By BUDDY MARTIN @buddyshow Special to WoodyPaige.com
Semi-hysteria currently prevails in college football and knee-jerk journalism fosters Internet click-bait, which can create false media narratives. So I thought it best to withhold my commentary about the curious state of Florida football until now. But it’s time.
I am not a “lets-fire-the-coach.com” guy. But in the short analysis, storm clouds are gathering over Gainesville and the day of reckoning could be coming soon.
There’s trouble in Hogtown. If you listen to the fans, this is a Gator House Divided: Jim McElwain must go, or Jim McElwain should stay. But they agree on one thing: This isn’t working right now and not many people are persuaded that answers are forthcoming anytime soon.
The open date before Georgia comes at the perfect time for McElwain to set up a badly needed triage. The fate of some of his assistant coaches may well be hanging in the balance at the end of the season, depending on how the Gators perform in Jacksonville.
Florida has fallen off the cliff in the rankings and could even be in danger of missing out on a bowl game. Meanwhile, at some point home-turf recruiting could be impacted and the Gators might face stiff competition in their own state: The AP poll has Miami No 8th, USF tied for 16th and UCF 20th.
I don’t see any scenario that would cost McElwain his job right now — and anybody who says they can offer up a candidate to change things for the better by next year needs a reality check. But Mac must fix the offense, develop his quarterback more rapidly, teach him how to pitch the ball out of bounds vs. taking a four-yard loss and do something about poor clock management. And that’s just for openers.
McElwain and Doug Nussmeier need to answer some simple questions about the passing game because the Gators have actually regressed. With just four touchdown passes this season, Mac’s offense is on track to complete the fewest scores through the air at Florida since they stopped stuffing the football and started pumping it up with air.
BTW, the last time Florida’s offense produced single digit numbers in touchdown passes was 1988 (3). Galen Hall’s team was 7-5 that year. Right now the Gators will be hard pressed to top that record and would need to beat four of these five: Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, UAB and Florida State. Florida has only been under .500 once since a winless 1979 campaign.
There’s plenty of blame to be placed on coaches, including special teams. Mistakes like an out-of-bounds kickoff, trying to return a kickoff deep in the end zone in the final few minutes and punting the ball to the speedy Christian Kirk could have been avoided.
McElwain gets a little bit of a pass for his misfortune, losing nine players on suspension, plus a host of injuries which cut into the offensive depth. There were 19 scholarship players missing Saturday night. On the flip said, luck played a big role in wins against Kentucky and Tennessee. So he’s had it both ways.
It’s easy to pin all the problems on the red-shirt freshman quarterback and the tepid offense, which ranks a poor 112th nationally. One dimensional, uninspired play-calling, lack of consistency and failure to get receivers separated from defenders are all of deep concern.
I have far more questions than answers:
By having Malik Zaire in camp, did he take reps away from Franks?
Why can’t Franks learn to throw ball away?
And by the way, is it against the law to hit your tight ends on a drag route across the middle of the field?
What’s missing among the Gator fan base is the confidence that Mac and his staff can fix what’s broken. The fans have seen this movie before and eight seasons is long enough to wait.
One fan suggested the fact that the alternate unis blended in with the surroundings actually made it difficult for Franks to spot secondary receivers. Another suggested they be burned. And a longtime Gator fan and onetime prominent alumnus simply stated:
“Just like the football team — they stunk!”
The reality has set in: This is a team that may struggle to be .500 and to make a bowl. My, how the mighty Gators have fallen.