The Monday Morning Quarterback: Gator Nation Step Away From The Ledge


As the Florida Gators were clinging to a closer than expected 19-0 lead against North Texas State late in the third quarter of Saturday night’s game, Gator Nation let out a collective gasp when starting quarterback Luke Del Rio went down with an apparent knee injury.

While Del Rio lay on the turf in obvious pain and trainers tended to his injury, fans were left watching replays of a low hit by Mean Green defensive end Josh Wheeler that would take him out of the game for good.

From Gainesville to Seattle fans were groaning with sighs of “here we go again.”

Backup quarterback and grad transfer Austin Appleby was left to replace Del Rio and speculation began almost immediately as to what would happen to the Gator offense which had finally been showing some semblance of what fans hoped for when Jim McElwain was hired to replace Will Muschamp.

The Monday Morning Quarterback says relax Gator Nation and step away from the ledge. 

I know, I know, your tired. 

Tired of watching Gator starting quarterbacks go down or go out.

I feel your pain.

I know, you’ve seen this act before and it always seems to derail a promising Gator season. 

I know you follow Gator Twitter and you think Austin Appleby is trash. He’s a washed out Purdue retread. He couldn’t make it as a starter in the Big Ten, how’s he going to do in the SEC?

Well forget what you heard. 

To steal and paraphrase a line from Lord of the Rings: there may come a time when the mighty Gators lose to Tennessee, but it is not this day.

Here’s three reasons why The Monday Morning Quarterback believes you have nothing to fear but fear itself.

1) This is why they brought in Appleby.

“Trust the staff” has been a big motto on social media and message boards. If nothing else they’ve proven that they have a plan and make solid decisions to execute it.

When Will Grier went out last season they knew what they had in Del Rio and knew that they would need a capable backup just in case. 

They also knew Treon wasn’t the answer. When they brought in Appleby they weren’t just bringing in a warm body they were bringing in an experienced, capable quarterback with a strong arm and good smarts.

He wasn’t brought in to compete for the starting job, he was brought in to run this offense in the event Del Rio went down allowing the two freshman quarterbacks to sit for a year while they learned to play the position at this level. 

So here we are. Del Rio is down for at least two weeks and with a huge road game coming up next week at Tennessee, the staff is confident in their decision to bring in Appleby.

The Monday Morning Quarterback believes you should be too.

Trust the staff. It’s not just a motto.

2) History favors the Gators 

They have beaten the Vols eleven straight times. In many of those games the Gators came in with much worse teams than what they will field on Saturday and and still left with a victory.

There is precedent here for backup quarterbacks having success against this Tennessee team.

Twice in last three years they beat the Vols with back up quarterbacks leading them to victory including two years ago at Tennessee with Treon Harris coming on in relief of an ineffective Jeff Driskel.

The year before it was Tyler Murphy relieving the injured Driskel to lead the Gators to victory.

Both times the backup had to come in mid-game with no preparation.

This year the staff has a full week to get Appleby prepared.

I like the odds.

The Monday Morning Quarterback believes you should too.

Heck even the much maligned Driskel beat them in Knoxville in 2012 in Muschamp’s pedestrian offense. 

This is a much more potent offense AND defense the Gators will walk into Neyland stadium with on Saturday afternoon.

Better than any Gator team since 2009. 

And, they have a chip on their shoulder feeling slighted by the media with all the preseason prognostications of Tennessee being the favorite in the SEC East and being sleeper picks for the national title.

3) The matchups favor the Gators.

The Gators defense leads the nation in total defense giving up only 389 total yards in three games an average of only 128.7 yards per game.

Conversely the Tennessee offense is ranked #101 in the nation in total offense averaging only 351 yards per game, a full 115 yards less per game than the Gators (466).

That’s the million dollar matchup. 

Coming in to the season, popular opinion was that the Vols were the SEC East favorites largely on the strength of an improved offense that features the dual threat Josh Dobbs at quarterback along with running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara.

But three games in they’ve been less than stellar. While the rushing attack hasn’t been bad averaging 189 yards per game, the passing attack has. They limp into this matchup #109 in the nation averaging only 162 passing yards per game a full 103 yards per game less than the Gators.

While the three headed Volunteer rushing attack appears to be their strength, the Gators come in even stronger at #2 in the nation against the run having given up only 127 total rushing yards in three games a 42.3 ypg average.
Perhaps even more interesting is that the Vols have given up 25 more yards per game (152.7) than the Gators have given up overall (127). While the Gators rushing attack has averaged 202 yards per game. 

On third down, money down as they like to call it, the Gators are third in the nation converting 58% of their attempts (29-50) while their defense has limited opponents to a paltry 7-36 (19.4%) conversion rate.

While Tennessee’s defense has been ok on third down (15-46, 32.6%) their offense hasn’t been very efficient at all (17-43, 39.5%). 

All signs point to this being a different game than last year when Dobbs and Hurd had a field day. The depth and talent of the Gators front seven look to be too strong and the running lanes look to be closed as the Gators biggest defensive strength appears to be their gap soundness and sideline speed.

What does it all mean?

The Gators likely won’t need Appleby to be a hero. 

I know, that’s crazy, right?

But, realistically, if they can continue to run the ball effectively and the Gator defense can shut down the Tennessee running game, and odds are Dobbs can’t beat them with his arm, they should have no problem walking out with consecutive win number 12 in the series.

Which means, Gator Nation, that you can step away from the ledge, take the noose off your neck, and relax in spite of Del Rio’s injury.

The Gators should be just fine.

I’m the Monday Morning Quarteback and I’m out!

The Monday Morning Quarterback: The Chomp Is Back In The Swamp Or Have We Seen This Act Before?


One week after the Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier returned to the stadium he nicknamed The Swamp, the Florida Gators put the Chomp back in the Swamp with an old fashioned stomp over the Kentucky Wildcats.

For longsuffering Gator fans it was a welcome relief as the Gators put on an offensive display reminiscent of the old days of the Fun n Gun.

No play exemplified that better than on first down from the Gator 22 yard line after a huge interception by Quincy Wilson, quarterback Luke Del Rio dropped back on a play action fake and hit wide receiver Antonio Callaway in stride for a 78 yard touchdown.

It was the same play they opened with last week against UMass but this time Del Rio put the ball inside and made the connection and Callaway did the rest.

The Head Ball Coach had to be proud!

Fans in the Swamp certainly were.

Loud and Proud!

The Chomp is back in the Swamp!

Or is it?

The Monday Morning Quarterback wonders if the Chomp really is back in the Swamp, or have we seen this act before?

After all there was the Ole Miss game last season where redshirt freshman Will Grier lit up the Ole Miss defense to the tune of 271 yards passing and 4 touchdowns as the Gators cruised to a 38-10 victory.

We all know what happened after that. 

Was Saturday’s demolition proof that head coach Jim McElwain’s rebuilding project has finally started to mature? 

Or was it simply an anomaly due to an overhyped, overmatched opponent?

Well, The Monday Morning Quarterback believes it was a little of both.

After all, that wasn’t an Alabama defense, or offense for that matter, that the Gators faced on Saturday.

It wasn’t Little Sisters of the Poor either but let’s be realistic: Little Sisters of the Poor might have a tougher defense.

But seriously, that was the same Kentucky defense that gave up 27 unanswered second half points last week to blow a huge half time lead and the game to lowly Southern Miss.

A good SEC defense doesn’t allow Southern Miss to score 42 points.

Ever.

Period.

Regardless, that defense was manna from heaven for the Gator offense on Saturday.

Good, bad, or ugly, the Gators and Luke Del Rio needed a game like this to gain some confidence. To show themselves and the fans what they’re capable of when everybody does their job.

In particular, Del Rio had high praise for the job his much-maligned offensive line did after the Gators first series.

“I don’t know if you guys noticed,” Del Rio said postgame. “But I didn’t get touched after the first possession, literally did not get touched. Not hit, I did not get touched, so tremendous, tremendous job by them. They deserve all the credit. They opened the running lanes for the running backs, and it’s really easy to play quarterback when you’re back there and there’s no pass rush.”

Head coach Jim McElwain wasn’t quite so effusive in his critique of the line play, however.

“They did OK. We’ve got to create some more creases and yet our protection was much better,” McElwain said. “So bits and pieces. We put some dents in them today. We’ve just got to work on keeping our feet moving, playing low to high and playing with a never-say-die attitude up there.”

But considering the Gators gave up the most sacks in the country last season and struggled once again against UMass, the line play against Kentucky was a welcome sight and is encouraging for fans moving forward.

Another good sign is the play of the running backs. From a committee of one last season to four this year, the backs looked pretty good against Kentucky. 

The Gators rushed for 244 yards led by true freshman Lamical Perine’s 105 yards on 17 carries.

The Gators were determined to run the ball inside after Southern Miss gashed them inside for over 200 yards last week.

All four backs Mark Thompson, Jordan Scarlett, Jordan Cronkrite, and Perine ran hard all night pushing piles, fighting for yards, and playing physical.

The tough inside running really helped the passing game by slowing down the pass rush and setting up play action.

Then there’s Del Rio.

While many felt he was a step down from Grier, he sure didn’t play like it on Saturday. His calm demeanor, accurate throws, and command of the offense was nothing short of spectacular. 

For a guy making only his second collegiate start and first SEC start, he put on a show reminiscent of a more highly rated recruit like Chris Leak. 

Like any other quarterback he had a few throws he’d like to take back, but for the most part, he made good decisions and accurate throws, and managed the offense effectively going through his reads and hitting open receivers. His only turnover of the game was off a tipped pass caused by a bad route more so than a bad throw.

Big boy football indeed. Folks, the Gators may just have a quarterback.

The defense, long a staple in Gainesville, looks faster and nastier than last season. With a deeper line and the addition of LB Alex Anzalone who is finally healthy and looking like the 5 star prospect he was coming out of high school, the Gators played fast and furious throughout. They completely shut down Kentucky’s running game and harassed quarterback Drew Barker throughout. 

On Kentucky’s first series Anzalone almost singlehandedly held them to a quick three and out.

On first down, he sacked Barker on a well-timed blitz for a five yard loss. On second down, he dropped into coverage and stopped his man for only a two yard completion. On third down, he showed his athleticism tripping up a scrambling Barker literally by his shoestrings as he stretched completely and got just enough to take out Barker’s feet.

The defense had four turnovers on the night including three interceptions.

With All American Teez Tabor back from his one game suspension and Quincy Wilson looking like an All American himself, the Gators defensive backs picked off three Barker passes and blanketed the Kentucky receivers all day.

For certain the Gators are better and deeper at almost every position this season. In fact, this might be the most complete Gator team since 2009. 

Whether or not that translates to wins against the better teams on their schedule, however, remains to be seen.

But, for one night, the Chomp truly was back in the Swamp!

I’m The Monday Morning Quarterback and I’m out!

The Monday Morning Quarterback: Gator Football (And The HBC) Is Back In Blue, Offense Black and Blue


It was a blue out of sorts on Saturday night in the Swamp as Florida Gator football returned for the 2016 season opener.

Yes Gator football is back!

You know what else (or who) is back?

The Monday Morning Quarterback is back!

But seriously folks, The Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier is back!

He recently returned to the Orange and Blue in an official capacity as Ambassador for the program after his retirement mid-season last year from the South Carolina Gamecocks.

On Saturday night, however, he was back in blue as the team chose all blue uniforms (except for the traditional orange helmets) and Spurrier wore blue for the ceremony honoring him. The school elected to add his name to the stadium in which he played, winning a Heisman trophy, coached, winning a national title, and nicknamed The Swamp when he returned in 1990. 

“I have been very fortunate and blessed since becoming a Florida Gator to receive several honors and awards,” Spurrier said before Saturday night’s opener. “But I can assure all of you here today having my name next to Florida Field, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, here in the Swamp is the single biggest honor I’ll ever receive. Thanks!”

It was an awesome sight seeing him on the field where his teams won 6 SEC titles  from 1990 to 2001. 

“The most special group was the twelve teams that I was fortunate to coach here. Let me tell you what those guys did. From 90 through 2001, they won between 9 and 12 games every year. They won between 6 and 9 SEC games. Those guys knew how to play! And let me tell you what, those guys they won 93% of their games here in the Swamp because all of you, all of you here!”

“I said it twenty years ago, coach Urban Meyer said it ten years ago, The Swamp is the best home field advantage in all of college football.”

Yes, The Swamp became a great home field advantage when Spurrier took over in 1990. Since Urban Meyer left after the 2010 season, however, not so much.

The Monday Morning Quarterback believes The Swamp has simply lost some of its luster the last five seasons.

Why do I say that?

Well, there’s the 6-6 home record between 2013-14 which includes a home loss to FCS foe Georgia Southern the low point of the Will Muschamp era. 

And despite the 18-3 home record the other three seasons, there just hasn’t been the same level of dominance that the Gators showed at home between 1990 and 2010. 

Simply put, offense has left the building. 

While the Gators have long been known for great defense, which continues to this day, it was the prolific offenses under Spurrier and Meyer, heck even under Ron Zook, that put the “swamp” in The Swamp!

The ability to score quick, score often, and put up points in bunches is what sold out the stadium and kept fans loud and raucous. 

Those teams would literally swamp teams before they could ever get going. That’s what puts fear into opposing teams.

Now fans have become all too accustomed to close games and nail biters even against teams against whom they are double digit favorites.

On Saturday night, Steve Spurrier Night if you will, the Gators left the HBC tribute at kickoff as they struggled mightily against lowly UMass in a game they were favored by 36. They went into the fourth quarter clinging to a nerve-wracking 10-7 lead over the FBS #122 ranked team before squeezing out a 24-7 victory.

Even the HBC himself appeared nervous while in the booth discussing his stadium honor and the publication of his autobiography. 

To head coach Jim McElwain’s credit, however, the cupboard truly was bare offensively when he took over. 

There was a dearth of skill players (read it: none), zero experience at quarterback, and the lowest numbers on the offensive line that I’ve ever seen in 38 years of watching Gator football.

Coach Mac quickly restored numbers to the offensive line but to do that he had to reach on some players and bring in transfers who might have never seen a scholly at Florida previously. 

It didn’t help losing quarterback Will Grier mid-season to suspension and then to transfer in the off-season. 

So the Gators are back to square one at quarterback with sophomore transfer Luke Del Rio and graduate transfer Austin Appleby as his backup. 

The revolving door at QB is the single biggest reason for the Gators offensive struggles along with changing offensive systems. 

Coach Mac has done a good job recruiting skill talent although losing JUCO transfer Dre Massey for the season is a huge blow to his efforts to revive offense in Gainesville.

But offensive line is where the Gators struggles begin and end with this team.

By the end of coach Mac’s first season the Gators started three true freshman on the line: guards Martez Ivey and Tyler Jordan along with tackle Fred Johnson. Not exactly a recipe for offensive success.

On Saturday night, the Gators struggled once again in large part to a line which got little push in the run game and continuously had communication issues and breakdowns in pass protection.

If anything, the Gators showed they’re still a work in progress offensively and have a long way to go to be a dominant SEC offensive line.

The Monday Morning Quarterback believes that coach Mac has the pieces in place to eventually return the Gators offensive prowess and the Swamp’s glory but this season, if Saturday night’s game is any indication, will be another speed bump along that path.

The Head Ball Coach is back, but offense and The Swamp’s home field advantage are still a long way off.

I’m The Monday Morning Quarterback and I’m out!

The Monday Morning Quarterback: Mac Attack Is Whack, Gators Are Back

  
Wow!

Can you believe it?

From cardiac Gators to pure domination in one week?

Last week The Monday Morning Quarterback wrote that the Gators grew up against Tennessee.

Against Ole Miss they showed no growing pains whatsoever playing like a mature, experienced team. 

Especially quarterback Will Grier who played with poise and threw with precision despite dealing with the effects of a virus that had been described as a flu bug by head coach Jim McElwain but reported as a stomach bug by various media outlets.

Grier finished 24-29 for 271 yards and 4 td’s. And best of all he had zero turnovers.

“We’re growing up offensively,” McElwain said. “We’re getting a little bit better. That’s what we want to do.”

That might be the understatement of the year!

Since the ten minute mark of the fourth quarter of the Tennessee game, Grier is 35-47 (74.4 completion percentage) for 412 yards and 6 td’s.

That’s not only efficient, it’s Montana-esque as in hall of famer Joe Montana.

So much for the quarterback competition in Gainesville.

It wasn’t all Grier, however, as the work-in-progress offensive line played their best game by far.

While they still have work to do in the run game they played masterfully in the passing game holding off what many considered a stout Ole Miss defensive line giving Grier time to make throws to open receivers.

And defensively, they played their best game all season as well. The defensive line was disruptive rarely letting quarterback Chad Kelly get comfortable in the pocket.

The defensive backs shut down a potent Ole Miss receiving corps led by All American candidate Laquon Treadwell who finished with pedestrian numbers (5 catches, 43 yards, and no td’s). 

The offensive play-calling was masterful as well keeping the Ole Miss defense off-balance throughout using their aggressiveness against them with misdirection bootlegs, screens, and draw plays.

The Mac Attack is whack baby! 

And this team is growing up right before our eyes, much quicker than anyone expected.

The Monday Morning Quarterback believes that the Gators are truly back and have an opportunity to have a very special season.

Was Ole Miss overrated like so many other teams fans have claimed after the Gators big win?

The Monday Morning Quarterback doesn’t believe so after Ole Miss beat Alabama on the road and then Alabama demolished Georgia this past weekend. 

The poll voters don’t believe so either as the Gators made the third highest one-week leap in AP poll history jumping from #25 last week to #11 Sunday. 

Regardless, with Missouri, LSU, and Georgia left on the October schedule we’ll sure get a chance to see if this team can maintain focus and continue to improve. 

If so you’ll see a top five team come November. 

I’m the Monday Morning Quarterback and I’m out!

The Monday Morning Quarterback: Florida Gators Grew Up Against Tennessee


Wow!

Did you see that?

The Monday Morning Quarterback saw it, and let me go on record as saying, I didn’t believe it could happen.

Well, actually, I had all BUT given up.

The Gators seemingly improbable come from behind win over Tennesssee on Saturday was a crossroads of sorts for this young talented Florida Gators football team.

A team that needed to learn how to win did just that in the fourth quarter Saturday night.

A quarterback who had been criticized for his happy feet and tentative play, played with poise and bravado with under ten minutes to go.

A much-maligned offensive line played perhaps their best game of the season against the best defensive line they’ve faced thus far.

A running back that had yet to put it all together and live up to his five star recruit billing, had the best all-around game of his career.

And, best of all, they found not one, but two playmakers on Saturday in the Swamp.

And, for good measure, a fan base that had lost faith finally found a reason to believe once again.

To dream the impossible dream…

That’s the situation the Gators faced with ten minutes to go and Tennessee up two scores 27-14.

That was what The Monday Morning Quarterback tweeted after Tennessee scored their last touchdown.

After hitting “send” I turned to my boss who had asked me if the Gators were going to lose. I responded,

“Maybe. Unless Will Grier can finally settle down in the pocket and make some throws. Then they have a chance. There’s been open receivers all day, Will just needs to calm down and find them. Let them go make plays.”

Sure enough that’s exactly what happened.

A quarterback that been “using his legs as a check down” according to head coach Jim McElwain, finally stood tall in the pocket, made his reads, and fired the football with authority.

A quarterback who had been playing tentatively to that point led the offense on a 6 minute, 17 play, 86 yard touchdown drive to get within six at 27-21.

To dream the impossible dream…

You’d be lying if you told me you believed the Gators would pull victory out of the jaws of defeat before that drive.

But then Grier saved his best for last hitting true freshman Antonio Callway for a 63 yard touchdown to take the lead for good with 1:26 to go.

Callaway was sprung by a huge diving block from sophomore receiver Brandon Powell who had broken from his upfield route after Callaway made the grab.

Powell took out one guy directly and slowed the other two just enough to give Callaway a step and from there his straight line speed took over and the Gators were able to pull out their eleventh consecutive victory in the series between SEC east rivals.

Powell and Callaway had break out games combining for 10 receptions for 176 yards and two td’s (Callaway 5-112-1 td, Powell 5-64-1)

Twelfth year TE Jake McGee (5-57) and junior Demarcus Robinson (6-48) also played well getting first downs and keeping drives alive.

While the offense continues to be inconsistent and very much a work-in-progress, it’s encouraging that receivers are getting open, making catches, and making plays in space.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen that in the Swamp.

Something else that may have gotten lost in the shuffle with the late game heroics of Grier and Callaway was the play of junior running back Kelvin Taylor.

The Monday Morning Quarterback believes Taylor played the most complete game of his career.

He finished with 102 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns.

His first touchdown was set up by a huge 47 yard run where he masterfully showed patience, setting up his blockers, making a quick cut, and showing good burst through the hole breaking an arm tackle to get down field and gash the Tennesssee defense.

As well as he ran, however, it was his pass blocking and blitz pick up where he really shined.

Oft criticized as a liability in pass protection, Taylor was money against Tennessee.

McElwain said after the game when asked why we didn’t see the two true freshman backs, the plan going in was to feature Kelvin. It was his game to show what he can do and he did not disappoint.

Finally, the young offensive line which got even younger mid-game as they rotated in three true freshman (Martez Ivey, Fred Johnson, and Tyler Jordan) played arguably their best game of the season.

While certainly not mistake free, there were a lot less of those assignment mistakes and silly penalties that doomed so many promising drives in previous games.

In fact, had Grier trusted his line a little better sooner, and made a few better throws, this one may not have even been close.

So a young team that could have folded didn’t. They dug down and found a way to win.

“Hell no (they didn’t give up when down 27-14),” Powell said afterwards. “They (Tennessee) were up 17-0 two weeks ago to Oklahoma. We keep fighting.”

This is a far cry from the team that always seemed to find a way to lose last season.

For fans who had all but given them up for dead it was a lesson that they can have faith once again.

“Everyone on the sideline’s demeanor changed when they went up two touchdowns in the second half,” linebacker Jarrad Davis said.”But we came back and we just keep fighting. We keep fighting.”

Yes, they fought and they won.

Just as importantly, they gave fans hope. And the fans responded.

“We used the energy from the crowd,” Davis said. “It’s crazy. You will not believe how much the crowd affected us.”

The grit and resolve Grier and the team showed in the fourth quarter bodes well for the future and a young team that has played like it to date, grew up a little on Saturday night.

You find a way to win when you refuse to lose.

“You just don’t lose to Tennessee and they didn’t,” said McElwain.

Simple enough.

I’m The Monday Morning Quarterback and I’m out!

The Monday Morning Quarterback: Time For Florida Gators To Choose A Quarterback

  

The quarterback battle  between sophomore Treon Harris and redshirt freshman Will Grier that has engulfed the Florida Gator football program ever since Jim McElwain took over and former starter Jeff Driskel decided to transfer has yet to be decided.

The first two games ended up as de facto extended scrimmages, an extension of fall camp for the qb’s and a chance for coach Mac and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to further evaluate the two passers.

Seemingly, neither quarterback has taken the job. Both have done some good things and done some not-so-good things. Neither has done much that would be considered great or has the “wow” factor.

Despite that fact, The Monday Morning Quarterback believes it’s time to name a “permanent” starter.

While it’s understood there is no permanence in a starting quarterback job, the backup is always the most popular guy on the team when the team struggles, it’s clear that somebody needs to be declared “The Guy”.

Why?

For continuity.

Plain.

Simple.

Continuity on offense is non-existent as long as they continue to rotate players.

The quarterback position is unlike any other spot on the field. He is not just an athlete who makes plays with his arm and his feet.

He’s a field general.

He makes the calls on the field, he makes decisions before and after the snap, he hands off the football, and he throws passes.

Huddle demeanor is important and every guy is different. Some guys are loud and vocal, almost a coach on the field. Some are quieter with a softer voice and hesitant nature.

The players around him are dependent upon the quarterback on every play to make sure they get the correct play call, are clear in where they line up, and understand their role.

Having one guy provides consistency for the offensive players. Rotating players creates a higher likelihood that mistakes are made in assignments and a different cadence can easily create false start penalties.

The handoff, which many take for granted as a mundane part of the offensive action, is highly important. It’s like a dance. It requires some level of coordination.

Where the quarterback meets the running back, where he places the football, how quickly the transfer is made, and the force applied all determined the difference between a successful handoff, which gives the back optimal opportunity to make a play, and a turnover.

The Gators turned the ball over against East Carolina in a QB-RB exchange on Saturday evening. While seemingly everyone but coach Mac placed the blame on the running back Mark Herndon, it shows the importance of getting that right and giving one guy the opportunity to play creates continuity in this area.

Finally every quarterback throws a different ball. His arm strength is different, his throwing motion is different, and he throws at a different trajectory, and he puts different touch on his throws.

For receivers, platooning quarterbacks forces them to get used to two different guys doing two different things in the areas mentioned above. This can be confusing and create issues for receivers.

A quick-out that might come in high on average by one QB might come in low or outside from another. A pass that might’ve been fired on a rope by one QB might float in an arc by another.

Quarterback-receiver play requires coordination. There’s timing and rhythm on every throw that determines success or failure. Naming a starter will create more cohesion on offense and more continuity.

It will also allow receivers to focus more on their routes and catching the football and create more reacting and less thinking.

That’s important.

Very.

So that leads us to who should be the starter.

It’s easy to say a starter should be named but at this point much harder to say who that should be.

For sure, both guys bring different things to the table.

Grier is taller with a stronger arm, is more decisive in the pocket, is quicker in his progressions, and is a better runner.

Harris plays safer, is more mobile in the pocket, throws a better deep ball, and throws better on the run.

Grier tends to lock in on a receiver missing better options at times and sometimes head-scratchingly makes bad decisions.

Harris holds the ball too long, is often late on throws, and floats balls that need more zip.

The Monday Morning Quarterback believes that Grier is the better QB long term and is the future for the Gators at the position.

As such, he should be named the permanent starter this week heading into the Kentucky game.

That’s not to say that Grier will light it up this season and lead them to a championship. In fact, with a problematic offensive line, Harris might very well give the Gators a better chance to win this season with his ability to throw outside the pocket and his penchant for playing close to the vest.

However, for all intents and purposes this is a rebuilding year. This team has zero chance of competing for a championship and, as such, they should prepare for the future. This means Will Grier should get the majority of first team snaps in practice as well as in live game action.

What say you?

I’m The Monday Morning Quarterback and I’m out!

The Monday Morning Quarterback: Mac Attack Debut Is Roaring Success

by Eric P. Burdette

by Eric P. Burdette

There’s a reason college football programs schedule patsies to begin the season. Besides the obvious easy home payday, it gives them the opportunity to get started on a good foot.

For the Florida Gators, an overmatched New Mexico State team offered just that and more.

Carrying a roster loaded with youth, the Gators were presented with a great opportunity for many of their young players to get some live game experience in front of a packed, screaming orange and blue clad home crowd.

For Gator fans anxious for some offensive signs of life and continuity after several years of ineptitude, it was an opportunity for new head coach Jim McElwain to showcase exactly why he was hired.

While it was a fun night for fans and a rousing success on the scoreboard (61-13 victory), The Monday Morning Quarterback believes it was a great first step forward for many more reasons than simply yardage or points.

While admittedly, New Mexico State was far outclassed talent-wise and we’ve seen this act before (Gators won 65-0 over Eastern Michigan in the de facto opening game last season), this one was different.

Far different.

Why, you say?

Well for starters, we witnessed offensive continuity, something that hasn’t been shown by a Florida Gators team since a guy named Tebow was winning championships and a Heisman in a Gator uni.

And the reason for that was more than just X’s and O’s.

First, the Gators didn’t stop themselves, they forced the opponent to do it.

This is extremely important.

The last few seasons the Gators biggest problem on offense wasn’t an inability to move the football. They did make plays here and there.

The bigger problem was that when they did start moving the football they always seemed to shoot themselves in the foot with drive killing penalties, turnovers, and drops by the receivers.

Against the Aggies, the Gators were penalized only once for ten yards.

Once… For only ten yards.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The Monday Morning Quarterback has been following Gator football since 1977 and I cannot remember any other time when the Gators finished a game with only one penalty.

Even in the championship seasons under Spurrier and Meyer the Gators always seemed to be one of the most penalized teams in the conference and in the nation.

Fortunately, those teams had enough firepower to overcome those silly mental mistakes. Muschamp’s teams were certainly not so lucky.

Time and again promising drives ended prematurely after losing momentum due to untimely penalties often in scoring position.

Another all-too-common issue the last few seasons was drops by the receivers, often coming on third down when simply catching the ball would have kept the drive alive.

On Saturday evening, the receivers caught nearly everything including a beautiful catch in the red zone by slot receiver Alvin Bailey on a pass that was poorly thrown behind him. He flipped around mid-stride and snagged the pass for a first down leading to a 3 yard touchdown run by true freshman Jordan Cronkite, his first in a Gator uniform.

Discipline.

Gator Nation witnessed, not so much an offensive juggernaut, but a disciplined offensive unit that executed well and played within itself.

So without having to overcome negative plays the Gators quarterbacks were able to get into and stay in a rhythm all night long.

The result was a well executed offensive display, which, while fans do need to temper expectations because it was against lowly New Mecico State, does give them hope moving forward.

In terms of X’s and O’s, Gator fans witnessed creative play calling that not only kept the defense off balance and featured all of its weapons but also allowed the quarterbacks to make quick decisions and use their athleticism to make plays.

For fans tired of dive plays, repetitive read options, and tons of horizontal throws, Saturday’s game offered a vertical passing game. The staff showed that you don’t have to throw low probability deep throws to get the ball downfield.

Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier actually accomplished what the previous three Gator OC’s could not: a schematic advantage a term coined by Muschamp’s first OC Charley Weiss.

And most importantly, they didn’t pull any punches. They threw the bus at the Aggies.

In previous seasons, the staff would put a very vanilla offense on the field in the first couple of games, presumably so as to not tip their hand on film for the SEC schedule.

The Monday Morning Quarterback believes that’s a bad idea when installing a new offense. It’s important to get game reps early and as often as possible to build confidence in your players and to get them reacting rather than thinking when you get into the meat of your schedule.

Against the Aggies the Gators had a good mix of dropback passing, play action, roll outs, misdirection, and naked bootlegs as well as a good mix of routes from deep to intermediate to quick screens and bubble screens.

They were able to get everybody involved in the offense. Fourteen different players caught passes and the quarterbacks finished a combined 30-37 for 382 yards and four touchdowns. They averaged a first down every time they completed a pass (10.3 yds/catch).

You’re going to win a lot of games with that kind of output.

Again, it was against a team with an extreme talent disadvantage, but it has to be encouraging for fans and players moving forward.

The main negative offensively was a somewhat shaky performance by the offensive line. There were missed assignments galore, particularly in blitz pick up, leaving the quarterbacks to scramble and hurry throws far more often than the staff would like.

They also had several snap problems particularly on shotgun snaps which could be problematic against the better teams on their schedule if they don’t get that worked out.

Perhaps it was due to first game jitters or perhaps it was due to guys playing out of position due to injuries or the staff moving guys around to find the right mix but The Monday Morning Quarterback believes this is a big cause for concern coming out of the season opener.

Certainly the staff will identify the issues during film study and work to overcome these issues before lining up against a much better opponent in East Carolina.

They had better because the SEC schedule presents a daunting defensive gauntlet for this young offensive unit.

Overall, though, The Monday Morning Quarterback believes it was a successful debut for new head coach Jim McElwain and his staff besides simply getting the victory and putting up 61 points, the most by any Florida head coach in their initial outing.

I’m The Monday Morning Quarterback and I’m out!