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Column: Florida’s cautious approach will result in ‘Eh’ or embarrassment

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Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 1:13 am | Updated: 5:38 pm, Wed Aug 28, 2013.

The Gators are choosing a conservative, run-based attack. They’re also choosing to finish 6-6.

Even under new coordinator Brent Pease, Florida’s offensive approach appears to be the same formula fans saw last season.

Run the ball, have the quarterback manage the game and play stout defense.

Alabama coach Nick Saban created the classic blueprint, and coaches across the nation have since been trying to emulate it.

As a Saban disciple, Will Muschamp obviously wants his team to follow a similar model.

All the signs are there: Florida attempted 42 runs against 21 passes in the season opener, Muschamp continues to preach toughness, and the conservative Jeff Driskel will start at quarterback.

There’s just one glaring problem: Florida still doesn’t have the personnel to successfully play that brand of football.

Maybe Muschamp will get there.

Maybe with another successful recruiting class or two the Gators will be a national power in the mold of an Alabama or LSU.

But right here and right now, UF isn’t ready to play and win with that style.

The lines aren’t big enough, fast enough, strong enough or deep enough. The playmakers are average at best.

Pease’s arrival represented a chance for change given his history at Boise State.

Perhaps the Gators would shift to a more pass-happy offense or employ some gimmickry to try to top the powerhouses on the schedule this season.

Don’t count on it.

Sure, the offense will open up slightly as the season progresses.

The Gators ran the ball on 66.7 percent of plays in the season opener, compared to 59.4 percent last year. For reference, Alabama ran the ball on 58.7 percent of plays — likely Muschamp’s target — and LSU ran it on 67.9 percent of plays in 2011.

Regardless, UF will be nowhere near the 50.8 percent mark Boise State posted with Pease at the helm last season. Especially not with Driskel under center.

By no means am I saying Driskel is a bad player, nor am I saying Muschamp was wrong to not choose Jacoby Brissett.

I haven’t seen nearly enough of either player to make that call.

What I do know is that Driskel is the more conservative passer, one built to manage a run-heavy offense because of his mindset and his mobility.

We saw it time and time again last year, and we saw it in the first game of 2012.

Driskel attempted 16 passes against Bowling Green. Only two of them traveled more than 10 yards in the air — a third-and-13 pass that sailed over Quinton Dunbar and a fourth-and-1 toss on a rollout that was far too low for Trey Burton, who was 14 yards downfield.

Brissett launched the game’s longest aerial pass attempt on his first play, misfiring on a 46-yard bomb to Andre Debose after a play-action fake.

In only five pass attempts, Brissett totaled two shots of more than 10 yards.

Those deep balls create explosive plays, which give UF the potential to swing games and pull upsets. Without them, it’s hard to imagine Florida doing any better than last year, when it beat the teams it was supposed to beat and lost to the teams it was supposed to lose to.

That means wins against Bowling Green, Kentucky, Louisiana Lafayette and Jacksonville State, losses to LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida State, and four swing games that determine whether the season is ‘Eh’ or embarrassing.

Either way, it’s clear that Muschamp is sticking to his guns. For at least one more year, Gators will have to settle for average.

Contact Greg Luca at [email protected].

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