“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana
With Santayana’s words in mind, Gator Country writers Nick de la Torre and Richard Johnson embarked on an endeavor to re-watch the 2012 football season. Re-watching the season seven months after the final whistle was blown gives us an ability to watch the games with a perspective to consider all things that happened during the 2012 season, and the knowledge to analyze each game with a better knowledge of the team.
Throughout this series, we will break down each game, splitting up the offense and defense to give you a comprehensive breakdown and re-tell the story of the 2012 season.
Here’s a trivia question for you to stump your friends with: “Remember how Jeff Driskel’s career as Florida’s starting quarterback began?”
Both Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett trot out on the field, and Driskel lines up at receiver. That first play is a run to the left, and the Driskel era in Gainesville begins on the next play.
When you examine his first game of the season, you can tell Driskel is a QB that’s nervous, and you immediately notice the “game manager” moniker he’s been slapped with.
Where Driskel is concerned in game one, there is only one receiver on every play. When the ball gets snapped on a pass play, he immediately has a periscope focus on his primary receiver.
I’ll be very interested to see how Driskel grows, if at all, into a QB that can read progressions as the 2012 season goes on. Driskel’s incremental improvements in throwing techniques are also something I’ll be paying attention to. Receivers were open on a couple of occasions but Driskel just didn’t plant his feet and drive through the throws. Instead, he relied on throwing with just his upper body, the balls weren’t pretty. It’s worth noting that most of the throws I’m referencing were when he was on the move, outside the pocket on bootlegs, and rollouts. Part of the problem with Driskel is his lack of pocket awareness. He runs into problems when he is outside of clean pockets and not holding his ground to let the play develop. First game jitters are something that you should rightly assume, and the development of his pocket presence is something I’m also interested in as we progress through the season. We have the benefit of looking at these games through hindsight; we know Jeff Driskel is a game manager, so I’ll be evaluating how well he grows into being an effective one as the season goes on.
Brissett has a small sample size. In his first pass attempt, he runs a play action fake, sets to throw, but doesn’t step through the throw and ends up overthrowing Andre Debose by five yards. The issue here, is that he doesn’t shift his weight from his back leg to his front while throwing. On his next pass attempt, you see pocket presence. Brissett senses pressure, moves right, keeps his eyes downfield the entire time, then steps up in the pocket and drives through the throw for a completion to Quinton Dunbar.
A disclaimer: Dunbar was only open because he broke his route off short of the first down line. Brissett took what the zone defense gave him, but it was six yards short of the first down line on third down.
Some say Brissett didn’t get a fair chance the job, part of that is bad timing. On his second drive, Mike Gillislee scores on the first play of the series and on the third, he’s serviceable in the final drive of the half. Brissett didn’t get a full quarter of work because Driskel had a drive that bled over into the beginning of the second quarter. The point is moot now, it was Driskel’s show the rest of the season –except of course against Louisiana Lafayette and Jacksonville State. The Devil’s advocate to the Brissett unfairness argument is a powerful one: win the QB competition in the offseason, and we aren’t even having this discussion.
The offensive line is good as a unit in this game but a few things are clear early. Jon Halapio and Chaz Green struggle handling the few stunts that the Bowling Green defensive line throws at them. The defensive tackle that lined up on Jon Harrison in the second half whips him often and Jordan Reed can’t block to save his life, but we knew the latter of those two things heading into the game. Remember, we’re evaluating these games through the lens of hindsight, re-watching these game you really see that he has bad technique and gets beaten easily by defenders that aren’t his size or smaller.
Reed’s blocking is the only thing on that list I don’t remember getting any better as the season goes on, but we’ll see as the re-watching project continues, my memory is a bit hazy, I haven’t watched these games in 11 months.
Of Florida’s 37 rushing plays –not counting QB runs, kneeldowns and sacks, which is what brings Florida’s box score total to 42 rushing plays– 19 went to the left, 18 to the right. When Florida ran to the left, they often used Jon Halapio, who is a very effective pulling guard.
This was a Bowling Green team that didn’t use any exotic blitzes or complex personnel packages. 12 plays in Nickel, one play in Dime –that wasn’t run because of a penalty –, 56 plays in 4-3 with either cover 1 or cover 2 behind it. Blocking assignments weren’t tough, so it’s about technique and simply beating your man off the ball.
This exercise serves the purpose of confirming or debunking what we think we know about Florida’s 2012 season. It also helps us build a foundation for evaluating these players in the upcoming season.
We’ll see how they improve as the year goes on, this is simply game one. It’s a long season to re-watch.