- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Charlie Weis isn’t a man of excuses.
If he were, he could easily say that Florida’s offense has hit a wall because his players were simply overmatched and overwhelmed by Alabama and LSU.
While Florida’s offensive coordinator isn’t denying that was the case in back-to-back losses to those schools, he would rather look back and find what he could have done better. How could he have made sure the offense did this instead of that? How could he have helped out his young quarterbacks more and made the running backs a factor?
Weis knows Florida, which currently ranks seventh in the SEC in total offense (380.3 yards per game), faced the top two teams in the country and top two defenses in the conference. He knows they were equipped with meaner, tougher defenders, who turned Florida’s offense into rubble.
He knows a lot of reasons for the offensive implosion.
“I can give you a laundry list of excuses,” Weis said.
But he didn’t and he won’t. Weis focuses more on the self-evaluation aspect and that’s how he’s approaching this week of practice leading up to the Auburn game -- how can he get two freshman quarterbacks better prepared and ready?
As of Tuesday, Florida had yet to name its starting quarterback, but both Weis and head coach Will Muschamp said that Jacoby Brissett, who started at LSU, and Jeff Driskel had been taking close to equal reps in practice. Brissett leads, but Weis said Tuesday that he could see either starting and both playing.
Regardless of who’s in, Weis said the game plan against Auburn, which ranks last in the league in defense (439.5), would be the same.
And he assures the plan will be much better than the one Weis scraped together last week that generated just 213 yards and 11 points against LSU and more efficient than the one that mustered 10 points and 222 yards against Alabama.
“Obviously, we can’t be scoring 10 or 11 points and winning football games,” Weis said. “We have to score more points and that’s what our intention is this week.”
Basically, there are parts of the offense that just aren’t working.
Trying to muscle undersized speedsters Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps through the middle against Alabama’s and LSU’s girth isn’t effective. Rotating Brissett, Rainey and Trey Burton in at quarterback for series at a time doesn’t work. It’s even worse when you throw Brissett in on third-and-long, a la Florida’s 2010 offense.
Being ultra-conservative in the passing game isn’t working either. Since starter John Brantley went out in the first half against Alabama, Brissett and Driskel have completed 10 of their 20 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown -- a freak 65-yard score at that.
So how does Florida’s offense rebound?
“We will be more aggressive,” Weis said.
That means airing it out a little more. That means not getting cute with too much Wildcat. It also means adding power to Florida’s running game. Rainey, who was Florida’s best weapon for the first four weeks, and Demps have not been very noticeable the last two weeks, carrying the ball 29 times for 60 yards.
However, 5-foot-11, 198-pounder Mike Gillislee carried the ball nine times for 56 yards against LSU, and those numbers should have been higher.
They could be from here on out.
“Most running backs can’t get to the outside fast enough. He likes contact,” Weis said of Gillislee, who has 123 carries for 834 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career. “Most running backs don’t like contact -- they prefer not to get hit, rather than get hit. Getting hit is part of his game.
“He plays way bigger than his size.’’
This week could be a defining moment in Florida’s season. A loss could send this team spiraling down, while a win could jump-start it in time for the Georgia game in two weeks. However, the bottom line is that the offense has to fix things before Florida can take any sort of step forward.
“If you continue to do the same thing, you get the same results, so we need to change,” Muschamp said.