Florida football film study: offense against Colorado State

Last week, the story of the offense film study against Kentucky was that the Florida offense was still in the basics phase. Against Colorado State, the offense opened up some and showed a few different things.

It also showed some things it’s been doing since Game 1, and not in a good way. Here are the things that jumped off the game tape for me.

Two-back personnel

The Gators spent most of the game in one-back sets with one tight end, which I think is what they’re going to spend the bulk of every game doing for the foreseeable future. That’s just the base set for Dan Mullen’s offense.

For the first time in 2018, though, we saw some two-running back sets. They finally arrived on the first drive of the second quarter, and there were three plays with them to start the series. In each set, Feleipe Franks was in the shotgun with Malik Davis and Jordan Scarlett on either side of him.

The Rams countered the first one with a six-man box, though with a seventh defender nearby, and the second two with seven-man boxes. CSU was thinking run, which worked out for the Gators because two of the three plays were passes.

On the first one, Davis begins on the left with Scarlett on the right. Davis crosses in front of Franks, who does a play fake to Scarlett. The handoff action draws a couple of defenders well enough that Davis is open going to the flat. Franks tosses it a bit high, but Davis is able to corral it and make a linebacker miss to get eight yards.

On the second play, Scarlett lines up on the left and crosses in front. Davis takes a handoff from Franks’s right side on an inside zone play. He might’ve had the chance to bounce it around the left end of the line for a big gain, but it’s 2nd & 2 and the right side of the offensive line has moved the line of scrimmage back two yards. Davis takes the safe gain of three rather than stretch it to the left.

The third play keeps Davis on the right and Scarlett to the left. Davis goes in motion behind Franks to the left prior to the snap, and Franks does a play fake to Scarlett. Van Jefferson finds a hole in the zone coverage on about a 20-yard in route, and Franks hits on an explosive gain.

When Mullen promised two-back sets, a lot of people (myself included) envisioned using them to run the ball. In this one, he used it more to pass. All three plays were success plays, so I expect to see more from two-back sets in the future.

One footnote is that Mullen put Stone Forsythe in at right tackle for this series. Starting RT Jawaan Taylor wasn’t hurt that anyone could tell, and he went back in the game afterwards. I’ll be watching to see if Forsythe is some kind of specialist on these plays or if the substitution was entirely coincidental.

Offensive line execution

There were three big things that held the offense back in this game.

The first was dropped passes. Each of the first two drives went three-and-out because of third down drops.

The second was bad passing early on from Franks. After those two drops, three of his next four throws either were inaccurate or late. They resulted in a missed receiver, a pick, and a pass breakup.

Those were just temporary phenomena, though. There were no drops after the second drive, and Franks hit on 8-of-9 passes from then on.

Throughout the game, the offensive line was still a problem. Two things about its play stood out to me: poor adjustment to corner blitzes and the right side being porous in general.

Mullen said in his halftime interview that early on, CSU showed “a couple different looks they hadn’t shown before”. The corner blitz is not one of those, as I went back and found one in the first quarter of the Rams’ win over Arkansas in Week 2.

The first time Colorado State employed one, the corner was entirely unaccounted for. The second time, Jawaan Taylor did a good job in sliding out to get the blitzer from his right tackle spot, but in the process both center Nick Buchanan and Fred Johnson missed their blocks on defensive linemen. On a third corner blitz later in the game, left guard Tyler Jordan is supposed to pull right and seal that side of the line but is too late to notice the blitzing corner. That led to the only sack of Franks on the game.

I called out the right side of the line for good blocking on the second of the two-back plays above because I’m calling it out for poor blocking here.

The second half of the embedded video shows plays where Taylor and/or Johnson don’t get the job done. The first I believe is a bust by Taylor, and Forsythe comes in on the two-back set drive on the following series. That’s why I say it may have been a coincidence for Forsythe to be in for those plays; it may have been Mullen and John Hevesy giving Taylor a series off after that bust. The other two plays show Johnson being unable to make his second-level blocks, something that’s been a common theme this year.

Florida fans are ready to see Brett Heggie back in the offensive line, as he made a key block for Dameon Pierce’s 68-yard touchdown. I know Heggie missed a lot of practice and am not sure if he’s 100%, so those are some complicating factors.

I also know that Heggie has so far mostly played left guard, and that doesn’t necessarily help out the right side of the line. Putting Heggie in at left guard would allow for Jordan to slide over to right guard, but he’s been shaky this year too. As I went over last week, the whole interior of the line is a problem. Making one substitution there isn’t going to fix everything.

I don’t have a third section this week because Florida ran so few offensive plays thanks to turnovers and big special teams plays. The bottom line is that in a limited set to look at, I saw successes that worked because UF can out-athlete Colorado State and a lot of the same problems that we’ve been seeing for a while. I do not come away from this game thinking much has changed for the Florida offense.

David Wunderlich
David Wunderlich is a born-and-raised Gator and a proud Florida alum. He has been writing about Florida and SEC football since 2006. He currently lives in Naples Italy, at least until the Navy stations his wife elsewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @Year2