Before writing today I read the first Report of this season. In it, I said that this year's offense was wholly dependent on the growth of Jeff Driskel. We all know what happened there. God bless Skyler Mornhinweg and all of the offensive linemen who played the latter half of this season, but I don't care if we had Steve Spurrier or any other offensive genius calling plays, those cats just aren't prime time players. Our offensive game plan for FSU apparently relied on Trey Burton taking roughly half the snaps. I thought our entire year was appropriately encapsulated by the fact that he got hurt on our best play from scrimmage all day.
On defense, I said that the linebacker corps was paper thin and that any injuries there or along the front line would be catastrophic. Again, this was the worst year I can remember in terms of injuries. On special teams, I said Kyle Christy was an outstanding punter (in my defense, he was in 2012) but that I expected a significant step back at placekicker. I had no idea we'd actually struggle punting AND miss 10 field goals while auditioning three separate kickers. In short, everything that could go wrong this year did and the result was predictable. If you didn't see the stat in Sunday's Gainesville Sun I think it is worth sharing again- Against FSU only 6 of the starting 22 players from the Sugar Bowl were available on Saturday. Unfreakingbelievable.
All that being said, there was no excuse for us to get embarrassed by Vandy. No matter who was injured, there is no excuse for Florida to ever lose to Georgia Southern. We didn't show up to play in either game and I lay that entirely at the feet of the coaching staff and the seniors. Going forward, that leaves a very big question in my mind about how successful we can be in 2014 and beyond. I think there are 5 major steps we have to take between now and the August 30 debut against Idaho-
1. Hire an offensive coordinator quickly. My vote is for Kerwin Bell. The Throwin Mayoin has been successful everywhere he's been and I think it is high time to bring Kerwin home. We simply have to start throwing the ball down field again and there is no excuse for the University of Florida to have an offense ranked in the 100's. I believe completely in Muschamp's ability to put an elite defense on the field and I give him credit for our effort against an outstanding FSU offense on Saturday. If we could manage the 50th best offense in the country I think we win 9 games next year and possibly more. But we've got to get someone in place soon so we can have a great offensive recruiting class.
2. Land an elite recruiting class. I don't care about rankings, I just want to see us sign the QB of the future and skill players to help him out. It also appears that we need to go find ourselves a placekicker. The coaches should have no trouble out-hustling the competition in the time they have remaining in December while the other staffs are preparing for bowl games. We MUST sign and develop some quality receiver talent, something I've been saying for 3 years now. I think Jameis Winston is an amazing quarterback, but he is greatly improved by having the luxury of throwing to guys like Kelvin Benjamin, who hopefully elects to leave early for the NFL. Based on what I saw Saturday, that kid is ready to play on Sundays.
3. Re-connect with the fan base. This includes opening practices, making an effort to do a few more booster events and generally being more accessible to the fans. From the fans' perspective, we need to get over 4-8 immediately and collectively remove our heads from our asses. I distinctly remember last year in Tallahassee where several FSU fans told me they didn't think Jimbo Fisher was the right guy in Tallahassee, which is just another validation of the fact that fans for the most part are idiots (me included). It was disgusting to see the amount of FSU fans sitting in the Florida sections of The Swamp. That should never happen. Going back in history, we ran Spurrier off when he thought that 10 wins a year wasn't appreciated anymore. We almost killed Urban Meyer after he won two national titles for us. Bottom line, maybe we need to ease up as a fan base a bit. And if Jeremy Foley says he believes in Muschamp's ability to turn this around, then we need to support that as well. Believe it or not, I don't think we're that far away assuming we can at least have an average offensive unit.
4. Get healthy and stay eligible. We need a very clean off season in terms of rehabilitation of injured players, new injuries, and staying out of legal trouble. We have to get healthy across the offensive front if we have any chance of getting back to respectability on offense next year.
5. Restore Discipline. Next to injuries, I thought stupid penalties were the biggest reason this team didn't win more games this year. That starts with discipline. We also need a new set of leaders to emerge. Easley is gone and we had no offensive leadership after Driskel went down. Due to the limited amount of interaction with the team in the off season, coaches are pretty limited as to the impact they can have in this arena. Guys have to step up and take ownership of this program if we're going to get better quickly.
Assuming all of the above take place, I honestly think the over-under next year on wins should be 9. I'm writing off the trips to Tuscaloosa and Tallahassee (presuming Jameis is exonerated from his current legal issues). Georgia will be rebuilding at QB, we get South Carolina, Mizzou and LSU at home, and I'd be surprised if James Franklin is still coaching at Vandy. We should be 3-1 heading into the bye week before Tennessee and if we can win at Knoxville I like our chances to be 6-1 or 5-2 at worst going into Georgia. Georgia is THE litmus test (big surprise) for me next year. If Boom drops another one to the Doggies I think he's going to lose me forever. But if we can get it done there, Atlanta is not out of the question and then all this noise in the system will be behind us. So stay positive, Gators, I truly think we have better days ahead.
Before signing off for the year, I did want to mention a few other happenings in the world of college football-
Heisman Trophy- Again, assuming that Jameis isn't charged in the next 2 weeks, I think he wins the Heisman. The guy is crazy accurate and I love the aggressive way he attacks down field. I think AJ McCarron was his only serious competitor and the loss at Auburn torpedoed his chances completely.
Stetson- The Hatters finished 2-9. Word out of DeLand is they have no plans of firing anyone and expect big things for 2014. Their opener at Warner is going to be a tough one. Mrs. Report and I were married less than 3 miles from that stadium and can tell you that you just don't roll into Crooked Lake and easily emerge a winner.
National Title- The SEC's run of national titles comes to an end the only way it could, by our not having a representative in the title game. I think Auburn beats Mizzou even though Mizzou is probably the better team. After the Georgia and Bama finishes, you just can't pick against the War Eagle Tigers this year. In spite of that, I don't see any way they jump either FSU or Ohio State assuming both win their conference championship games (and I don't think the Noles will have trouble against the Dukies). Unfortunately for the SEC, the 4 team playoff format is coming one year too late. Neither FSU or Ohio State played anybody all year (and yes, I'm counting Clemson). That said, if Ohio State gave up 41 to Michigan, I think the Noles could score 60. FSU 52-Ohio State 27.
Bama- How would you like to be the poor bastards who draw Bama as a bowl matchup? It won't be pretty. That said, what fan base is more devastated than Bama's right now? They went from being discussed as the greatest dynasty ever to being a footnote on the 2013 season. And to have lost in the manner that they did to their hated in-state rivals I bet it is a long off season in Tusky.
Well, that's about it Gators. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and an enjoyable off season. I know 2013 was a bitter run, but it is only made worse by the knowledge that we have 9 whole months to wait for things to turn in the right direction. Here's hoping they do.