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Missouri at Florida: Gators' offense might benefit from the unknown

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Florida's offense has improved in 2014, but it's not as good as the South Carolina and Georgia offenses Missouri slowed down the last two games. If backup quarterback Treon Harris doesn't catch Mizzou off-balance, the Gators should struggle to score.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida's offense is a little bit dangerous right now, not only because it has improved a bit, but also because it has secrecy in its favor.

QB
Jeff Driskel (6'4, 230, Jr.) (90-for-164 passing, 878 yards, 6 TD, 8 INT, 5 sacks -- 5.0 yards per pass attempt; 48 carries, 216 yards, 2 TD)
Treon Harris (5'11, 190, Fr.) (4-for-6 passing, 165 yards, 2 TD; 7 carries, 25 yards)

Florida's offense still isn't particularly good this year, but it's mediocre, and that's a step up from 2013. The raw stats have been rendered only semi-impressive because of the schedule at hand -- Alabama ranks eighth in Def. F/+, Tennessee ranks 12th, and LSU ranks 35th. The good news here is that Missouri currently ranks 10th in Def. F/+, and if you look at Driskel's performance against Alabama and Tennessee (20-for-51, 152 yards, one touchdown, five interceptions), there's reason to believe Mizzou can slow him and his cohorts down.

On the other hand, there is a giant unknown variable here. True freshman Treon Harris filled in against Tennessee when Driskel completely lost the plot, and while he didn't actually do much -- 2-for-4 passing, four rushes for 24 yards -- Florida did score twice with him behind center. He provides a mobility threat that Driskel doesn't, even if he's still relatively new to the offense. He was suspended last week for the LSU game, and while he's back with the team, Will Muschamp has said that Driskel will start. But Missouri heads to Gainesville with no idea who might be behind center for a majority of the game. And the two quarterbacks are just different enough to make preparation very tricky.

We have no idea whether a sustained dose of Harris might result in a sea change for the Florida offense as a whole, or whether his limitations will be quickly exploited. Like a good guitar player, Harris is benefiting from unknowns and mystique. But until we do know what he's capable of, it's a little scary to think of him jumping in and changing everything about how (and how well) Florida's offense operates.

RB
Matt Jones (6'2, 235, Jr.) (76 carries, 383 yards, 3 TD; 11 targets, 7 catches, 42 yards, 1 TD)
Kelvin Taylor (5'10, 210, So.) (32 carries, 144 yards, 2 TD; 3 targets, 1 catch, -2 yards)
Mack Brown (5'11, 215, Sr.) (7 carries, 58 yards; 5 targets, 4 catches, 21 yards)
Brandon Powell (5'9, 175, Fr.) (6 carries, 30 yards, 1 TD; 8 targets, 7 catches, 66 yards)

FB
Hunter Joyer (5'11, 230, Sr.)
Gideon Ajagbe (6'2, 240, Sr.)

Missouri fans saw a back with tons of potential when Kelvin Taylor rushed 12 times for 74 yards and a touchdown last year in Columbia -- he was quite easily the only offensive bright spot for the Gators that day. He hasn't yet broken out, however, and he has been surpassed on the depth chart by junior Matt Jones. Jones is a big dude and probably Florida's steadiest, most efficient option. He gives Florida some muscle between the tackles, even if his averages aren't exactly amazing. He struggled with knee and ankle injuries last week against LSU, however, and while he's expected to play, it'll be interesting to check on the distribution between Jones and Taylor.

(The other two listed tailbacks -- Brown and Powell -- have basically just served as occasional third-down type backs.)

WR-X
Demarcus Robinson (6'2, 200, So.) (48 targets, 30 catches, 476 yards, 4 TD)
Andre Debose (6'0, 195, Sr.) (5 targets, 1 catch, -3 yards)

WR-Z
Quinton Dunbar (6'2, 200, Sr.) (21 targets, 10 catches, 122 yards)
Ahmad Fulwood (6'5, 200, So.) (10 targets, 6 catches, 37 yards)

WR-Y
Latroy Pittman (6'0, 210, Jr.) (16 targets, 7 catches, 35 yards) -- DAY-TO-DAY
Valdez Showers (6'0, 195, Jr.) (4 targets, 2 catches, 31 yards) -- QUESTIONABLE

TE
Clay Burton (6'4, 250, Sr.) (17 targets, 13 catches, 94 yards)
Tevin Westbrook (6'5, 257, Sr.) (6 targets, 4 catches, 38 yards, 1 TD)
DeAndre Goolsby (6'4, 230, Fr.)

If you remove Demarcus Robinson from the equation, you have a receiving corps that has quite possibly been even less successful than last year's. No. 2 target Quinton Dunbar is averaging 5.8 yards per target. The third through sixth targets are averaging 3.9. With all the recruiting stars in the world, the Florida receiving corps outside of Robinson has performed at either the same level, or an even lower one, than Missouri's.

Robinson, though, has had his moments. A true-sophomore blue-chipper, he carried Florida's offense during the Kentucky win, catching 15 balls for 216 yards and two touchdowns. In the three games since, however, he has nine catches for 137. He caught a long touchdown against LSU and has otherwise done nothing. Missouri's pass defense has been outstanding at preventing big plays; if that trend continues, and Robinson is kept more or less in check, Florida will struggle mightily to score points.

LT
D.J. Humphries (6'5, 295, Jr.) (12 career starts)
David Sharpe (6'6, 330, Fr.)

LG
Trip Thurman (6'5, 310, Jr.) (4 career starts)
Tyler Moore (6'5, 325, Jr.) (8 career starts)

C
Max Garcia (6'4, 310, Sr.) (17 career starts)
Drew Sarvary (6'6, 305, Jr.)

RG
Trenton Brown (6'8, 360, Sr.) (9 career starts)

RT
Chaz Green (6'5, 300, Sr.) (24 career starts)
Rod Johnson (6'6, 310, RSFr.) (2 career starts)

Again, because of opponent adjustments, Florida's line is grading out pretty well so far. The Gators currently rank ninth in Adj. Line Yards and 22nd in Adj. Sack Rate. The raw stats aren't nearly as impressive -- 65th in standard downs line yards, 72nd in opportunity rate, 51st in stuff rate, 57th in passing downs sack rate -- but again, even with a tough schedule last year, Florida's line stats were horrendous. It has absolutely improved this year, especially in the rare times that left tackle D.J. Humphries has been healthy. (He missed two games and was limping against LSU.) Still, one has to be pretty confident in what the Missouri defensive front has shown in recent weeks.

Again, the biggest advantage Florida has this week is the unknown. The Gators can negate a lot of Missouri's preparation in the ways that it uses Treon Harris. If the Tigers are a step off-balance, then Florida will be able to move the ball. But on a man-for-man basis, Missouri has over the last two games slowed down offenses that are quite a bit better than Florida's. If the Missouri offense gives the defense any help whatsoever, the odds are pretty good that the defense will have a good evening in Gainesville.