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Chris Rainey's fumble was one of four turnovers by the Gators. (Photo by Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel)
It didn’t take an embarrassing loss to Florida’s biggest rival to point out what has been obvious much of this season.
But with the regular season over, it gave coach Urban Meyer occassion to finally admit to his team’s failings.
Work ethic wouldn’t be one. Despite an unprecedented five losses during Meyer’s tenure, no one has questioned the players’ drive to improve.
Injuries seem to be a factor, but mostly sound like an excuse. Unfortunately key players were hurt throughout the year – see Jeff Demps, John Brantley, the entire offensive line at some point – but all that revealed was a lack of depth.
Even execution, the players’ and coaches’ popular explanation for the team’s shortcomings, didn’t get the blame on Saturday.
The Gators are not a good team, and Meyer will be spending this offseason figuring out why.
“It’s injuries. I’m not ready to comment on that. I have not have the reflective moment,” he said. “Usually I wait until after the recruiting season to do all so I’m gonna get real busy. Obviously we’re not going to play in a championship game.”
Before Florida’s bowl game and into the spring, Meyer and his staff will look at what went wrong. Some suggested places to start looking:
– Three-quarterback system. Throughout the preseason, Meyer talked about John Brantley finally getting his time and the Gators adjusting the offense to fit the skills of a dropback passer. They didn’t, and this remains arguably the biggest disappointment to the staff. Florida stuck with a Tim Tebow offense with a quarterback nothing like Tebow. To make up for that, they brought in two other players each with a narrow set of skills. It hasn’t worked.
– Attitude problems. The Gators have had several issues with highly touted freshmen who have five-star attitudes. Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell skipped practice in the preseason. They’ve since come around to contribute, but Jonathan Dowling was kicked off the team and Florida has had other problems. That redshirt freshman Andre Debose was dancing on the sideline late against FSU might show the maturity level of some of these young players.
– Assistant coaches. Meyer said he was “not going to get into” coaching changes after the game, but he might want to review it at some point. Yes, the Gators lost plenty of NFL talent last season. But Florida seemed ill-prepared to fill those holes. At an elite university with one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, why didn’t that talent develop? If it is there, why didn’t Florida use it?
– Head coach. With his track record, Meyer’s job is likely safe as long as he wants to be at Florida. But, he delegates responsbility to his assistants and clearly some have fallen short. With his well-publicized health issues a year ago, it’s probably not best for Meyer to take more on. But he does have to make sure the assistants he relies on can get the job done.