If you have listened to enough Billy Napier press conferences, you’ve probably heard the phrase “work our plan.” Napier says that the organization wants to plan their work and then work their plan. This can be in recruiting, over the course of a season, over the course of a game, or this can even be over the course of a drive. The key is devising a plan and then going out and executing it. You also can’t be afraid to stick with your plan if things don’t work the first time around.This is the tight rope that coaches have to walk. After Kentucky, we talked about knowing when to make adjustments and knowing when to stay the course, or work your plan. Florida has made some small tweaks here and there but for the most part they have continued to work their plan. I thought that showed up in multiple ways against South Carolina.
First, let’s start with the defense. When talking about plans, I think South Carolina had a very good one. The Gamecocks were coming off of bye week and they had that look of being extra prepared for Florida’s defense. Some of the big plays were great calls by South Carolina but there were other times where it was a matter of getting out executed or losing a one on one battle. That’s going to happen sometimes in the SEC. The Gators struggled to get South Carolina off the field, but they were able to at the end of the game when they needed to the most, I thought one play was a good indicator of endgame adjustments from the Florida defense.
Early in the second quarter South Carolina ran a jet sweep. They flipped it to Xavier Legette and Florida really had no edge player to slow this thing down. The second and third level players did not trigger fast enough either. The play picked up an easy first down for South Carolina.
When trying to run out the clock at the end of the game, the Gamecocks came back to that same jet sweep. It’s a good call in this situation. It’s relatively safe and you have the possibility to pick up a first down like they did previously in the game. This time Florida plays it much better. The fast pursuit from the second level strings this play out and you see Jaydon Hill get downhill, engage a blocker and blow this play up. I’m sure this is something they talked about on the sideline after the first one. They played it much better the second time they saw it and in a crucial situation. It helped them get off the field and get the offense the ball back to win the game.
Offensively, Saturday’s game was a product of both working the season long plan, as well as a game plan. Anybody who tells you that Florida is running a bunch of new passing concepts the past couple of weeks has not been paying close enough attention. They have run a lot of the same concepts that we’ve seen throughout Napier’s tenure with some weekly wrinkles. The difference is comfort level, who is running the concepts and execution, not the concepts themselves.
Weekly wrinkles and slight variations on base concepts are to be expected, but that does not mean there’s a whole different passing game installed. Anybody saying that doesn’t understand the nuances of a concept based passing approach.
Florida is a concept based passing team, as are most teams nowadays. Some of these concepts are full field where everybody has their job spelled out in one call. Some of these concepts are one side of the field. They usually have variations for how many receivers are on that side. You’ll see one-man concepts, two-man concepts, three-man concepts, and even some four-man concepts. Most teams will pair two of these concepts together. For instance, let’s say I have three receivers to the right and one receiver and the back to the left of the formation. To the three receiver side I can call a three receiver concept and to the single receiver side I can call a one or two man concept with the running back if the running back is out in a route. Florida will combine these different concepts together, often with one side designed to beat zone defenses and the other designed to beat man coverage. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
The first play is actually a nice zone run RPO. Late in the first quarter, Florida has a dig concept to the playside to take advantage of filling linebackers. The Gators have also called a two man concept that is quite similar to the slot fade concept they have run since last season. Marcus Burke had a big catch on this concept against Utah earlier this year. Florida anticipated a lot of man coverage in this game so they added the wrinkle of the outside receiver running a slant instead of the normal hitch.
Mertz bypasses the dig and throws the slot fade. He misses the throw but will get a chance to come back to it later in the game.
In the second quarter, Florida comes back to the dig concept. They again pair it with a man beating concept that is a wrinkle off one of their normal concepts. Florida loves to run the Air Raid staple “Y Corner” which is sometimes known as “Snag”.The concept involves a slant and sit by the number one receiver, a corner by number two, and a route to the flat by number three. It’s a tried and true play providing a vertical and horizontal stretch.
Florida puts a couple of wrinkles on this concept. First they don’t have the player running to the flat as they are going to keep him in for protection. Second, instead of running a slant and sitting, the outside receiver is going to make it look like snag and then break back out on a whip route. This is better against man coverage and is likely a game plan wrinkle.
This time Mertz works the dig side, navigates the pocket and throws a strike for the completion.
On their final drive of the second quarter and looking for points before half, Florida combines two of the concepts we discussed above. The two receiver side runs the slot fade with the slant wrinkle and the three receiver side runs Y Corner/Snag.
You have a side that can win against man and a side that can win against zone. The QB just needs to pick the correct side and make a good throw. Mertz diagnoses the man coverage and decides to throw the slot fade. He gets the ball out quickly and Ricky Pearsall makes a great catch to help set up Florida for a very important field goal before the half.
The biggest difference beyond the guys that are running these concepts is just an uptick in execution. The same concepts have been there at times, but they have not been executed well or the quarterback hasn’t thrown the ball that way . That even held true within the game on Saturday. There were some concepts that Florida did not execute the first time they ran it. But they worked the plan and later on they executed well enough to throw completions, move the ball down the field, score points and most importantly, win.