It’s almost January, which means it’s almost time for SEC play, and the Florida Gators still have yet to find an offensive identity.
This team has the tools to score it at a high level, but it hasn’t come together the way most expected before the season started. That is something that completely baffles Mike White and his staff as he admitted he’s never dealt with anything like it in his coaching career.
With a little more offensive firepower, the Gators could have easily won most of the games on their schedule so far. Aside from the FSU bloodbath, Florida’s other three losses were by an average of just five points.
The Gators have played really strong defense this season, and that has been the savior for the lack of offensive production, but it might not be sustainable over the course of the conference schedule.
“I didn’t anticipate us struggling this much offensively,” White said. “I did know, obviously, we had a really tough schedule in front of us. That said, I wish we were sitting here with another win or two, and I’d feel a little better about this first segment. We’re a little bit behind.”
The struggles have led White to try everything he can think of to put points on the board.
In the last game against Mercer, he said he was calling plays every time the Gators got the ball in the second half. He thinks that can actually be a momentum killer on offense, but it’s the only way he’s found to be sure the ball is getting in the right guys’ hands and that they are shooting it.
It is like walking through a minefield trying to push the right buttons to develop confidence.
“We’re already a not-overly-confident offensive team, but that can change pretty quickly,” he said. “I want guys to play with freedom and confidence. We haven’t been playing that way, so we’re trying to give them a little more structure right now.”
Another reason White has tried to add some structure to the offense is because of the youth Florida must rely on.
Noah Locke and Andrew Nembhard (and at times Keyontae Johnson) have a lot on their plates. While the veterans have struggled, the freshmen have done everything in their power to pick up the pieces and carry a large part of load.
Some good news for the Gators is that Deaundrae Ballard is cleared to play after suffering a concussion last week. He is just a sophomore, but he might be the most confident offensive player on this team.
He’s never met a shot he didn’t like, which can be good or bad, but that’s the kind of boost Florida needs right now.
Until White can get other guys playing with a similar mindset, he has to continue searching for solutions.
“We’ve got a couple not playing with a lot of confidence,” White said. “We’ve got a couple of guys who are very confident … We challenge guys. I sometimes get on guys about not taking an open shot in practice. At this level, if you’re worried about making or missing shots, maybe you’re not built to take a big shot in a big game against some of the big-time opponents that we’re playing.”