Thoughts of the Day: December 8, 2020

A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:


WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF EVIDENT …

NOT JUST THE GATORS, EVERYBODY’S DEFENSE IS OFF

On their way to an 11-2 record in 2019, Todd Grantham’s Florida defense got better as the season moved along. The Gators gave up 15.5 points per game (7th nationally) and 304.8 yards (9th). It was a solid unit led by Jonathan Greenard (9.5 sacks) that ranked 8th against the run (102.77 yards per game) and got to the quarterback 49 times (5th nationally).


A year later there is no Greenard or C.J. Henderson locking people down in the secondary. The Gators are allowing 25.1 points (44th nationally) and 381 yards (50th) per game. Against the run the Gators give up 138.33 yards per game (42nd nationally) and they’re allowing 242.7 passing yards (79th), which is 40 more than last year.


On paper you would say it’s a really bad year for the Gators, but what’s on paper doesn’t take into account how few games Grantham has had a full deck to play with because of injuries, suspensions and the virus. When the Gators lost to Texas A&M (Aggies scored 41 and had 533 total yards, 205 on the ground and 388 passing), Grantham was missing several key players.


Also – and this can’t be over-emphasized – the pandemic has reduced the amount of hitting and physicality in practice. Since Grantham can’t know if he’s going to be missing two or three players due to the virus on Saturday, he can’t afford injuries during the week for conducting physical practices. The lack of tackling and physically taking on receivers shows on Saturdays.


Those may sound like excuses but this is the reality in which we live and it’s pretty much the same everywhere you go.


To Florida’s credit, the defense is getting much better in part because Grantham has more moving parts to work with now than at the beginning of the year. Kyree Campbell missed the first three games and didn’t really play a full rotation at nose tackle until game five. Safety Brad Stewart missed the first two games. Shawn Davis missed the Missouri and Tennessee games. Jeremiah Moon has been available only four games. James Houston has played in only six. And the list goes on and on.


Despite the issues with personnel, there have been some particularly strong moments. After giving up two touchdowns and 136 yards in Georgia’s first two possessions, the Gators held the Bulldogs to 141 yards and one offensive touchdown the rest of the way. Missouri ran for only 40 yards. The Gators gave up 221 and picked off three passes against Kentucky. A week after lighting up Auburn for 222 rushing yards, Tennessee managed just 94 against the Gators.


So, things are getting better but if you’re a numbers freak, then yes, the numbers are down considerably. They’re down everywhere in the SEC however. It’s not just Florida.