Not the state, who’s approach to the COVID pandemic under Gov. DeSantis was one that had a sizable chunk of citizens and commentators projecting disaster up until recently. I mean the football program coached by Dan Mullen that is returning their quarterback, four starters on the offensive line, and star “space force dreadnought” Kyle Pitts from an 11-2 team.
At times the Gators seem like one of the most controversial teams in college football for the upcoming season. There are those that think they’re wildly overrated with little chance of showing up, and then there are those that expect that they could be “back.” In many ways they are the Texas of the SEC East.
There’s a dozen things about this team that make them pretty interesting that I wanted to explore. The first one that’s worth diving into is the normal, historical challenge that Florida has to overcome in order to win championships.
Florida’s big strategic challenge
For whatever reason, while the state of Florida produces a ton of football talent they don’t produce a ton of offensive linemen. They’re always well stocked with skill athletes at wide receiver and cornerback, they often have some great defensive linemen as well, but when it comes to offensive linemen they just aren’t up there.
Check out what blue chip offensive line recruiting has looked like in Florida for the last several years per 247.
Florida produces something like 10-15% of the nation’s blue chip recruits in a given year but only about 10-15% of those guys are OL. Keep in mind that offensive linemen represent 22.7% of the 22 people on the field.
Then there are other challenges, like the fact that Florida is one of three big time programs within the state that rely on Floridians to fill out the roster (Miami, Florida State) and that big time programs Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson are regularly recruiting the state. Between the five other schools I mentioned you should have a pretty good idea of where those four blue chip linemen per year that don’t go to Florida end up.
This isn’t a new thing either, check out the starting five offensive line groups for some of the state of Florida’ most famous champions.
Surprised? The legendary 2001 Miami Hurricanes had more starters from Canada than Florida on their O-line. The 2008 Florida Gators had one of the best rushing attacks in college football history and it was built from national recruiting combined with snagging what proved to be a very talented pair of twin brothers from Central Florida.
The 2013 Florida State line for Jimbo Fisher was plucked partly from Georgia with another New Jersey kid thrown into the mix. Every single one of these lines featured a New Jersey recruit on the left side of the unit, usually at tackle.
All of these lines had to overcome the seldom-mentioned challenge of fielding a championship line while being based in a state that provides every other recruiting advantage that a program could want.
I’m also not sure to what extent there’s a relative shortage of offensive linemen as opposed to there simply not being enough to feed all the hungry mouths. Here’s an easy comparison, the state of Texas offensive line recruiting over the same period per 247 with the Longhorns in place of the Gators:
Texas has about 29 million vs Florida’s 22 million, which doesn’t really yield much more football talent but does include a better share of linemen of which the Longhorns get a better chunk than the Gators in comparison. Texas has a little less competition, A&M is the only comparable in-state program but Oklahoma and LSU are regular poachers and Stanford and other also pick off a few here and there. I’d hazard a guess from scrolling through that A&M’s share over this period of 247’s highest ranking offensive linemen is equal to or greater that of Texas’.
Finally, here’s Florida’s top SEC East rival’s table from that period:
Since Kirby Smart took over things have really picked up for the Dawgs here. Georgia has about 10.6 million people now, so the explosion of football talents from that state over the last couple of decades is considerable. I’d suggest it’s actually one of the more influential factors in college football right now.
If you look at the eras of Kirby Smart, Dan Mullen, and Tom Herman you see that Mullen and the Gators are far and away the least likely to fill up on blue chip offensive linemen with in-state recruiting.
The 2020 Florida Gators
Here’s the most likely lineup for the Gator offensive line in 2020 that I’ve seen thus far:
The advantage for Dan Mullen and his Gators isn’t what you’d expect. When everyone thinks of Dan Mullen and his offense they tend to think of power-spread and big, running quarterbacks that could go between the tackles like Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott, and Nick Fitzgerald.
While he is 6-5, 240, Kyle Trask doesn’t fit that mold at all. When the Gators want to run their quarterback power schemes they sub in 200-pound, Georgian Emory Jones. They ran Feliepe Franks more than they have Trask and he was decently effective at it, but they turned to Trask because of another skill.
Ironically or fittingly, depending on how you want to look at it, the unique story of Kyle Trask is that he was a back-up for his entire high school career. He was still made a 3-star recruit and got a Florida offer based on his work in camps, but he couldn’t beat out the other quarterback at Manvel High School at the time, a fellow named D’Eriq King. At the high school level having an elite runner at quarterback is often too big an advantage to pass up, especially if the competition is a guy who’s at his best in pro-style passing concepts that are harder to master.
So the trigger-man for the Gators is a pocket passer and their best weapon is Kyle Pitts, a 6-6/246 pound tight end from Pennsylvania who’s a brilliant receiver and only so-so as a blocker. We’ll talk more on him in the next post.
For now the interesting factor is that the 2020 Gators don’t need to be a dominant run blocking offensive line. It’s more important that they’re reliable in pass protection.
For years, championship Gator lines were built around making the most of Floridian skill talent in power running schemes. Despite serving as an architect for those championship Gator units of years past, Dan Mullen now has Florida on a path to win by unleashing Floridian skill talent with the passing game.
Read more about how a region’s high school talent pool can have a profound impact on how they pursue winning football games in my book!
Florida’s cooking the books on the pandemic.
In short, you only know enough about this to out yourself. Stick to sports.
That story has already been debunked. There aren’t piles of dead bodies hidden somewhere keeping Florida from being New York.
Ok, you started it and continued it.
I haven’t seen it debunked so show your work. Then we’ll wait until total excess deaths are reported which will be a more complete accounting.
When thinking about this problem, please remember the following. This disease went from nothing to either the #1 or #2 cause of death in the country over the last two months. That’s looking strictly at deaths directly attributed to Covid-19.
Sure but it didn’t hit everywhere the same. Not even close.
A vast chunk of the damage was in NYC or the North east.
OK, so people dying on the East Coast matter less than people dying other places?
Do you not live in MI still? Does Detroit not count?
How about the sanctity of life?
The reason there was limited spread is that measures were taken to prevent it. I’m not talking about govt measures. Federal govt has done as little as possible to prevent spread, and state govt were slow. The wisdom of the masses started to dominate 10 – 14 days before govt measures and remain active. People started distancing, wearing masks, and working from home before govt instructions across the country.
Incidentally sports is responsible for at least part of this. The NBA’s decision to stop the season on Mar 11 was correlated with precipitous fall in business activity and travel well before govt intervention.
If FL is spared, it’s only because the measures taken by the populous IN SPITE of their government’s slow, incomplete, and incompetent response. Desantis claiming credit for better than expect numbers is:
1 – Ignores the fact that people protected themselves and continue to do so.
2 – Corrupt because his govt is covering up the actual numbers.
3 – Oblivious to the fact that it could have been better if he’d given clear guidance and support to it.
4 – Blind to the possibility that, in America, we could have a gradual spread of the disease because of our disjointed respond.
I’m not talking about what lives matter, how bad the pandemic has been, none of those were included in my point.
My point was that Florida’s response was controversial, but it’s working out for them.
Recruiting rankings are notoriously poor predictors for elite OL, you know this. Staff turnover and outdated offensive philosophy are more likely to blame for UF’s deterioration on the OL.
I didn’t say they had faced deterioration, the argument is that they don’t have as many players rated as elite from within their state.
From there you have to figure out how to get elite athletes on your line. Either by being one of the teams good at identifying the right 3-stars or by recruiting out of state.
It’s a lot simpler than you’ve made it out to be. They didn’t take numbers and are paying for it.
From 247sports, OL recruits per year over this decade:
2010, 2011, 2012: 2
Yes, 2 OL recruits per year for three straight years.
2014: 7 (!), 5 were low 3 – stars (greater than 500 in th country)
2015: 5, 3 were low 3 stars
They needed bodies and took anyone.
2016, 2017: 3
Short on numbers again.
2018: 4 — reasonable class
Michigan’s OL recruiting similarly had bust/boom cycles
Don’t matter where you are if you don’t bring in sufficient numbers.
I wasn’t commenting on their current OL though, which I think might be fine.
I wanted to make the point that despite what you might think (certainly what I thought), being a Florida school doesn’t make OL that easy.
I heard that was the case and then looked up 01 Miami and was surprised by what I found.
The biggest factor for the Gators is that they didn’t take enough players. Period.
Over five years in the last decade (2010-12 and 2016-17), they took 12 total. They played catch-up in the interval between those years.
For you to make the point your trying to make, you’d need to look high school lineman from Florida writ large and see how they do broadly. There are too many alternative hypothesis that you didn’t address to come to the conclusion you’ve settled upon. Here are a few:
1 – Ranking services don’t rank FL OL well.
2 – Good high school OL from FL chose to go elsewhere
3 – Gator coaches had a lot of turnover and didn’t develop OL
4 – Change in offensive system hurts OL development
And so forth. Some of these you know are true already.
1) Seems super unlikely, there’s so much coverage and scouting in Florida by the services and every program in the nation.
2) I’ve already shown that this does happen.
3) Seems like they’ve done pretty well.
But you keep addressing the post like my argument was that Florida is in a hole trying to compete this season because of in-state OL availability. My argument wasn’t what shape this team is in but the fact that it’s not as easy as you’d think for Florida to build elite OL with in-state recruiting. Not like with building an elite secondary or skill group on offense, where it’s almost impossible to recruit Florida remotely effectively and not clean up.
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