Hey Gator Nation, did anyone get the license plate number of that semi that just flattened the Gator football team?
Coming into yesterday’s match up with #3 Alabama, the consensus opinion was that the game would be a good measuring stick for the Gator program. If so, then the Gators showed they don’t measure up. If not for some mistakes handling the football by Bama, the Gators might not have even scored. This was a slow demolition but it was sound and sure.
Upon further review, what did we learn about the Gators yesterday?
This is a young team which has a long way to go to compete for any championships.
There isn’t one or two things that fans can point to and say “there’s the problem” or “the Gators need to work on that”, it was pretty obvious from Saturday’s road nightmare that this team has issues throughout the lineup on both sides of the football.
Don’t get me wrong, they do have talent and they did show some resolve. Let’s not totally throw the baby out with the bath water. But for every good play on Saturday, there were two or three more bad plays. This team is certainly a work in progress, one that will require patience from impatient fans.
This is a rebuilding year, particularly from a defensive standpoint, and any notion that this team might overachieve and compete for an SEC title was certainly premature. They are exactly who we thought they were: a young, talented team which will take it’s lumps along the steep learning curve that is SEC football.
The defensive secondary is far from a polished product.
After replacing three of their top four corners and their most experienced safety after last season, the Gators faced an uphill battle in maintaining the level of success of the past few seasons. We knew this coming into the season even if we remained in denial about the full truth of this fact. We cannot remain in denial any longer.
The Gators were burned early and often, giving up an 80+ yard touchdown on the Tide’s first offensive play from scrimmage and later giving up a 70+ yard touchdown to the best receiver in America on a busted coverage. The Gator secondary was burned to the tune of 449 passing yards and the defense as a whole gave up 645 yards, the most in school history.
Of course, it wasn’t all on the secondary as the defensive line struggled to get any kind of consistent pass rush on quarterback Blake Sims who pretty much looked as though he had no rush to contend with all night. Even in my drunken state (I watched the game with a house full of Bama fans so I felt the need for serious imbibery) I could tell that if you don’t get a hat on this qb or at least get a hand on his jersey or in his face, he’s going to pick you apart like Peyton Manning in passing drills.
But be that as it may, however, the defensive line didn’t give up the long scores and consistently make coverage mistakes, it was the defensive backfield that was responsible for that. For all the good things they did, stripping footballs and getting turnovers, they made many more errors which cost the Gators any shot at victory.
Again, not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, this defensive backfield has talent, they just are a long ways from where they need to be right now and it’s quite obvious that like the 2007 and 2011 Gators this team will take it’s lumps in pass defense and will need to score some points if they hope to have a winning record this season.
Jeff Driskel is still not ready for prime time.
OK Gator Nation, here’s your chance to pile on. The doubt among much of the Gator Nation faithful in Driskel’s ability to lead this team successfully was quite high coming into the season. After Saturday night, it’s almost universal. Even former Gator greats like Emmitt Smith are calling for the relief pitcher.
Now I realize the old adage that the backup quarterback is always the most popular guy on the team when a quarterback struggles, but Driskel isn’t a young quarterback. This is his fourth season on campus and he’s in an offense tailor made for his skill set.
Besides, his issues aren’t situational or system-related. They’re the same problems he’s had from day one. He struggles to go through his progressions, he often telegraphs where he’s going with the football, his accuracy is erratic, and he’s late throwing the football. Pressure or the appearance of pressure forces him into poor throws or worse, poor decisions.
Against Alabama, Driskel was not only horrible, a large part of the blame for this loss can be place squarely upon his shoulders. The lack of offense, mostly attributable to his errant throws to open receivers left the defense on the field for much of the game and took away any opportunity the Gators might have had to keep it close into the fourth quarter.
The quarterback position is as much about leadership as it is about skills. While pondering about this post I watched some NFL football and analyst Phil Simms, who knows something about leadership from the quarterback position, made an interesting quote about Denver trying to beat the defending Super Bowl Champs Seattle Seahawks.
“It takes great plays to beat a team like this,” Simms said.
Great plays are made by great players and that usually starts with the quarterback position. Quarterbacks have to be fearless. They have to take the team on their back and will it to victory. That’s obviously not Driskel’s forte. And it’s killing this offense and this team.
For what it’s worth, head coach Will Muschamp says he’s sticking with Driskel as the starting quarterback because “he gives the Gators the best chance of winning.” Maybe he does or maybe he doesn’t but I can assure you that a pretty large consensus of Gator fans feel like he’s more of a liability than a leader right now.
Will Muschamp’s seat is getting hotter and hotter.
This is what happens when you put up Ron Zook-esque winning percentages. It’s also what happens when you preach all off-season about this being the most talented team you’ve had and then proceed to struggle at home against a young Kentucky team and then lay an egg against Alabama.
Certainly all but the hardiest Gator fans expected this team to lose on the road at Alabama. What we had hoped to see though was a competitive team. We wanted to see a team that could move the football, score some touchdowns, and stay within reach into the fourth quarter. What we saw was a team that was consistently beaten along the line of scrimmage, was often out of position, and dominated by a team which neither did anything out of the ordinary nor anything overly complicated. The Gators were simply outplayed and outcoached from start to finish.
Say what you want about the young secondary, the lack of depth along the lines, or the poor quarterback play, this was on the coaching staff number one. If Muschamp hopes to remain as the head coach at the University of Florida for the forseeable future than the staff had better work overtime to better prepare these players and hide their disabilities. They were obvious and easily exploited by Bama and you had better believe every coach on the Gators schedule will see this tape and salivate.
Recruiting might take a hit.
Coming into this recruiting cycle, fans who follow recruiting were told how deep and talented this class was in Florida at key positions the Gators need to load up on, particularly at linebacker, running back, and receiver. Through spring and summer, recruiting was very slow for the Gators as many of the top recruits on the Gators board were taking a wait and see approach hoping to see how the Gators played out after last season’s 4-8 debacle.
After watching Saturday’s demolition first hand on an official visit to Alabama, one Gator commit, linebacker Adonis Thomas, appeared to be taken aback and might be reconsidering his commitment to the Gators.
He then followed that tweet up with another one.
Will he or won’t he decommit and flip to the Tide? That remains to be seen but keep in mind the Gators have a lot of top guys who appear to be Gator leans that are most certainly watching to see how this season plays out. If they Gators don’t show more heart and ability than they showed against Alabama it might slim pickings come signing day 2015.
After reeling in back to back top ten recruiting classes the last two cycles, the Gators are poised to bring in another one if they can keep what they got right now and add the majority of those they are expected to land. But if this team doesn’t show a better product on the field it’s quite possible the Gators could go 0-fer and the program could take a major hit as a result.
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