If there’s one thing we learned about the Florida Gators during their season opening win over the Toledo Rockets, it’s that they lack quality skill players on the offensive side of the ball. While they were able to rack up over 250 yards on the ground, their passing game was noticeably absent of playmakers.
This problem is nothing new to the Gators, who have been struggling to find playmaking wide receivers and game changers in their passing game for nearly half a decade. With the season-ending injury to Andre Debose early in training camp, the Gators were left with a big hole at the receiver position heading into the season. And one game into the season that hole remains just as big as their showdown with the Miami Hurricanes is coming up this weekend.
After one game, quarterback Jeff Driskel looks more comfortable and confident than he did last season now that he has a year of experience in the SEC under his belt, and the Florida running game moved the ball with incredible ease against Toledo. But there was still no semblance of a down field passing game. Trey Burton was Driskel’s most frequent target, making five receptions, and while he’s a talented and versatile offensive player, he’s not the big-play threat they need in the passing game.
Outside of Burton, most of Driskel’s passes targeted running backs or fullbacks, which worked fine against Toledo and helped Florida move the ball effectively, but it did not help them gain yards in large chunks, which is something they’ll need to do against tougher competition. Veteran receivers Quinton Dunbar and Solomon Patton combined for just three catches and neither looked like a threat to break off a big play.
Of course, Florida has no shortage of talented young receivers that will have the opportunity to step up and become key parts of the offense. But that has been the case for years, and none of their young promising receivers have developed into big play receivers which is why they continue to lack a vertical passing game.
In the past they’ve been forced to rely on running backs like Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps or tight ends like Burton and Jordan Reed to be their top receiving targets. But this season their running backs don’t have the speed or experience of guys like Rainey and Demps, and they don’t have much depth at tight end behind the the multi-talented Burton.
The good news is that Florida has a good stable of running backs and a dependable rushing attack to rely on, but until they can find some playmakers in their passing game, their offense will be limited. That is a big concern for them going forward.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.