Feleipe Franks stood at a microphone Wednesday and, for what seemed like the first time this season, let out some emotion. Some frustration. Some indication of his team’s lack of success on offense.
“I think Coach [Doug Nussmeier] and Coach [Jim McElwain] do a good job,” he said. “That’s why they’re in a position. … That’s why I’m not in a position; you guys aren’t in a position they’re in. They’re there for a reason. They know what they’re doing.
“I don’t think it’s my place to come up here and say, ‘I want this more, I want that more.’ They’re really good at what they do.”
If so, why is Florida (3-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) ranked 97th in scoring, 102nd in passing and 106th in yards? McElwain said it’s because the offense isn’t consistent. A missed block here or a missed assignment there always seems to foul up the team’s explosive plays. So on the team’s bye week, that’s been the emphasis.
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“Consistency is the big piece,” he said. “Getting back in and putting those specific situational things, calls, understanding of needs. And it’s a great week for us. It’s been actually kind of fun for me.”
The previous two weeks, however, haven’t been fun for McElwain. His Gators have lost consecutive games by three points combined, and after putting up 38 points against Vanderbilt three weeks earlier, the offense has slowed to a sputter. Franks blames himself. He said he just needs to execute better. Receiver Dre Massey blames something else.
Massey came to Florida ahead of the 2016 season as a touted junior college player with playmaking abilities. He was injured while returning the season’s first kickoff and was out for the year. Since returning in 2017, he hasn’t seen many touches, and he hadn’t made much of an impact. Until last Saturday against Texas A&M.
Massey took a direct snap and took it down the right side of the field for his first touchdown at UF. Back in his hometown of Mauldin, South Carolina, his mother screamed at her television.
“Dreeeeee,” she said. But then she wondered why he wasn’t getting the ball more. He also wondered.
“I definitely thought I would [be more involved in the offense],” he said, “but I guess kind of playing with a younger quarterback, we wanted to lean on things that we are more comfortable with. But I think as the season continues to go, we will open up more.”
Massey basically admitted Florida hasn’t opened up the playbook yet because of Franks’ youth. So maybe Franks is onto something when he says the coaches know what they’re doing. It’s just that what they’re doing is realizing they have to be limited with Franks at quarterback.
That’s obviously problematic since the Gators, limited or not, haven’t been able to move the ball this season. But maybe working on consistency will fix that. Maybe the key isn’t opening up the playbook, but executing the limited plays better. With a game against No. 3 Georgia looming and Florida’s chances for an SEC Eastern division title already thin as thread, McElwain sure hopes so.
“It’s a really big game,” linebacker Kylan Johnson said of the contest with the Bulldogs. “Just like every game, but this one is really gonna be a big game for us.”
▪ Florida’s already-thin depth was further ground away with injuries against Texas A&M. The most severe was defensive end Jordan Sherit, who hurt his hip and suffered season-ending surgery. “It’s a bad deal, man,” McElwain said. Safety Nick Washington is still out with a shoulder injury, backup safety Quincy Lenton had a knee procedure and is also out, and the group of Jabari Zuniga, Tyrie Cleveland, Martez Ivey, Chauncey Gardner and Kadarius Toney was severely limited this week in an effort to try and get healthy before facing Georgia.