The Monday morning quarterback

It isn’t easy to write this today.  I was thinking of bringing in a guest columnist such as Carlos Alvarez or Steve Tannen.  Steve lives in Gainesville now and just underwent back surgery.   He is getting better and rode his bike 100 miles yesterday.  I need some back surgery myself.

It looks like the Gators could use some surgery. It has been along time since we were not competitive and that’s the only way I can describe what happened yesterday in Columbia, Missouri. We were in trouble from the first play and it only got worse from there.

From the first drive when Missouri needed only two plays to score until the fourth quarter, they toyed with us. The final score was 36-17, but really, they did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to do it.

Surely they don’t have better players than we do, do they?  After all, our recruiting classes have been rated consistently in the top ten in the nation – and often the top five – the last 10 years.

I remember when I coached at Florida with Coach Steve Spurrier and Georgia’s recruiting class was always rated #1 in the SEC.  Without fail it seems. Yet I remember Ray Goff saying before one game that he wished he had all the great players that Florida has. Coach Spurrier promptly responded, “What happened to all those great players you signed Coach Goof?”

That still makes me laugh.

The Gators seem to be heading on a downward spiral.  We got worse in just one week after a bad showing in the LSU game. Offensively, we haven’t been very good at all this year, but the LSU and Missouri games were terrible. In the last two games our offensive line can’t block anyone and the defensive line can’t stop the run or get to the passer.

I know all about the injuries, but that’s why you go out and recruit new guys into the program every year so that you always have depth. We always hear that saying “next man up.” Well, what happened to the next man?

I have begun to question what’s going on with our strength and conditioning program with all the injuries that we’ve had. Is this just a fluke year or is there something going on that’s causing them? I have to ask that question because we never had injuries like that when Rich Tuten was in charge of the program back in the 1990s.

Our play calling is so predictable I can call the plays when I see the formation.  If I can, so can the D Coordinator for the opposition and the defensive players.  Our passing game scheme doesn’t get anybody open.

How easy is it? When the Gators have 21 personnel in or two backs, two wide receivers and a tight end (sometimes they substitute another offensive tackle for a wide receiver) we run either the counter play to the weak side or the power play to the strong side. I would say that we are probably 90-98% that tendency.

When Trey Burton lines up in shotgun at quarterback, it’s the read option 100% of the time. It’s averaging about -5 yards lately and it killed a potential touchdown at both LSU and Missouri. Come on! Do something different if you insist on putting Trey in there as the wildcat QB!

When the Gators are in 11 personnel, meaning one back, one TE and 3 WR’s, we run the short passing game. It’s very predictable and we seem to have no clue about blitz pickup. If I’m a defensive coordinator and I see the Gators in that personnel package you can bet I’m bringing the house. Until someone on the Gators shows he can pick up a blitz, I’ll do it over and over again.

We used to self-scout after three games to see if we had tendencies that were easy to read. When we found them, we tried changeups. That means we gave the same look but did something different to fool the defense.  We could use that concept right now. We also could see what we were averaging on each play. That factored into our game planning and our play calling on game day.

Back to the Missouri game.

If it weren’t for a herculean effort by “King” Solomon Patton and Kelvin Taylor we would be nowhere. Solomon showed us his speed on that kickoff return. He caught six passes but only one downfield – good for 14 yards – and ran one jet sweep and that was good for 17 yards. He’s got speed that we need on the edge in the running game and we’ve got to start figuring ways to get him the ball further down the field where he’s got more space to maneuver and have a chance to go all the way for a score.

Taylor gave us a spark on that nice touchdown drive, but as soon as he scored on the 20-yard run late in the third quarter to close the score to 23-17 he only carried the ball one more time. After that, Mizzou toyed with us again and promptly marched to another TD. It’s frustrating!

Dante Fowler played hard and that’s about it on defense.  Even our two corners were getting torched.

I guess a bright spot was special teams.  We scored on a kickoff return by Patton, Frankie Velez made all his kicks and our new punter Johnny Townsend averaged 45.6 yards so there was at least some improvement somewhere.

So where does that leave us? We have an open date to lick our wounds and regroup. We have to come up with some answers. Hopefully Will Muschamp and his staff will come up with a plan that works.

If they need any help, I know a really good offensive mind who needs some work and who can recruit lights out. He’d be open to Florida, too. After all his wife and father-in-law are Gators!!!

John Reaves


Beat the Dogs!!!

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John Reaves
When he finished his University of Florida playing career in 1971, John Reaves was the most prolific passer in the history of college football. He threw for 7,581 yards in his UF career but he's best remembered for the 70-yard touchdown pass to Carlos Alvarez on the third play of his collegiate career against Houston in 1969. A first team All-American, Reaves played in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Bucs, plus three years in the USFL with the Tampa Bay Bandits. He was the quarterback coach at Florida from 1990-94. He's also the father-in-law of former USC coach Lane Kiffin.