While the Florida Gators offense this season struggled this season, particularly in the last half of the season, they had one major struggle all season: the redzone.
This season the Gators continuously came up empty in the redzone, ending the season ranking 123rd in the country with a 68.75% conversion percentage, a drop of 112 spots over last season, where they converted at a rate of 90.91%.
The Gators 68.75% conversion percentage is such a low number, the closest team with a winning record is Akron at 74.42% (7 wins), and the closest team with at least 10 wins is TCU with 77.97%, it is actually amazing that the Gators continued to win this season.
Of that 68.75% conversion percentage, the Gators had 28 touchdowns and only five field goals. If you only include Power-5 teams, the Gators were 20-of-31. And in the months of November/December they were only 5-of-13 in five games.
While there is a much-maligned debate on the merits of separating the discussion between the first 80 yards of the field and the last 20 yards and how different offenses perform, for the purposes of this article we will avoid that debate.
As was true for much of the season, the Florida Gators struggled in passing the ball in the redzone, with Will Grier performing quite a bit better than Treon Harris.
This year in the redzone, the Gators were 23-of-44 (52.3%) with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Breaking those numbers down, Will Grier was 14-of-22 (63.6%) with five touchdowns and one interception, while Treon Harris was 9-of-22 (40.9%) with four touchdowns and one interception. It wasn’t just scoring in the redzone it was overall success moving the ball with Grier having seven first downs with one play going longer than 15 yards (19 yards) and Harris only had four first downs with one play also going for 19 yards. The Gators nine passing touchdowns ranked 87th in the country in red zone touchdowns with the average touchdown pass being 9.8 yards long.
Why was Harris struggling in the redzone? Well, after reviewing the tape, it was the same issues he struggled with outside of the redzone – bad reads. The short yardage of the redzone limited Harris’ ability to allow plays to open up forcing him to make quick decisions which lead to high percentage of passes being forced and incomplete, or thrown out of bounds. The average completion of Harris in the redzone was 8 yards, and average yard per attempt was 3.27 yards, both the lowest of any part of the field, which is somewhat expected, but also slightly worrisome because that means that when the Gators did connect, rarely, it was just under four yards lower per completion than anywhere else on the field (when taking out plays longer than 19 yards).
Would you believe me if I told you that the Florida Gators averaged more than a yard less per rush in the red zone than in either other 20-yard stretch on the field? I hope you said yes!
The Gators 2.23 yards per carry in the redzone ranked 103rd in the country. Further, the Gators rank 90th in the country in rushing first downs in the redzone. Finally, the Gators rank 70th in the country in number of runs in the redzone that went for more than 10 yards (5).
Most obviously, the Gators struggled in the redzone due to kicking struggles. We do not need to harp on it.
The Gators five total field goals in the red zone rank 118th in the country – meaning the Gators are only scoring a field goal 10.42% of the time they enter the redzone, which is 124th in the country.
It was a particularly rough season for Austin Hardin who started 3-of-3 on field goals in the redzone, but then missed his next six kicks in the redzone, including three times where the Gators got the ball inside the opponent redzone.