Bulldogs Blog

Analysis: Florida football program at a crossroads between reworking and rebuilding

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Any other year, three losses would mean rebuilding for Florida. But this year, thanks to parity or luck, the Gators still have a chance to win the SEC Eastern Division.

At 4-3 overall and 2-3 in the conference, they are at a crossroads. Rework for this year or rebuild for next year? Saturday’s game against Georgia likely makes the decision for the Gators. Here are the reasons for both.

Three reasons to rework

Ÿ The injury situation has improved.

Coach Urban Meyer is careful not to use the Gators’ injuries as an excuse, but when an entire backfield is out, that does have an effect. Most notably, Jeff Demps has been unable to help in any meaningful way for a month. Do not be mistaken, he is the offense’s best player, and having him struggling with a sprained foot has certainly contributed to Florida’s offensive woes. That he and other players have been able to recuperate during the bye week should make the team much better.

Ÿ The defense isn’t bad.

Despite its struggles in the Gators’ current three-game losing streak, the Florida defense has been promising. Its 13 interceptions ranks fifth nationally and second in the SEC. The Gators are second in the SEC in pass defense. The run defense has faltered in Florida’s past three games, and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said that was a point of focus during the bye week. Nine of the starters are upperclassmen who have experience and ability to control a game. The bottom line is, in just a couple of weeks time, both the offense and defense could be playing much better.

Ÿ Who knows what could happen?

Florida still can win the SEC East. The Gators have said their goal is to get to Atlanta, and it’s still attainable if they can win out. Why quit on that goal now? And in a one-game situation in the SEC championship, anything can happen. A SEC crown and automatic BCS berth is still possible, if unlikely.

Three reasons to rebuild

Ÿ Help the coaches work out the kinks.

The Gators have four new coaches trying to work in the system. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, receivers coach Zach Azzanni and special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin are all new to the staff, and running backs coach Stan Drayton returns after two years away. How much have they adjusted to each other and the players? Shouldn’t better results be expected of them next season? They could sure use these last games to work with the younger players to work out the kinks.

Ÿ Veteran players have struggled.

Whether it’s the offensive line, receivers or running backs, the older players on offense have struggled. Despite its veteran status with four seniors in the starting rotation, the line has struggled with snaps and blocking at times. Junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson has struggled holding onto the ball, as senior running back Emmanuel Moody has been ineffective. Young guys like Frankie Hammond Jr., Omarius Hines and Mike Gillislee might have a greater impact, and can gain some valuable experience for upcoming years.

Ÿ Florida’s BCS bowl chances are slim.

The Gators would have to win the Eastern Division and beat a team from the West, probably Auburn or Alabama, to secure a BCS bid. All of that happening is very unlikely. Why waste time chasing a goal that is a longshot at this point when the time could be better spent grooming the young talent for future runs at a national title?