3 reasons why Florida’s offense should improve in 2016
By almost any standard, Florida’s season has been a smashing success. The Gators have won 10 games and earned a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship under first-year coach Jim McElwain, who was named the conference’s Coach of the Year on Wednesday. However, even with those accomplishments there is a sense among Florida fans that this season could’ve been even better if the Gators had managed to perform better on offense.
Florida finished the regular season just 11th in the SEC in scoring and according to Football Outsiders, the Gators are just 60th in the country in offensive efficiency. The belief of many Florida fans is that if those numbers had been better, it might be the Gators preparing for the College Football Playoff instead of Alabama.
While no one can know for sure whether a better offense would’ve closed the gap between Florida and the Crimson Tide this season, it can be reasonably assumed that Gators fans will see their team field a much better offense next year for three reasons:
1 . Florida should be better at quarterback.
Not to knock Treon Harris, but it’s fair to say that the Gators never recovered from the suspension of Will Grier for PED use. Well, Grier’s suspension will end in time for the second half of the 2016 season. However, that isn’t the main reason for optimism when it comes to the quarterback position. Florida also stands to gain at least one of the top high school recruits as well — either Feleipe Franks, a 4-star prospect that committed to the Gators after breaking away from LSU, or Jacob Eason, the 5-star talent from Washington that McElwain is trying to steal from UGA. And before anyone tries to suggest that a true freshman quarterback won’t be ready to succeed in big-time college football, take a look at what Josh Rosen did at UCLA this season: the young man, fresh out of high school, threw for 3350 yards and 20 touchdowns. Obviously, a player like that on next year’s Florida team would make a huge difference.
2. Florida should improve along the offensive line.
Frankly, the Gators’ offensive line play has been just as bad as the quarterback performance this year. Florida’s line has allowed the most sacks of any team in the SEC, a full 11 more than the second-worst unit (Texas A&M). The group has allowed the most tackles for loss, as well, and Florida has gained the second-fewest rushing yards. The reason for the ineffectiveness is simple: Florida just hasn’t had enough depth. Through a series of injuries and bad luck, the Gators only had eight scholarship offensive linemen during spring practice. And by the time the season began, the leader of Florida’s line was Martez Ivey, a true freshman with a bright future but zero experience. As McElwain prepares for his second season, expect him to develop players already on the roster like Ivey into stars, and acquire more talent to play alongside them.
3. Florida has an advantage at head coach.
Speaking of McElwain, the biggest reason Gators fans should be hopeful about next season is that their team’s coach stands out as a true outlier compared to his colleagues in the SEC East. McElwain is the rare offensive mastermind in a division seemingly obsessed with defense. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason were former defensive coordinators, and UGA, South Carolina, and Missouri all just hired former defensive coordinators to be their head coaches as well. Only Butch Jones at Tennessee joins McElwain as a head coach in the SEC East that has been an offensive coordinator. It’s no wonder then that most of the programs in this half of the league have struggled to score points, and it’s a safe bet to assume Florida will figure out its issues first because of the expertise of its head coach.
As a matter of fact, Florida should begin to solve its offensive problems as soon as next season. A good game plan will be joined with better personnel, and the end result for the Gators might include even more than just a division title.