Goodbye, bad touches.
When Florida coach Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier start to map out their offensive game plan for the regular-season opener against Michigan on Sept. 2, they’ll face a new problem: The Gators have such a promising group of skill players, some will go underutilized.
Florida averaged 66 plays a game last season. Let’s assume the offense improves enough for that total to get to 70. How will those touches and targets break down? Here’s a look at how McElwain might try to get the Gators’ offense finally going in the right direction.
Let’s start with the two biggest playmakers on the offense: receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett. These two junior should be the focal point of the offense each week.
Scarlett touched the ball on average 14 times a game last season (179 carries, four catches). He needs to average 20 touches per game this season. That total will increase against the toughest opponents and lessen in the easier games, but an average of 20 should be the expectation.
The ball needs to find its way to Callaway 10 times a game. Assuming the quarterback is Feleipe Franks, McElwain needs to give him a directive to target Callaway often. Callaway had 59 touches last season (54 catches, five carries). If Franks can complete six passes out of 10 to Callaway, good things will happen.
That takes care of 30 of the 70 available snaps. Here’s where Florida’s promising depth takes shape.
McElwain’s philosophy is to have multiple backs play a role, so Lamical Perine and Mark Thompson will get the ball. They should be allotted 10 combined touches a game. They averaged 13 a game as a duo last season, but Scarlett needs a bigger percentage.
Perine and Thompson can be leaned on more in the less-threatening contests, like Northern Colorado and UAB.
Now, we’re at 40 of 70 snaps planned.
I don’t think McElwain should script designed runs for Franks. He isn’t thick enough to take unnecessary hits and the Gators have been too burned by injuries at the position in recent years to tempt fate. And I don’t think any other backs should warrant carries if the top trio remains healthy. Florida should try to operate an offense that runs it 30 times and throws it 40.
But there will be two wild cards.
We know receiver Dre Massey and quarterback/athlete Kadarius Toney will get touches this fall. The question is how?
McElwain should try to devote 10 combined touches/targets a game to this pair. Some weeks that could be six runs, four passes. We could even see a play where Toney throws it to Massey. Figuring out how those 10 chances will come will be a problem every opposing defensive coordinator will have to solve.
That leaves 20 targets for receivers outside of Callaway. That would’ve seemed laughable a year ago. Now, it’s the best option to get back to the days of an explosive offense.
Receiver Tyrie Cleveland and tight end DeAndre Goolsby should get a total of 10 combined targets a game.
That leaves a final 10 to be split between receivers Josh Hammond and Brandon Powell, along with tight ends C’yontai Lewis and Kemore Gamble. Powell is the player who will see his workload slashed the most. He got 52 touches last season (45 catches, seven carries), but wouldn’t come close to that this season.
This balanced attack would be difficult to stop, assuming Franks can be a solid player.
Here’s a final look at how the 70 offensive touches/targets per game should be utilized.
Scarlett – 20.
Callaway – 10.
Massey/Toney – 10.
Perine/Thompson – 10.
Cleveland/Goolsby – 10.
Hammond/Powell/Lewis/Gamble – 10.
The Gators can finally put together a script with a strong ensemble cast.
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