“There’s no question that we’re starting slow,” Steve Addazio said before Tuesday’s practice. “A little bit of it has to do with we’re young. We’re on the road for the first time, and I think that plays into it. We’re still trying to find those right combinations. When you’re young and you go down and score, that creates momentum. When you’re young and that doesn’t happen, it takes a little while to regain yourself and find momentum.”
First downs continued to be run-heavy for the Florida offense in the first half of the game at Tennessee. Addazio credited the explosive plays of 20 yards or more as being “unbelievable,” singling out the run game for a majority of the big plays.
The Gators started the game under center for a majority of the first half. It was by design to ease into the game.
“This week, we wanted to get under center early,” Addazio said. “We did that. It was our first road trip, and that was something we wanted to pay attention to. For the most part, we handled that well.”
Addazio pointed out Florida’s average of 31:19 time of possession as proof that the offense is putting together consistent drives. However, many of the drives have come from digging themselves out of a hole.
John Brantley converted five “third down and long” situations on Saturday, but the Gators can’t expect him to do that every week.
“We’re still a work in progress, without question,” Addazio said.
An improvement for this year’s offense has come in red zone production. Florida scores touchdowns on 77 percent (10-13) of its trips into the red zone. That touchdown percentage was at 51% last season.
“We put a lot of emphasis on it in preseason camp,” Addazio said. “Obviously, we knew from last season that it was something we had to work on. We’re trying to get that corrected, and I think that’s going pretty well right now. We put a lot of focus on it.
“Last year what killed us there were the turnovers. We turned the ball over at an alarming rate there.”
Coach Meyer said Monday that the Florida pass protection, which has allowed only two sacks in three games, has been successful because most of the time they are running six-man protections.
Saturday they were forced to run from a front that included six offensive linemen. Addazio prefers to use an attached tight end as the extra blocker, but the offense sometimes becomes predictable out of this formation.
“We had to go back and put six offensive linemen in the game again,” Addazio said. “Jordan Reed has to come on and take on that tight end role because if you put six linemen in the game, there’s no forward pass. All of a sudden we’re running powers for three yards because there is no threat of a pass, but it’s what we had to do for that game.”
The Tennessee game was the first time this season the Gators have used the offensive line that was projected before fall camp started. Xavier Nixon returned to start at left tackle, which moved Marcus Gilbert to right tackle. Maurice Hurt slid inside to right guard.
“If someone misses five or six weeks of practice and comes back, there’s a break in process there,” Addazio said. “It’s repetition. We’ve got it with those guys.”
The offense has seen a boost from freshman Trey Burton this season. He spent all spring working at quarterback, but his value to the team is at other positions. He has lined up at tight end, wide receiver, fullback and quarterback in the first three games, as well as starting on kickoff coverage units.
“He’s a great example of a young guy that we don’t want to become a jack of all and you don’t master one,” Addazio said. “You love him because he’s so coachable. But in the same breath, he’s got to be at a high level for all of us. He’s a heck of an option quarterback. We’re just thrilled to death with him.”
Jeff Demps touched the ball 29 times on offense for Florida Saturday. The worry continues that he could be overworked, but it was necessary for him to touch the ball so many times Saturday. Emmanuel Moody was dinged up and his touches were limited.
“He’s a guy that has tremendous talent,” Addazio said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had a back carry the ball 20-some odd times here. This week we’ll be a little more balanced in the backfield. Given the special team workload by Gillislee and Jeff Demps, you want to make sure you pay attention to that.”
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