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Jim McElwain must change his offensive scheme before it’s too late

Florida coach Jim McElwain
Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

The time for change has come.

Now more than ever, Florida needs a makeover on offense. And whether coach Jim McElwain is willing, and capable, of installing such a change ultimately could determine his fate as coach.

It’s clear the Gators are in trouble. They’ve already lost twice and are unranked. They will be a prohibitive underdog against Georgia in three weeks. And at least three other games – Texas A&M and FSU at home and a road game at South Carolina – figure to be dogfights. I think all three of those teams are better than the three teams Florida has beaten – Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. And the Gators barely won those games.

Logic says continuing to play the way they are on offense will lead to more losing. It isn’t likely future opponents will allow a receiver to get behind them for a long bomb on the last play of the game, as Tennessee did. It isn’t likely a future opponent simply will forget to cover receivers, as Kentucky did. The Gators better change something.

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Yes, the team has been hurt by circumstances out of McElwain’s control. Massive suspensions and untimely injuries have robbed the team of as many as 15 scholarship players at various times, including important offensive pieces.

But the truth is the McElwain-Doug Nussmeier offense never has worked at Florida. The best stat going around now: McElwain is 5-10 against opponents that have scored more than 14 points. That is a telling stat.

They have tried six quarterbacks. Two – Will Grier and Treon Harris – are players they inherited. The other four – Luke Del Rio, Austin Appleby, Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire (who played briefly against Michigan this year) – are ones they brought into the program. Two other quarterbacks McElwain and Nussmeier brought in – redshirt freshman Kyle Trask and true freshman Jake Allen – have not yet played.

That is eight scholarship quarterbacks under their watch. Eight quarterbacks and three years. That’s a lot of guys and a lot of time. And the offense consistently has been horrendous. The Gators have not finished in the top 100 nationally in offense under McElwain and halfway through this season still aren’t.

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I believe the real problem is that the brain trust is trying to run a pro-style offense – lots of shifts, some under center, some pistol, some shotgun – at a level of football in which that just doesn’t work anymore. It’s not a coincidence that the two best teams in college football, Alabama and Clemson, have become spread teams that rarely leave the shotgun. Never under center, not much pistol. They attack. They keep pressure on the defense.

Same with Ohio State and Oklahoma. It’s the offense Tom Herman, the hottest coaching candidate in the country last season, brought from Houston to Texas. It’s the one Jeff Brohm is using to transform Purdue. It’s the one Neal Brown is using at Troy to turn that program around and to gut LSU a week ago. The one Gus Malzahn used to win a national title at Auburn as the coordinator, to get Auburn to the national title game as head coach and might have the Tigers positioned to go nose-to-nose with Alabama this season.

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