Prior to Florida’s season-opener versus Florida Atlantic, I posted this list of expectations. Some were met, some were just kind of OK. What we did see, however, is the future of the QB position at Florida, and his name is Anthony Richardson. With the ball in his hands, Richardson looks like a hybrid of Cam Newton who started his career at Florida before finishing at Auburn, and John Riggins, the Washington Redskins halfback that ran over, around and through defenders consistently.
Richardson is raw, really raw, but he is a human highlight reel on the field. Emory Jones, Florida’s starting QB, looked good at times but is erratic in the passing game. Nobody wearing the orange and blue expected Jones to look like Kyle Trask or Danny Wuerffel, but his misses were fairly consistent, and the on-target throws weren’t precise. Simply put, Florida’s passing game will struggle with Jones at the position…especially the vertical passing game.
The running game, however, will not struggle at all. The Gators rang-up 400 yards rushing Saturday night. That’s a good stat regardless of who you’re playing. Jones, Richardson, Davis and Pierce gashed, plowed and steamrolled FAU defenders consistently. When they weren’t running through defenders, they were hurdling them. Going along with this, Florida’s offensive line appears to have improved…we’ll stop short of saying they are elite or even good, but for now, they are improved.
Expectations for the Offense
- “Look Sharp” – They did in the first half. Aside from a very bad interception by Jones and a miscommunication on a play call, the Gators offense was efficient, on time and moving down the field with ease.
- The Interception: Emory Jones stared-down his receiver…that’s what happened. Context: Jones came in for this play cold off the bench. Richardson started the drive, then got his helmet ripped off on 1st down inside the 10 so he had to leave for a play, Jones rushed onto the field and threw the pick. Not excusable, but it is what it is.
- The Miscommunication: On 4th and Goal from the FAU 5 yard line, Florida QB Emory Jones lined-up under center and ran… a QB sneak? Mullen and Jones both admitted after the game there was a miscommunication about the call. Jones, Mullen said, should have taken a timeout if he thought there was something amiss…QB sneak from the 5? Yeah, something’s amiss. My question is, however, “Why didn’t Jones just audible out of the play?” Florida’s first TD (an option pitch to Pierce) was an audible check at the line of scrimmage by Jones….so why not audible at this point?
- “No pre-snap penalties” – Pass. In my game review, the Gators didn’t have any alignment or shift penalties (don’t recall any Delay of Game ones either).
- “Completions” – Fail. Jones hit on some throws, but missed a lot of very easy ones. On the second play of the game, he missed Trent Whittemore on a curl route. That should be as easy as it gets. Even on a lot of the completions downfield, the WRs were making acrobatic catches. What Jones does do well is throw screens and swing passes…but that won’t get the job done vs. SEC competition. Richardson also struggled a little, but the sample size isn’t big enough. What I did see from Richardson is a lack of accuracy on the deep ball. He reminds me a lot of Felipe Franks throwing deep…needs a little development, which Dan Mullen does very well.
- “Stay on Blocks” – Pass. The Offensive line had a couple of blown assignments, but on the whole, they were very good. We even saw WRs issuing justice to DBs with pancake blocks (I’m looking at you, 14).
- Ethan White missed a couple of blocks, but he’s young, and I think on one of them there was a snap count miscommunication because White was very slow coming out of his stance.
- Kemore Gamble also failed to stay on a block a couple of times, resulting in shortened runs.
- “Control the Game” – Pass. The Gators offense looked to be in complete control in the first half, moving down the field with ease. The execution of the game plan looked good except for the two mistakes mentioned above. The score should have been 28-0 at half.
- “Execute in the Red Zone” – Push. The Gators were 2 for 4 in the red zone in the first half. That’s 50%, which is not a passing grade. They were 100% in the 2nd half…so we’ll call it a push
Expectations for the Defense
The weakness of the Gators in 2020 was the defense, no doubt. The jury is still out on whether 2021 has improved…I saw a lot on film that I didn’t like. We still have DBs lining up 10-12 yards off the ball, and we still have some tackling issues. Let’s get to it:
- “Line Up Correctly” – Pass? I didn’t see the mass-confusion I saw last year with defenders appearing to be confused as to where to line up. So that’s a plus…What I DID see were alignments that I did not understand at all.
- I saw DBs 8-10 yards off the ball on 3rd and 4. I saw them lining up 12 yards off the ball on downs that didn’t really matter all that much. This allowed FAU WRs to turn and catch the ball easily.
- On one play in the 2nd half, UF had its middle linebacker lined-up outside of Brenton Cox Jr., this left the middle of the defense without a LB. FAU simply ran a quick trap and gashed the defense for 11 yards.
- Also, motion seems to confuse the defense a little? Not sure what the scheme calls-for, but twice I saw FAU WRs going into motion with no Gator defenders going with them…this created numerical mis-matches on the outside. On one particular play on FAU’s first drive in the 2nd half, Elam is in press-man coverage, the TE motions to the boundary side of the field and nobody goes with him. The WR runs Elam out of the play, the TE stops short on a curl route and is wide open. The Safety on that side (Trey Dean) is not in the picture…leaving Ventrel Miller (51) to cover coming from the inside-out.
- “Know Your Assignments” – Fail. Once again, we are seeing opposing WRs running wide open through the secondary. On multiple plays, I saw TEs running past linebackers, CBs releasing receivers into wide open zones. FAU took advantage of this in the 2nd half and reeled-off some big plays. This has to get cleaned-up.
- “Tackle” – Push. When the Gators are “Gang-tackling,” they look good, and we didn’t see a lot of the Gator defenders looking like they didn’t want to tackle…so that’s a plus. What I did see, though, was the D-Line getting push, but gashed up the middle. This tells me that pad level is too high and that they are arm-tackling. The D-Line needs to be lower so they can clog those gaps more solidly.
- “NO STUPID PENALTIES” – Push. The first half was very clean, but we saw a number of late hits in the 2nd half…one of them leading to an FAU touchdown.
- “Make Kicks” – Pass? Chrisman did make all of his PAT attempts, but my 11-year old can probably do that. The coverage was good on kickoffs, but it had to be because the Gators weren’t putting the ball into and through the end zone. Not sure if that was by design, but one kickoff in the 2nd half only reached the 11 yard line. Luckily FAU is coached by Willie Taggart and there was a fair-catch signaled…
- There was one punt that was air-mailed into the end zone on a short field. Punters have to be able to land that ball and give coverage a chance.
- “Return Punts” – Pass. Xavier Henderson had a couple of very nice returns in the punting game. I did see one in the first half that could have been a disaster where two of the Florida blockers simply did nothing and allowed coverage men to run right past them…but the ball bounced into the end zone easily. No harm, but you can’t have your blockers not blocking.
- “Be Smart” – Nothing really happened that caused us to question the situational awareness. Florida recovered an onside kick late in the game with ease.
Overall, we didn’t learn a whole lot about the Gators in Game 1. FAU is a lower-level team coached by a guy we know cannot coach (see Taggart’s record at FSU). Florida didn’t cover the spread either, so one of my guys lost money to a Miami fan…
What we DID learn, is that Anthony Richardson IS the future. The question is whether Dan Mullen is willing to do to Emory Jones what Dabo Swinney did to Kelly Bryant when it was clear that Trevor Lawrence was the future.