GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier didn’t sugarcoat things in his first media availability since the 2016 season ended.
He knows his unit simply has not produced the way it should.
“We have to do a better job,” Nussmeier said. “We all know we need to coach better, we need to play better.”
Last season the Gators ranked last in the SEC and 116th nationally in total offense, which is lower than their 2015 rankings. But as Nussmeier points out, UF actually improved as a team in every major statistical category — total offense, passing, rushing, scoring, sacks and third-down conversions.
“You look across the board statistically we improved in areas and yet fell back in the national rankings,” Nussmeier said. “The one area we’ve really gotta address is the red zone. We haven’t been good in both seasons. Need to improve on that.”
The Gators made minimal improvement in the aforementioned categories, but it’s worth noting that they didn’t get worse as an offense in 2016. However, baby steps won’t cut it for Nussmeier this upcoming season.
His offense must make some huge strides, but he believes the pieces are in place for that to happen.
“The players,” Nussmeir said bluntly when asked why the offense will be better in 2017. “We’ve played a lot of young players in the first two seasons. We have a lot of guys that have experience now. They’ve been in big games.
“We’ve won 19 games in two years. We’ve played against great quality opponents. Playing in this league, you’re not getting any layups. … You go and start true freshmen in this league, it’s a big learning curve for them.”
That learning curve should no longer be there. Florida has 10 of its 11 starters back from last season, though redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask will likely start over quarterback Luke Del Rio.
But the Gators return their top six receivers, four starters on the offensive line and a talented stable of running backs, led by Jordan Scarlett.
“We’re really starting to build a core of guys,” Nussmeier said. “You look at our perimeter players — our wide receivers are probably one of our deepest positions on our team. I really feel good about the way the line is starting to gel together, the depth at the running back position. Obviously we’re young at quarterback but I like the players that are in our system.”
Nussmeier is also in his third year as a coordinator at the same school for the first time since 2011. He now has the luxury of coaching players who have starting experience and familiarity with his system.
“It’s a big difference,” Nussmeier said. “When you look at the first two years how many young players we’ve played, the production we’ve had form young players and the moving pieces we’ve had in there at times.
“We had one guy (David Sharpe) that started basically the whole season last year for us, that was it. Really excited about the group we have and them understanding what we’re trying to do and where we’re trying to go.”
Starter center T.J. McCoy, a redshirt sophomore, is one of 11 freshmen who started on offense the past two years. Florida coach Jim McElwain and Nussmeier will rely on fewer freshmen this season.
“Just because we have two redshirt freshman being QBs, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have any confidence,” McCoy said. “We’ve been here for a while. I’m going into my third year. I redshirted my first year but other guys like Jordan Scarlett, he’s going into his junior year. It’s just that confidence and saying, ‘I’ve done this for a while and it’s time to take it to the next level.’
“I know the plays. I know I can be physical. Just the confidence of knowing the system and being familiarized with the coaches. We’ve had Coach Mac for a while, Coach Nuss for a while and the same offense for going on three years. It’s just a matter of knowing your assignment and wanting to be the best at it.”