Florida $t. Review


Pretty much all that had been built and accomplished from 2005-2009 has been torn down and broken by the putrid performance that capped off the 2011 regular season.

As if the 2010 season wasn’t painful enough, watching the Gators stumble through Urban Meyer’s last year, the 2011 season shows just how badly broken the program is. Poor recruiting, coaching staff turnover, attitude problems from some players, and, frankly, some bad coaching, have the Gators now as a mediocre team searching for a new direction and leadership.

That performance by the offense in the Swamp against a middling F$U team was shockingly bad. As I had said in my game preview, perhaps the best thing Florida had going for itself was Dumbo Fisher and EJ Manuel, and they (under)performed exactly as expected, giving the Gators plenty of opportunity to win. But John Brantley lost what little favor he had curried through an injury-marred season by looking like a freshman QB. 3 horrific interceptions, all telegraphed, leading to the first 14 F$U points on very short fields, and the last requiring the defense to (again) bail out the offense.  After the injury that knocked him out of the game, Jacoby Brissett was thrown in, and his 4th quarter pick-six ended any hope for a comeback. It’s was a sad display of QB play, even beyond the so-so game-planning by Coach Weis.

Another desultory performance by the OL, allowing the Criminoles to control the LOS, and not generating any semblance of a running game or consistent pass protection. The few highlights were a handful of runs by Chris Rainey and some nice downfield catches by AC Leonard. After Brantley went out with a concussion, the offense became completely inept with Jacoby Brissett at QB……and that falls at the feet of Coach Weis. There’s simply no reason not to have a decent plan ready for either Brissett or Jeff Driskel by the end of the season as a contingency – a direct failure by Weis.

The Gator defense played 11 vs. 22 all night, and stood up admirably until the end. Matt Elam was a beast all game, making plays all over the field – he has become the leader of the defense, if not the entire team. The DL made plays as well, even after Dominique Easley’s knee injury took him out of the game. The F$U offense did not generate one legitimate drive, and was fortunate to get the 14 points they did. Despite what had to be a disheartening sight in watch the offense suck the life out of the Swamp crowd, they came back on the field time and again with little rest and played like men.  It became painfully obvious even before halftime that the Criminoles were going to pay it safe on offense, letting the Gators self-destruct instead.

Less than 100 freakin’ yards allowed at home – and a loss.  That’s all you really need to know about how far Florida has fallen.

Now the Florida program is left with more questions than answers. Is Will Muschamp really the right guy? Does he have the right staff in place? How will recruiting be affected by a second straight bad season? How much more player attrition takes place? The Gators are essentially operating on a self-imposed probationary scholarship level right now with the lack of talent on top of players leaving the program. There is opportunity for immediate playing time at almost every position for recruits, but can this staff close the deal with the studs left out there? Has Florida lost it’s juice?

What is obvious is that it will take 2-3 years of outstanding recruiting along with some much-needed coaching staff continuity to get Florida back to a title-contending level. Sadly, all of the advantages gained from a great run are now seemingly lost an abrupt fashion that is stunning in it’s swiftness and completeness.

Hopefully the bowl practices will allow for some changes to be made in both personnel and coaching that can be the first building blocks for 2012. The Gator Nation is terribly impatient after the bar had been set consistently so high, and it’s doubtful many have the patience it will take to see if Coach Muschamp can turn things around.  I’m sure that Jeremy Foley understands the mess left behind by Meyer that has been revealed……but even that may not be enough for Will to last through his first contract due to internal pressures.

Another winter of discontent……but it’s still great to be a Florida Gator!  Happy Holidays, and see you in 2012.