At long last, and by way of closing the book on the disaster that was the Friday-the-2013th season, we’ll look at the aggregate total impact of the preposterous avalanche of injuries had on the team. I had to split offense and defense to ramp up to this because to take it all in at once without working up to it would be as looking directly into the sun after sleeping for three weeks. From the surface of Mercury.
1. Roll Call
Having blown out the calculator, I had to add it up on paper. Here is the final bill:
Total injured players: 30
Total injured starters: 24
Total players missing significant game time: 33
Total players lost to season-ending injuries (+1 suspension): 17
Total starters lost to season-ending injuries: 11
Total combined games missed: 134
Total combined games missed by starters: 90
So let’s consider into what some of these numbers translate.
*The 24 starters, thanks to new/replacement starters being injured, mean that 109% of the starting lineup missed significant game time due to injury this year.
*The 11 starters lost for the season after their injuries equate to 50% of the starting lineup. Though some of them were replacement starters, numerically speaking that’s half the starting team.
*The 2-deep combined lost 134 games this year. That means in 2013, the contributing players missed over 13 seasons worth of games. That number 13 keeps popping up, and is it any wonder? Incidentally the starting players only missed 7 seasons worth of games, a not-so-lucky number either, as it turns out.
2. Disruption, Displacement and Juggling
For summary’s sake, let’s just stick to the percentages here. Straight down the lineup, this time listed in order of worst hit to least hit by injury, detailing the number of players required to fill the starting positions and the percentage of games the primary starter was able to play. For the names of the starters at each position, you can flip back to Parts I and II. And keep in mind these numbers only include the position groups (offensive line, linebackers, etc.) that were impacted by injuries during the season, which means the wide receiver group is not included (since Andre Debose’s injury occurred before the season started). Fullback is omitted because it was not impacted by injury and because it is a position that was so often not included on this offense.
In 2013, here was the damage:
SAM LB: 3, 33%
Running Back: 3, 42%
Right Tackle: 3, 42%
Safety: 3, 42%
Quarterback: 3, 50%
Left Tackle: 3, 50%
Defensive Tackle: 3, 50%
WILL LB: 3, 55%
Left Guard: 3, 58%
MIKE LB: 3, 58%
Cornerback: 3, 58%
Nose Tackle: 3, 67%
Safety: 3, 67%
Buck: 2, 50%
Defensive End: 2, 54%
Right Guard: 2, 83%
Cornerback: 2, 83%
Nickelback: 2, 86%
Center: 1, 100%
That’s right. Only one single starter on the entire team started and played in every game of the year. That’s simply unheard of. In 13 of the 19 impacted positions on offense and defense (68%), three starters were required during the year. If you figure that you have to have your primary starter play at least two-thirds of the games to be considered a stable position, there were only five of 22 starting spots on the team (23%) that had stable personnel this year. And three of those five were in the secondary. The defensive front seven and nearly the entire offense were decimated.
Now compare this to 2012:
WILL LB: 4, 62%
Nickelback: 3, 86%
Running Back: 3, 85%
SAM LB: 3, 50% (4 games)
Buck: 2, 92%
Cornerback: 2, 92%
Quarterback: 2, 92%
Defensive End: 2, 85%
Left Tackle: 2, 85%
Left Guard: 2, 85%
Cornerback: 2, 77%
Right Tackle: 2, 77%
Defensive Tackle: 1, 100%
Nose Tackle: 1, 100%
MIKE LB: 1, 100%
Safety: 1, 100%
Safety: 1, 100%
Center: 1, 100%
Right Guard: 1, 100%
Whereas only one of the 19 injury-affected positions had the same starter all 12 games in 2013, seven of those positions had the same starter in all 13 game in 2012. And only two of the positions last year fell below the two-thirds threshold for primary starters. Only two positions on the entire team were unstable due to injuries, and really both were close. WILL linebacker fell just one game below the benchmark and SAM linebacker was only used in four games, which means its 50% was also just one game below the threshold.
3. Pulling The Rug Out From Under
Since there is no easy way to numerically represent the churn created by position by injuries this year, the best way is probably a simple graph. The following chart shows by color the churn up and down the lineup. Green represents the player at each spot who was slated to start the season. Red represents a replacement starter that had to be substituted by injury. In instances where multiple replacement starters were required, from the bench or rotated from other positions, the shade of red gets darker. White spots are games with no starter at the position for those games.
Here is what the 2013 season looked like:
Pretty much looks like a well-lit Christmas tree. Now here is what that chart looked like for the 2012 season:
However, owing to the fact that it was a new coach’s second year, there were a number of shifts in the starting lineup last year that were based on competition. And although it can disrupt continuity, it is a positive impact when a starter is replaced by someone because the new blood is playing better. So here are the two seasons compared once again, this time with only injury-induced roster changes.
First the injury churn for 2013:
Still quite a festively-lit Christmas tree. Compare that to the injury churn of last season:
This appears to be a Clarke Griswold-sized Christmas tree with a lot of burned out bulbs.
What Does It All Mean?
Well I will let the numbers – and the comparison between seasons (both injury levels and resulting win totals) – speak for themselves. The 2013 season is over. Let’s not speak of it again in this space…at least not for a long time. What is of prime importance now is how the year has affected the future prospects of the program. Clearly the recruiting trail has not been negatively impacted by the on-field swoon. The future Gators seem to embrace the enormity of the impact, and more importantly the rarity of such an otherworldy catastrophe.
Of hot debate is not only when but whether Florida can attract a top-notch offensive coordinator, given its precarious situation with a faction of the fan base frothing at the mouth to evict the coaching staff nest year, come hell or high water. With the possibility of being just a one-year gig, would any coordinator worth his salt hire on to the Gator staff right now?
While it is a risk, history shows that the payoff could be a career rocket launch if next year is a success. It’s hard to remember many coordinators at UF who didn’t use that position to catapult themselves directly to a head coaching position (or an NFL position). Taking a trip down memory lane, here are the last several Gator offensive coordinators and their next jobs after holding the UF post:
Charlie Weis: Kansas Head Coach
Steve Addazio: Temple Head Coach (followed by Boston College Head Coach)
Dan Mullen: Mississippi State Head Coach
Larry Fedora: Okie State Offensive Coordinator (followed by USM Head Coach, UNC Head Coach)
Ed Zaunbrecher: Illinois QB coach
And the launching pad is not limited to the offensive side of the ball. Here are the last several defensive coordinators and their jobs following their Florida tenure:
Dan Quinn: Seattle Seahawks Defensive Coordinator
Teryl Austin: Baltimore Ravens Secondary Coach
Charlie Strong: Louisville Head Coach
Greg Mattison: Baltimore Ravens Defensive Coordinator
John Thompson: East Carolina Head Coach
Any offensive coordinator with a modicum of confidence would see the opportunity to pair their offensive wares with Muschamp’s defensive genius and ride that wave until it crests into championships and/or a big career boost.
As for the prospects of turning it around next year, regardless of the new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, I submit a few facts:
*Just a year ago, Muschamp turned around a team that struggle to finish with a winning record to winning 11 games the next season against the toughest schedule in the nation, in the process going 4-1 against Top-10 teams.
*The winners of the SEC, Big 12 and Big 10 had conference records in 2012 of 0-8, 4-5, and 3-5, respectively. And the winner of the SEC East which went into the SEC title game with just one loss to its name, had a conference record of just 2-6 last year.
The Gator Sky Is Not That Cloudy
In closing I must admit that I am surprised that so many have been beating the drum that this season has been the most depressing and lowest point in the Gator program. While almost nothing about this season was good, this does not feel to me nearly as gloomy as the late-’80s when we struggled to earn a winning record every year and were branded nationally a renegade/rouge program of dirty cheaters. The black cloud over our program at the time was immense and it stretched far beyond the playing field (in fact, that part of the cloud was far worse than any depths to which the team could have sunk on the field…and it sunk, baby).
And any Gator fan at the time will tell you that it felt like that black storm cloud would never lift. We Gators had lived beneath it for so long that we embraced it like Cubs fans or loyalists to the old Brooklyn Bums. We were also of the mindset that we would never win the SEC title ‘officially’ – EVER. And you better believe there was not a single Gator fan in the world who thought we would ever win the SEC and be allowed to keep it. National title? That was not even something we considered in our scope of consciousness. We were not even capable of being an also-ran. Major bowl game? Maybe in 20 years or so, maybe never. But for a brief dalliance with the elites that was fueled by cheating and punished by near death penalty-like sanctions, big time college football was just a spectator sport to the Gators.
This? This season of 2013? This is nothing to me. We just won 11 games last year for Pete’s sake, going 4-1 against Top-10 teams. I know I mentioned that before, but for some reason this season I have had to put that on a loop to remind folks that something special just happened in football a mere year ago. No team in the nation did better against tougher competition. Now 24 injured starters, 2 more lost to ejections, 6 key backups lost to injury & 1 more to suspension, 11 starters and 6 key backups lost for the season? That’s just a freakish blip on the screen. It’s that one year’s vacation when you got sick and spent every day miserable. It’s not something that repeats every time you get packed for the big trip.
I frankly don’t understand why everyone’s so depressed. Yes this year was truly painful. Yes we’ve had three awful years in the last four. But personally I am still buzzing from winning two national titles, a Heisman and another East crown amidst three 13-win seasons in four years that immediately preceded all this. I’m still high from having reached sustained heights that have only been reached in the last 30+ years by Nebraska once and Alabama once. And us. And that’s it. We had our day in the sun and we’ll have a lot more. You can’t expect to be #1 every year.
But if Muschamp can hook a couple of solid hires in the next week and if the injury curse does not return, we may just expect to return to championship football in the near future.