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Florida QB John Brantley has been sacked 19 times this season, including twice against South Carolina. (AP photo)
Many problems have plagued the Florida offense this season. The Gators aren’t ranked 73rd in total offense because things are going well.
With today’s rivalry game against Florida State, though, the Gators MUST protect quarterback John Brantley. Yes, that much emphasis is needed. Here’s why:
Florida has allowed 21 sacks this year, tied for seventh in the SEC, with 19 of those on Brantley. The reasons are many, as Florida’s coaches are quick to point out. Yes, it’s the offensive line. But it’s also backs missing blocks and Brantley taking too long in the pocket.
“There’s so much involved in that, whether a guy getting open, a missed assignment, whether the offensive line or a running back who’s involved in protection, or the fullback,” coach Urban Meyer said this week. “If it was one issue, we would have corrected that issue.”
Florida has shown little signs that it has been corrected. The Gators gave up a total of three sacks in their first five games before allowing at least three in their next five. That the Gators gave up a season high four to Vanderbilt should tell you that it’s not just a problem dealing with good, blitzing defenses.
The problem for Florida against FSU is that the Seminoles are second in the country in sacks per game. They have 41 total.
Of the Gators’ three quarterbacks, this is the biggest issue for Brantley. Trey Burton runs. So does Jordan Reed, and he can throw.
Against a Florida secondary that ranks 87th in pass defense, Brantley should be able to exploit that. The Seminoles have 11 interceptions and allow 231.6 passing yards per game. The opportunity is there for Brantley to match his best passing game of the season – 248 yards vs. Kentucky – if only the Gators can keep him from getting hit.