are well-connected, and he had a lot of counters off his base plays. This showed up on the fourth quarter touchdown pass to Arlis Boardingham. Florida gets in the same look they did previously in the same area of the red zone for the toss sweep shown above. They show the same personnel and they execute the same shift. The quarterback even makes the same reverse out move as he does on toss. To the defense, they looked exactly like the toss sweep. But it was not a toss sweep, it was a play action pass.
The tight ends actually switched assignments on the play. On the toss, Hayden Hansen was the point man and Arlis was the inside receiver. This makes sense given their skill sets. Hansen is a better blocker and Boardingham is better in space. However on this shift they exchange roles. Arlis is the point man and Hansen is the inside receiver. Boardingham goes inside just like Hansen did on the toss sweep and makes contact. He then continues to run a drag across the field and pops wide-open. Graham Mertz hits them in stride for an easy touchdown which was all set up by the toss sweep earlier in the game.
I’m sure we will hear some, “Hey it’s just Vanderbilt. Don’t get too excited” but I thought the Florida offense played their most complete game of the season on Saturday. There are still issues in terms of hitting explosive pass plays but outside of that the offense looked really good. They executed at a high-level, they almost put up 40 in an SEC game. There’s not too much more you can ask for.
On both sides of the ball, it’s a lot of fun to see young guys continue to make an impact as the season goes on. It seems like each week we see more and more of the true freshman and redshirt freshman class making plays and getting time. At one point I looked at the offense and four of the five eligible receivers were true/redshirt freshmen. And they were executing well. In a season where the record may end up being somewhat disappointing in terms of usual expectations, getting those guys growth opportunities is very important. More importantly, the players seem to be taking advantage of those opportunities
Next up is an important road trip. It’s time to take that next step and get a conference road win. If you can do that, you’re 5-2 going into the open week and you have a ton to play for in the second half of the season.