Monday, November 14, 2011
Improvement lacking in Weis' offense
By Edward Aschoff
Things are no doubt restless in the Gator Nation.
Not long ago, this was a proud fan base celebrating its second national championship in three years.
Now, it’s sitting and wondering how things got so bad after back-to-back mediocre seasons in the Swamp.
Yes, Florida’s football program is under construction with new coach Will Muschamp, but 6-6 seemed like a worst-case scenario before the season. Now, 6-6 looks like the best case.
Who should shoulder the blame for Florida's shortcomings on offense this season? Look no further than Charlie Weis.
It’s been a tumultuous first year for Muschamp and while he’s shouldered most of the blame for Florida’s shortcomings, he shouldn’t be alone in that department. In fact, maybe he shouldn’t assume most of the blame at all.
“It comes back to me,” Muschamp told reporters following Saturday’s 17-12 loss to South Carolina. “We've got to do a better job coaching, a better job in those critical situations in three of our last four games. In our last four games, three have come down to the final drive.”
In a year in which the idea was that the offense couldn’t get any worse after 2010, the truth is that it isn’t much better at all with Charlie Weis’ pro-style look. Quarterback John Brantley has repeated that he’s much more comfortable and confident running an offense that actually fits him, but it’s not like his numbers are that much better this time around.
He barely scratched 2,000 yards last year and had nine touchdowns. He has 1,479 yards and six touchdowns through 10 games.
While Muschamp will continue to hear the criticism about possibly being in over his head as a head coach, Weis deserves just as much thrown his way during his first year as Florida’s offensive coordinator.
Weis has flashed his Super Bowl rings, talked about transforming Brady Quinn and can’t go anywhere without hearing about how he made Tom Brady, but for someone anointed as an offensive genius, his work thus far has looked like anything but that in meaningful games.
Florida’s leading receiver is a running back, no real wide receiver has cracked the 20-catch mark, the running game has been mostly swallowed up against SEC opponents and the offensive line collapses more than a bridge made of popsicle sticks.
There is talent on offense. Things can be done, but these players haven’t been put into the best situations to make plays. It might not be great everywhere, but it shouldn’t look like this.
We’ve seen spurts here and there, especially during the first four games, but against the big boys, the offense has crumbled, and that reflects on the coaching.
Since the second half of the Alabama game, this offense has been a shell of its first four-game self. Florida has averaged just 260.8 yards in the last five games. In its four losses, the Gators mustered just 223.5.
Game plans have ranged from ineffective wildcat formations featuring Trey Burton and Chris Rainey, to trying to get scat backs to run between the tackles up the middle of the field. There is no downfield passing game or easy routes for receivers, and Florida has become as predictable as ever.
Alabama and LSU might as well be thrown out because of Brantley’s injury and the uncertainty at quarterback heading into Baton Rouge, La. But beyond that, preparation has to be questioned.
Weis had a week to work with true freshman Jacoby Brissett before the Auburn game. Brissett was the guy and there was time to implement a game plan that would keep him comfortable and make him effective against a defense that has crawled around the bottom of the SEC in most defensive categories all year.
However, the Gators kicked two field goals and didn’t even reach 200 yards of offense. Fellow frosh Jeff Driskel, who began the year as the No. 2 quarterback, replaced Brissett in the second half, but wasn’t any better.
Even when Florida finally grabbed a win against Vanderbilt, the offense sputtered along when Jeff Demps wasn’t touching the ball.
Last week said it all when Florida had chance after chance to upset South Carolina, but never had enough plays to get by the Gamecocks defense. Even with Rainey rushing for 132 yards, Florida accumulated just 261 yards and one touchdown in a game of struggling offenses.
Muschamp handed over the offensive keys to Weis and he hasn’t delivered.
Weis said earlier in the season that he had reflected on poor offensive performances and wondered what he could have done to help the players more.
He and everyone else watching are still wondering.