The Florida Gators enter this Saturday’s matchup with the Arkansas Razorbacks as the sixth-ranked team in the nation. Today, Stadium and Gale answers your questions about how the Gators looked last week and how they are looking for this week’s matchup and beyond.
Q: Mac Jones makes those deep throws Mathis/Bennett missed last night. With 5 games left, do you think we clean it up and give ourselves a chance with Bama? - @Benjammin813
A: If you look back to the first game of the season, Matt Corral and Elijah Moore tore up the UF secondary through iterations of seam and deep-crossing routes. We saw the same thing this past week against UGA, though the Bulldog’s quarterbacks had a hard time completing any of those passes.
To put it simply, no, I don’t think that Florida can clean it up in time for Bama in the SEC Championship. Five games into the season and fans are still seeing some of the same issues on the back end of the defense.
While the run defense has improved with the return of DT Kyree Campbell, the secondary has been lackluster at times. We constantly see safeties Shawn Davis and Tre’vez Johnson losing leverage on their receivers, running about a step behind on deep balls.
Unless there are some personnel changes or dramatic scheme changes on defense, I anticipate deep balls to be the Achilles’ heel of the defense for the remainder of the season. Maybe they fix some things up, but with the caliber of athletes that Bama possesses, it’s looking like it could (but probably will) be a problem in the SEC championship.
Q: Do you think Dan missed an opportunity to put his foot on Kirby’s neck by not running up the score? - @AlbertSsgt
A: I don’t think Coach Mullen missed an opportunity at the end of last week’s game. The Gators put up 38 points in the first half and had a double-digit lead throughout the whole second half, as well. After D’wan Mathis entered the game in the third quarter, I think Mullen did a good job playing it safe into the fourth quarter.
You saw how a single mistake could have changed the game in the fourth quarter when Trask nearly threw a pick-six to a Georgia defender. While the offense did stall in the second half (only scoring two field goals), it was probably for the best that Mullen decided just to get the Gators out of Jacksonville with a win.
On Arkansas + Beyond
Q: The shovel pass used to be a staple of CDM when he was Meyer’s OC and I don’t remember seeing it used in the past 2+ seasons. Is this b/c Trask is not much of an option quarterback? - @WiskGator71
A: I think you hit the nail on the head. Trask doesn’t possess many dual-threat capabilities as far as Mullen is concerned, which is a stark contrast from the quarterbacks he coaches as an OC for Urban Meyer at Florida and as HC at Mississippi State. Mullen was lucky enough to coach to his skill-set (being the dual-threat QB) with the diverse abilities of Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott, and Nick Fitzgerald, all of who are strong runners in comparison to Trask.
You might see some of these wrinkles when Emory Jones (and eventually Anthony Richardson) takes control of the offense in the future. These plays don’t only rely on the type of quarterback in the game, but they depend on how comfortable the offensive line is pulling on blocks, and you’ve got to have one or two good pitch men in the game.
Q: Would it be smart for Dan Mullen to hold Kyle Pitts out this upcoming week vs. Arkansas? - @RWitherspoonOly
A: There’s been some discussion all over social media concerning the offense and how it looked without Kyle Pitts in the game against UGA. The offense had some trouble moving the ball in the second half with Pitts in the locker room, but with a 17-point lead, the offense was very conservative after the half.
I think it’s best for Pitts and the program to have him sit this game out, as he is not the only playmaker. Look for Trevon Grimes, Kadarius Toney, and possibly Justin Shorter to have big games against the Razorbacks.
Tight end Kemore Gamble came off the bench and immediately made an impact, catching a touchdown his second play in, plus making a couple more catches for a total of 51 yards. There was a lot of talk during fall camp about a disappointing TE room aside from Pitts, but if this past week was any indication, the Gators are more than capable of filling in for Pitts for a game or two.
**Editor’s Note: Pitts is currently listed as questionable**
Q: I’d love to hear some thoughts about where certain guys can fit into a new role on offense due to losing guys to the draft - example: possibly Malik Davis playing slot receiver when Toney leaves? - @AspinwallJason
A: We could see some positional changes in place before the start of next season. With some big time players such as Toney, Pitts and Grimes likely to make the jump to the NFL next season, there will be some big shoes to fill in the offense.
We could see Malik Davis play in the slot a little more, as he has possibly the best hands of the running back group. With Demarkcus Bowman probably eligible next season, the running back room will be loaded, and Davis might find more playing time out as a receiver.
There has been a lot of talk about Shorter filling in a tight end for Pitts, but I’m not the biggest fan of that idea. While they do have similar sizes and body types, with Pitts at 6’6” 245 and Shorter at 6’4” 225, we’ve seen Pitts be able to line up beside the tackle and do some in-line blocking.
We have to remember that Shorter was a five-star receiver coming out of high school. I have some doubts that he would be willing to line up the same as Pitts and block in the trenches. Some of the reports coming out of Penn State was that Shorter played smaller than his size, and thus far I haven’t seen Shorter really use his size to his advantage.
We might see Shorter run some of the same routes but I doubt that he’ll just fill in Pitts’ role in the offense. With Gage Wilcox and Nick Elksnis arriving with the 2021 freshman class as well as Kemore Gamble, Keon Zipperer and Jonathan Odom returning, the Gators might rely on other options at the position next year rather than move Shorter over to the position.