The Florida Gators finished the 2018 season, the first under Coach Dan Mullen, 10-3. The S&P+ had the Gators ranked 9th overall at the end of the season; while finishing 15th on offense, 17th on defense, and 11th in the kicking game. Bill Connelly’s S&P+ analytics have the Gators ranked 6th in the pre-season, while Miami is 19th.
The Florida offense is a spread attack that utilizes a mobile quarterback. Think of guys like Nick Fitzgerald, Dak Prescott, and now Feleipe Franks. They’re mobile quarterbacks with big, NFL size, frames. Mullen’s offense likes to spread the football around to multiple backs and receivers.
However the focus today won’t be on the Gators offense, instead it’s on their defense. Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham has college and NFL experience, and loves to bring pressure. Grantham is a ‘base 3-4’ coach but his style brings four rushers, at a minimum, on every snap. Grantham usually has one defensive end with his hand down in three point stance while another blitzer is in a two point stance.
To play in a Grantham defense, players have to be fast and aggressive. He’s going to bring pressure and leave cornerbacks in man-to-man situations. The ego has to be there for defensive backs that they can cover anyone in the world, while the linebackers have to use power to fight off guards on interior blitzes.
2nd and 16
So how did the Kentucky Wildcats, a team very much built like 2017 Miami, beat the Gators in The Swamp in 2018? They used their defense and a few big throws to knock off Florida.
On 2nd and long early in the game, the Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson throws a touchdown to give the Wildcats the lead. Grantham only brings four man pressure, strange for that field zone and situation, and Wilson evades the rush. This gives his receiver time to improvise and get free on a safety that gets stuck in man coverage.
Kentucky has the ability to use five to block four, and Wilson’s legs extend the play. Whichever Miami quarterback wins the starting job, he is going to have to use his legs against the Gators defense. The improvisation by the receiver is great, as well. Miami needs to use more option routes in their passing, and I think they will under Dan Enos. Option routes give receivers critical thinking skills and the ability to find open space as a philosophy is a must-have skill.
I, for one, hope that split zone hasn’t left the Miami playbook. It’s a great play and for backs like Deejay Dallas and Cam’Ron Harris it’ll be a great one-cut-and-go type of run scheme. I’ve written about the split zone scheme on SOTU before (click here, y’all).
It really works against an aggressive defense like Florida’s. If the linebackers are blitzing and the defensive line is stunting the offensive line just has to block gap to gap. The h-back blocking back on the play picks up any missed defenders that the zone scheme skips.
In the image and GIF you can see how the inside linebackers react to the h-back coming across the formation. Both are out of position play side (top of the screen) because they’re reading the h-back.
3rd and 16
Again, very un-Grantham like, Florida doesn’t blitz on 3rd and 16. Kentucky has plenty of time against a four man rush and hits another deep route. With Miami’s speed at receiver in Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley- the ‘Canes should get open with this kind of time. The real question is will the Miami offensive line allow this much time for the quarterback?
Kentucky beat Florida in 2018, and that was before Coach Mullen started losing players amidst some controversy in Gainesville, FL. Obviously 2018 was a good season for both the Wildcats and Gators. However, Kentucky’s quarterback situation was dismal and their offense lacked the firepower of Miami’s. If the Wildcats can beat Florida, Miami should as well.
The bigger question marks are obviously quarterback and offensive line. I think if Miami can settle on Tate Martell, and adapt the scheme around him, his ability to run the football will help the offensive line gel and figure themselves out in 2019. Dan Enos has been known for his adaptability, hopefully he shows that in Coral Gables, too.