In response to a streak of slow starts, the Gators are picking up the pace.
On Saturday’s first play from scrimmage, quarterback Jeff Driskel found Trey Burton in the flat to his left for a 6-yard gain.
Immediately after the play ended, Driskel began shouting directions and signaling with his hands.
Without huddling, Florida lined up in an empty set, and Driskel found Frankie Hammond Jr. on a slant route for an 8-yard gain.
Using an increased tempo, UF opened the game with an eight-play, 28-yard drive — its best opening possession since Sept. 8, when Florida drove 75 yards in 13 plays against Texas A&M.
Given the early success on Saturday, offensive coordinator Brent Pease said the Gators will likely employ the strategy again.
“We’ve always worked on it, and we’ve always had it,” Pease said.
“It loosened them up and got some energy in our kids.”
Florida revisited the hurry-up on its second possession.
After Driskel hit Jordan Reed on a curl route for a 4-yard gain to start the possession, the Gators rushed back to the line.
But Driskel was tackled for no gain on a scramble attempt, and a Missouri defensive lineman batted down his third-down pass to an open Reed.
“I wish we would have been a little more consistent with [the no-huddle offense],” Pease said. “I wish we would have had a couple more completions. It was effective for what we wanted.”
The change in tempo was meant to spur a fast start. Florida has been outgained in the first quarter of every game this season.
On average, the Gators have gained only 47.1 yards in the first quarter, compared to 85 yards for their opponents.
“We do have to start better,” Driskel said.
“The offense has to be more productive. … We went no-huddle this week to kind of get our tempo going, because we kind of move the ball better when we have a good tempo.”
Driskel said the shift to a hurry-up can make it easier to read defenses.
With limited time to prepare before the snap, defenders have a difficult time making checks and usually end up playing more vanilla concepts.
“We like it a lot,” Driskel said.
“It’s nice to see what they’re doing and that they’re going to stay in their base coverages.”
The up-tempo approach also gives UF an opportunity to get a few of its little-used offensive weapons more involved.
Running back Matt Jones played three snaps and gained 5 yards on two carries during Florida’s opening drive. Pease said the freshman’s hands have made him a valuable option in the team’s backfield rotation.
The Gators also rotate receivers in the hurry-up offense.
Rather than asking a player who ran a fly route to sprint back to the line of scrimmage and be ready for the next play, the coaches can sub him out for a fresher option.
Pease said the mechanics of running the hurry-up are relatively simple, especially given the time the Gators devote to it in practice.
“It’s something that we’ve worked on a lot,” Driskel said. “We feel really comfortable with it.”
But the up-tempo approach comes with a possible downside.
If Florida’s offense rushes through a three-and-out, its defense will have to return to the field before it has an opportunity to catch its breath.
This prevents Pease from running a hurry-up offense if the opponent’s offense just sustained a long drive.
“If you go no-huddle and go three-and-out, they’re right back on the field,” Driskel said. “You kind of have to get into a groove.”
Contact Greg Luca at firstname.lastname@example.org.