Tuesday’s Take: Florida is A Few Special Weapons Away
Editor’s note: “Tuesday’s Take” is Sports Illustrated - GatorMaven author Graham Marsh’s weekly column.
We’ve heard it before and we’ll here it again from coach Dan Mullen: The standard is SEC and National Championships.
And I believe that. I think that Mullen expects to win those and I believe he can as Florida’s head man. But I do think he’s a few huge pieces away, and let me tell you what those are.
A Running Back/Wide Receiver.
I understand that UF has one of the deepest WR rooms in college football. That is the truth. Outside of Clemson and Alabama, the Gators have an argument for best pass-catchers in the nation, especially if we’re counting tight end Kyle Pitts.
But, outside of Pitts, they’re missing that one guy that is just different. They’re missing that Percy Harvin, Jeff Demps type guy that strikes fear into a defense’s heart.
Van Jefferson is a really good player. Trevon Grimes is a really good player. Josh Hammond, Freddie Swain and Tyrie Cleveland are all really good players.
None of them are Jerry Jeudy. None of them are Justin Ross. I get that there are only a few of those guys out there, but those guys used to wear orange and blue when Mullen was the offensive coordinator. I believe that to be in that next echelon or team that UF wants to be in, it needs a game-breaker like that.
It needs a guy with speed that no defensive scheme is going to completely stop. A guy that can break one for a touchdown where you’re in the red zone or in your own one-yard line.
An Offensive Lineman
I’ve said multiple times, and on multiple platforms that I do believe Florida’s offensive line will improve dramatically next season. I simply think John Hevesy is too good of a coach and these guys are getting too much experience this season not to be significantly better after another offseason.
There’s no way Jean Delance will either start next season or continue to be this bad. There’s no way Stone Forsythe, Brett Heggie and Richard Gouraige don’t improve.
Ethan White is getting enormously helpful snaps now and Michal Tarquin should contribute to the depth next season. However, like the receivers/running backs, this unit is missing a killer.
It’s missing a Jawaan Taylor. It’s missing a Quenton Nelson. I get that Nelson is a generational talent, and maybe not to that level, but a guard that can just forcibly move people like that.
An early 2020 season prediction of mine is, if at least one offensive lineman on this unit is not at the very least getting NFL Draft whispers by the year’s end, this team definitely did not have a year considered satisfactory in the eyes of Gator Nation.
The skill positions won’t be nearly as deep, this line has to step up. But I certainly think it can and will happen. Look at Taylor in 2018. He had no legitimate draft stock before Hevesy coached him and now he’s a starting right tackle in the league.
That guy needs to emerge on this unit. Whether that be a recruit or a guy on the roster now that emerges, a guard or a tackle needs to be an absolute beast next season.
Another one of either
So, I’ve told you now that I think Florida needs a game-changing receiver or running back and a mauler on the offensive line. I also think it needs at least one more at either. The Gators need at least one more serious threat to carry or catch the ball, or at least one more offensive lineman that can push anyone against their will.
It may sound like a lot. It may sound like I’m asking for Florida’s personnel to be completely revamped. And I’m not, if New Year’s Six Bowls is enough. But do we see what’s going on at LSU? Do we see who Georgia is recruiting?
This is who UF is chasing. And yes, I do believe that Mullen is a good enough X’s and O’s coach to close a talent gap. But I think he needs more than he has now.
In his time as Florida's head coach, Mullen has shown that on any given Saturday, he can beat anyone. If the Gators play their best ball, and call all the right plays at the right time, and play without practically any mistakes, they can beat anyone.
Basically, if the Gators play perfect football, they can beat anyone.
But how likely is that? How often does that game happen? Throughout the course of the season, any team, even an Alabama or a Clemson, may play that well one time. College teams just make a lot of mistakes week in and week out, it’s part of the fun.
And Mullen doesn’t currently have enough ammo to overcome a bad performance against a good team. The players that can win big games despite the team underperforming don’t wear orange and blue currently.