Florida Offense vs. Louisville Defense
Where Florida’s Defense is fantastic, Florida’s Offense leaves a lot to be desired. But That doesn’t mean that there are not good pieces here for the Gators. The Florida Offense really takes advantage of the opportunities their defense and special teams provides for them. They’ve been able to rely on that throughout 2012 and finished with an 11-1 season. But they’ve had some really timely plays on offense as well. With the type of team Florida is the ground game is the STAPLE of the offense, and the Gators have one of the best Running Backs in college football in Mike Gillislee (5-11, 209, Sr.). Gillislee finished out his senior season with an invitation to the Senior Bowl and 1st Team ALL-SEC. That should tell you everything you need to know about the Gator RB, but in case you need a little more here you go: 235 carries, 1104 yards, 10 TDs. Gillislee is a workhorse, he played in all 12 games for the Gators and he’s tough to bring down.
Gillislee received 46% of the carries for Florida in 2012, and the next closest ball carrier is also the UF Quarterback Jeff Driskel (6-4, 237, Soph). Driskel carried the ball 108 times for 409 yards (also 2nd for the Gators) and averaged 37.2 yards per game while adding 4 Touchdowns on the year. Together Driskel & Gillislee got 67.387% of Florida’s carries in 2012, Matt Jones (6-2, 226, Fr.) was WAY down the list with just 49 carries as the next closest ball carrier. That should tell you that Driskel & Gillislee really are two of the biggest parts of the Florida Offense.
But Driskel can throw the ball too. The sophomore signal caller completed 64.8% of his passes for 1471 yards and 11 TDs. Florida attempted just 259 passes as a team, compared to 509 rushes, making Florida a run DOMINANT team running the ball 66.27% of the time. Florida did allow 36 sacks on the year (110th) and with those being run plays we can adjust the play-calling to 295 pass plays to 473 rush plays which will adjust the play-calling to 61.58% rush, but that is still very slanted towards the ground game. It makes total sense with the defense and special teams, but it creates an area of concentration for the Louisville defense. STOP THE RUN.
Upfront Florida is a veteran group of two seniors, two juniors, and a sophomore and they are ALL BIG. Louisville Trinity product Sam Robey (6-3, 305, Sr.) backs up Jonotthan Harrison (6-4, 299, Jr.) at the Center position. Harrison started ALL 12 games at Center for the Gators this year. Left Tackle Xavier Nixon (6-6, 314, Sr.) is the most experienced Florida lineman with 32 career starts. Nixon missed the Missouri & Lafayette games with a knee injury, but was aptly replaced by DJ Humphries (6-6, 275, Fr.) who played in every game for Florida in 2012. Humphries earned Freshman ALL-SEC for his effort and also serves as back-up to Right Tackle Chaz Green (6-5, 310, Soph.). started 9 games for Florida and was spelled by Kyle Koehne (6-5, 311, Jr.) when Green was unable to go for a 3-game stretch. James Wilson (6-4, 323, Sr.) is the full-time starter at LG, he also had to miss time but his replacement Ian Silberman had shoulder surgery and will not be available for the Sugar Bowl. At Right Guard Jon Halapio (6-3, 321, Jr.) started all 12 games for Florida in 2011 & 2012.
The Gators are deep along the O-line, but did allow 3 sacks per game (110th). That stat is important, it isn’t as if Florida was dropping back to pass at a high rate at all. In fact, Florida attempted just 259 passes on the year good enough for 117th (out of 124th), only Auburn, Temple, Georgia Tech, Navy, New Mexico, Air Force, and Army attempted fewer passes. To allow 36 sacks (Auburn gave up more sacks on fewer attempts by the way) which such a small amount of attempts is actually pretty curious. Take for example, Louisville gave up a high number of sacks as well (25) but attempted 424 passes. Considering each sack was a pass play, Florida gave up sacks on 12.2% of their passing plays. Whereas the Cards gave up a sack on 5.5% of their dropbacks. 12.2% is a really high rate.
When Jeff Driskel isn’t running or getting sacked, he has a fantastic Tight End in Jordan Reed (6-3, 243, Jr.). Reed finished 2012 as 2nd Team ALL-SEC and as Florida’s leading receiver with 44 catches for 552 yards and 3 TDs. Reed’s 552 yards rank 11th nationally for Tight Ends. After Reed, there are some productive parts although I think the production itself leaves something to be desired. Remember Florida gained just 1727 yards through the air in 2012, Jordan Reed had 552 yards of that himself (31.96%).
Quinton Dunbar (6-1, 189, Soph.) accounted for the most catches from a wideout for the Gators with 31 for 306 yards and 4 TDs. Clearly, Dunbar is capable but his numbers are really indicative of the protection the Florida Offensive Line is providing and the passing ability of Driskel. Behind Dunbar on the receiving tally is Frankie Hammond, Jr. (6-0, 187, Sr.) & Omarius Hines (6-2, 217, Sr.) with just 20 catches each, and then Trey Burton (6-3, 228, Jr.) with 17. RB Mike Gillislee hauled in just 15 balls on the year so throwing to the back isn’t a huge part of the Florida passing game. That’s just not a lot of production outside of the QB, RB, and Tight End groups for this Gator offense. And gives opposing defenses an area of opportunity, but Jeff Driskel has done a great job of making the timely play all season. The timely play is something stats can’t measure, and there is something to be said about an offense that can take advantage of the opportunities they are given.
The Louisville defense is going to have to be ready. This is not a game where the Cards can give up the big play. If Florida is going to score the Louisville offense & special teams needs to ensure that the Gators don’t find themselves with short fields. But the Cardinal defense better get ready for a physical game upfront. Where Florida lacks in the passing game, they thrive on the ground as the 35th best rushing unit in the nation with one of the best backs in Gillislee. Also accounting for Driskel will be a major key for the defense and that might provide a soft spot for Jordan Reed.
|Total Defense||Florida Gained vs.||Deviation from Avg||Percent Allowed of Average|
|Bowling Green||289.7 (7th)||365||75.3||125.99%|
|South Carolina||312.3 (12th)||183||-129.3||58.60%|
|Florida St||253.4 (2nd)||394||140.6||155.49%|
The Chart Above depicts that Florida was able to really take whatever their opponent was giving in 2012. The Gator offense also went off against a very good Seminole defensive unit and took advantage of a lot of FSU mistakes. I do find it interesting that Florida faced 3 Top Ten Defenses in 2012 and 5 defensive units in the top 17. That’s pretty significant when measuring offensive stats.
|Total Offense||Louisville Allowed vs.||Deviation from Avg||Percent Gained of Average Allowed|
|North Carolina||485.8 (16th)||410||-75.8||84.40%|
|Florida International||383.8 (83rd)||326||-57.8||85.05%|
|Southern Miss||323.0 (109th)||249||-74||77.09%|
|South Florida||367.5 (93rd)||386||18.5||105.03%|
Looking at Louisville they limited 8 of 11 (FCS opponents are omitted from All Results found) to fewer yards than their average at an average of 30 yards less per game and limited opponents to just 92% of their average. That’s a good measure and against the best offenses North Carolina, Syracuse, and Cincinnati the Cards did well in two of those games . Florida’s offense actually ranks just behind Rutgers and ahead of Temple & Syracuse. Those 3 teams REALLY struggled to move the ball, and given that those 3 games basically closed out the season those teams really are very similar to Florida in terms of style of play, but in increasing order of difficulty. The Cards should be prepared in terms of game planning but should definitely be ready for an elevated level of play.
Upfront, the Cards MUST get pressure and win at the point of attack. Defensive Tackles Brandon Dunn (6-3, 285, Jr.), Roy Philon (6-3, 291, Jr.), and Jamaine Brooks (6-4, 326 Soph) have to get push on the interior of the line of scrimmage. The Cards can not afford to let Mike Gillislee cleanly hit the hole and they need to push through the gaps and move the holes so that Gillislee has to adjust and give their linebackers a chance to make play. These 3 guys should get help from BJ Butler (6-2, 268, Jr.), DeAngelo Brown (6-1, 316, Fr.) and Sheldon Rankins (6-2, 287 Fr). Butler will play End, Tackle, and even some LB here and there and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see DeAngelo Brown REALLY get a lot of clock in this game. This group is going to be vital to the Cardinals success if UofL is going to win the Sugar Bowl.
On the outside Louisville will not get BJ Dubose back from a suspension that will end his season and instead will rely heavily on Deiontrez Mount (6-5, 234, Soph), Lorenzo Mauldin (6-4, 242, Soph) and Marcus Smith (6-3, 252, Jr.) along with some sprinkling in of Butler. When Florida drops back to pass there should be ample opportunity to sack the quarterback as referenced previously by the Gators allowing a sack in 12% of their dropbacks. Getting to the QB and containing the QB will be key. Much like the South Florida and Cincinnati game the rush angles can not be too steep or Driskel will be able to leak out for some gains. Also the ends MUST keep Gillislee between the tackles and within the reach of the Cardinal linebackers.
At linebacker the Cards are led by Linebacker Preston Brown (6-2, 255, Jr.) who was the Cardinals leading tackler in 2012 with 96. As linebackers go Preston is steady. He isn’t really flashy, he isn’t great at getting behind the line of scrimmage and making plays…….but he is extremely reliable at playing his role. I’d like to see Preston become more dynamic in pass coverage and when bringing pressure. But in the interim the Cardinals have someone who is going to play his position and not make mistakes which was good enough for 2nd Team ALL-Big East. Keith Brown (6-1, 230, Fr.) & George Durant really split a lot of time on the strongside and both were really nice additions for the Cards. Either could play multiple positions and the Cards routinely show different personnel groupings at linebacker (and D-line and secondary as well) for various situations. On the weakside Daniel Brown (6-1, 226, Sr.) & James Burgess will share the responsibility. Daniel Brown was injured for a large majority of the season, but was able to come back for the Rutgers game. Because the Cards play so much nickel the Will comes off field a lot. But against Florida I think we’ll actually see a lot of Preston, Keith, and Durant to stop the run.
In the secondary the Cards are led by a duo of 2nd Team ALL-Big East Safeties in Hakeem Smith (6-1, 187, Jr.) & Calvin Pryor (6-2, 213, Soph). Smith is no stranger to the All-Big East club as he has appeared on the list for 3 consecutive seasons. Pryor gives the Cards extremely physical & consistently play from the Free Safety position. Hakeem Smtih regularly plays pretty close to the LOS, but can drop into coverage. Smith finished 3rd on the team in tackles with 66 and really is a good run stopper and does well in zone. I’d love to see Smith improve his man skills, but he shouldn’t really need those against Florida. Calvin Pryor had a breakout season for the Cardinals and in my opinion was the Defensive MVP. Pryor finished 2nd on the team in takedowns with 94, had two INTs, and 4 forced fumbles. Against passing teams Pryor stayed well back to disallow the big play, and while the Cards probably gave up more yardage because of this style, Pryor’s sure tackling made sure that mostly all the Cards gave up were yards. Also it’s important to note that Jermaine Reve (6-0, 188, Fr) will factor in as a nickel back and has made some really key plays in 2012.
At Cornerback former Gator Adrian Bushell (5-11, 184, Sr.) will likely play every snap as that position group’s most veteran player. Bushell earned 1st Team ALL-Big East for the second consecutive year. I feel like in 2011 Bushell was on the 1st Team due to his special teams play, but in 2012 Bushell earned it on the island. Bushell can cover in man or zone, come up to help the run, and is still an outstanding special teams contributor. The other Corner position is really held down by committee of 3 sophomores: Terrell Floyd (5-10, 199, Soph), Andrew Johnson (5-9, 187, Soph), and Stephan Robinson (5-10, 170, Soph). Of the 3 Floyd made the most progress from year 1 to year 2. Robinson is extremely fast & physical, but isn’t the best cover man. Johnson is a sure tackler and very good in coverage but lacks top end speed. Floyd really improved his physicality. Who plays the most in the Sugar Bowl will really depend on who plays the best in practice and who the coaches feel can tackle & help on the run the most with as I don’t think the Gameplan is to worry much about Florida through the air and all of these guys should be fine in that regard. However, Florida’s targets will definitely have a significant size advantage over the Louisville corners….but UF fans already know Charlie Strong & Vance Bedford’s with smaller corners so that doesn’t have to be explained.
As scary as Florida’s Defense is their Offense is probably complete opposite. But that doesn’t mean Florida can’t make plays, and because of the field position that their defense and special teams provides for them they generally don’t have to go very far to score. That’s team football, it’s working within a plan and Florida doesn’t put their defense in bad positions either as they rarely turn the ball over. Florida had 12 turnovers on the season and SIX in one game. Louisville doesn’t necessarily need to force turnovers on defense but it wouldn’t hurt.