In 2012 the Gators made no attempt to conceal their offensive game plan. Starting with the very first game against Bowling Green, the Gators lined up in heavy sets and ran the ball right into the teeth of eight and nine man fronts.
After calling his team soft in 2011, Will Muschamp was determined to change the perception of his football team. Florida achieved this by having one of the best rushing attacks not only in the SEC, (3rd overall) but in the country (39th overall).
But at what expense did enforcing this type of smash mouth football affect the offense as a whole? Florida’s passing offense struggled mightily last season and rather than the running game setting up things for Jeff Driskel and the receivers, the passing game – specifically the down field passing game – couldn’t take advantage of favorable matchups and man coverage.
Meeting with the media on Wednesday, second year offensive coordinator Brent Pease said that the Gators weren’t too far off with “explosive plays” last season – Pease told us that the staff considers an “explosive play” one that goes for 16 or more yards.
“Looking at it numbers wise, we weren’t too far off,” Pease said. “We still were close to – I can’t remember the numbers, I wish I had them on me right now – I think the thing that I saw that we didn’t have is throwing the ball vertically over the top. We had explosive plays, probably a lot more in the run game and catching short passes and making plays out of them.”
Looking back at the numbers from last season, Pease was right that Florida wasn’t too far off as far as total “explosive plays” from scrimmage as a whole. Florida ranked 88th in the country with 162 plays that went for 10 or more yards and 78th in the country with 51 plays that went for 20 or more yards.
However, when you break the numbers down further, the glaring discrepancy between how many of those plays came through the air versus how many came via the running game, the difference is glaring. Of Florida’s 162 plays that went for 10 or more yards, 92 of those were on the ground (21st in the country) while just 72 were on passing plays (117th in the country).
Pease admitted that Florida needs to do a better job of stretching the field vertically but understands that there is a lot that goes into being able to have a successful passing game.
“It’s more throwing the ball over the top, just stretching the field vertically, which we need to do. That’s route running, accuracy with the ball, protection at times and there’s a lot that becomes involved in it,” Pease said. “I think with the respect that our running game has gained, that when people start to stack the box, we’ve got to be able to do that.”
Being able to play in the same offensive system for a second year – something hasn’t happened at Florida since 2009 – should give the offense the confidence they need to turn things around this season. Pease sees a difference in his quarterback and believes that the improvements that Driskel has made this offseason will help ignite an offense that has lacked a big play threat for several years.
“Yeah. I think they’re [explosive plays] going to have more of an impact,” Pease said. “I think some of it is on me. I have to be willing to pull the trigger and let them perform it. But I’m confident on that, I think he [Driskel] has the ability to do it. He has the ability to do it in this system. He has the ability to do it off his skills.”
While Driskel and the offense will surely enjoy being able to play another year in the same system, the addition of a new wide receivers coach will also help the passing game this season.
“He’s [Joker Phillips] a very experienced person in that position and he has good ideas and knows what we run as far as our system,” Pease said. “He fits into that. He’s willing to do it, obviously. I think he’s good in the fact he’s challenged our kids in the wide receiver position. You bring in a guy with that much experience, and you look at his reputation, and he gives you that authority figure that knows what’s going on.”
Make no mistake about it; Florida is going to be a physical, run first football team. That is the identity that Will Muschamp wants his football team to have and, hey, Florida is really good at running the football.
“He did an outstanding job,” Will Muschamp said of Pease during a Gator Gathering this summer. “Part of being a really good coach, in my opinion, is identifying who you are and understanding who you are. Understanding what your football team can do rather than asking them to do something they can’t do. That’s something I saw Brent and our offensive staff do throughout the entire  season.”
For as good as the Gators are at pounding the rock, they need to have a more balanced offense in 2013. The fans know it, Brent Pease knows it and Will Muschamp knows it.
“I think this football team; we need to be more balanced on offense. We need to be more efficient throwing the football. We need to be able to create more explosive plays. We need to score more touchdowns in the red zone,” Muschamp said. But we need to be more balanced offensively. If had you to benchmark number 1, that is number 1.”