Van Jefferson

Receiver Van Jefferson was targeted 15 times Saturday against Missouri. He caught four passes for 33 yards. 

I made the decision before the Gators played Vanderbilt on Oct. 13 to start paying attention to who quarterback Feleipe Franks likes to throw the ball to.

It wasn’t anything too serious. It was my way of trying to figure out why Florida’s offense was working so well at the time.

UF was sitting at 5-1, fresh off a win against then-No. 5 LSU. So I figured, why not?

That’s where I started noticing a pattern. The Gators really like to force the ball to receiver Van Jefferson. A lot more than they do anybody else.

That game against the Commodores saw Jefferson targeted a team-high eight times where he only caught the ball twice. One of those targets was an interception that in no way was his fault. His two catches were long gains, one of which was a touchdown.

Florida won that game in comeback fashion, but those eight targets stood out.

It was more of the same against Missouri on Saturday in a 38-17 loss at home but with completely different results.

Jefferson was targeted 15 times. Fifteen. Let that sink in.

All of the Gators other receivers combined were thrown the ball 25 times. Roughly 37.5 percent off all throws went to Jefferson.

“Well, part of our plan was to get him the ball,” head coach Dan Mullen said. “We thought that they were going to create some matchups to get him the ball, and I told him going in we were going to try to get him the ball some.”

And how many catches did he have to show for it? Four.

“I didn't have that number in front of me,” Mullen said. “But that's pretty poor execution of that plan.”

I’m not saying that was Jefferson’s fault. Franks either overthrew or underthrew him, or forced a throw into heavy coverage. Even backup quarterback Kyle Trask was guilty of the same mistakes. There was rarely a throw on Saturday where I would say Jefferson should have caught that.

Yes, Franks played poorly against Missouri. There’s no denying that. But this is where UF’s biggest issue comes in.

For an offense that likes to “spread the ball to its receivers,” though, there hasn’t been a lot of sharing the wealth.

The Gators clearly need to start utilizing its receivers more outside of Jefferson. That’s not saying they shouldn’t throw the ball to him, but there is no reason he should be thrown at 15 times.

Especially when Franks and Trask haven’t connected with him all game.

Jake Dreilinger is the assistant sports editor at The Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at [email protected]