ATLANTA — David Reese’s phone lit up and he saw his Aunt’s name come across the screen. The then sophomore linebacker already knew what she was going to say.
“It made me mad when I was watching,” Reese recalled the postgame conversations with her. “I just knew it was gonna be a power.”
As the 2017 season dragged on losses piled up more quickly than first downs with fans getting used to the sequence of an incomplete pass on first down, a run on second down into a crowded box followed by a play action pass that wasn’t fooling the guy selling peanuts in section 36.
Reese wasn’t the only player that fielded calls or text messages like that.
“Even my friends who don’t know nothing about football knew what we were running and 90% of the time they were right,” senior offensive tackle Martez Ivey said at Media Days.
How are the players even supposed to respond to that? They’re not being paid millions of dollars to scheme and call plays. They’re just doing what they’re told and coached on the field.
Jim McElwain called out the lack of creativity all the way back in the 2016 season, saying they would need to look at it and get it fixed following another loss to Florida State but it didn’t.
It’s why Dan Mullen was tapped to be the next head coach at the University of Florida. Florida was the offensive innovator in the SEC and in the country when Steve Spurrier brought the Fun N’ Gun to Gainesville. Urban Meyer and Mullen brought more excitement on the offensive side of the ball during their run in Gainesville. Since Mullen left Florida there’s been a revolving door or offensive coaches and he hopes to put a stop to it.
So do all the fans that showed up to his spring speaking tour where the first question, almost unanimously, wasn’t a question but rather a plea to “please fix this!”
“I heard it before. I mean, I used to, I heard it before walking from in the Swamp walking from the press box to the locker room at half, too,” Mullen said of his time as offensive coordinator under Meyer. “No matter how many points we’ve scored, I’ve heard that, too. We scored 40 and ‘still, fix the offense.’ I think that’s part of it.”
Mullen’s offensive philosophy is simple. He’s going create space through formations and personnel, as all spread offenses do. That’s when the RPO’s come in. It’s a run play that has a pass built into it. The quarterback reads the defense before the snap. If they offense has even numbers, or a “hat on a hat” he hands the ball off to and they attack on the ground. If the numbers are off and the box is loaded there’s a quick pass built into the play that doesn’t require an audible or a shift. That is what makes it hard to cover and defend against.
The players have only had one spring camp to install the new offensive system but the changes have been noticed already. Playing middle linebacker gives Reese the best seat in the house. He played two seasons against the old offense and he sees a black and white difference from the last two years to this new scheme.
“They’re doing a great job of putting the ball in the best playmakers hands. I also feel like they’re doing a good job of RPO’s and using the talent we have in the offense,” he said. “There’s only one ball, that’s the hard part of our offense because we have so many guys that can make plays.”
On the offensive side of the ball the Gators have a lot of talent. Ivey had been on three bad offenses at Florida but thinks Mullen is the guy to turn that around.
“We’ve got options, it’s different, a lot more plays. Everything’s gonna go out and it’s gonna be something we haven’t seen for a while, the last three years I’ve been here at least,” he said. “We’re not gonna be a one dimensional football team, we’re not gonna be a—how would people explain, run the ball the first two plays and throw it on third down. You don’t know what you’re gonna get out of Dan Mullen, that’s how I feel.”
Reese would still love to hear from his family after games. Maybe this year they’ll be able to talk more about what he did and less about how they were calling plays from back home.