2016 Florida Gators Offense: A Productive Offense in Jim McElwain’s Second Year

Championships are the standard for the University of Florida football program. Since 1992, the Gators have played in 11 of the 24 SEC Title Games, winning seven, with the most recent coming in 2008. As Bear Bryant said, “offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships,” but the Florida Gators beg to differ. The defenses haven’t been the problem in recent years, leaving Gator fans asking, “what does a productive 2016 Florida Gators offense look like?

The Gators haven’t had one quarterback throw for more than 2,100 yards in a season since the legendary Tim Tebow threw for 2,895 in 2009. After Tebow’s ascendance to the NFL, the Gators went through several years of highly touted, underperforming signal callers by the names of John Brantley, Jeff Driskel, and Treon Harris. It certainly didn’t help that Urban Meyer had one foot out of the door in 2010 and his replacement, Will Muschamp, was a defensive-minded head coach that swapped offensive coordinators three times in four years.
Last year, the Gators brought in quarterback and Air Raid guru Jim McElwain to restore the Gator offense to its former glory and ensure Only Gators Get Out Alive in The Swamp.

2016 Florida Gators Offense: A Productive Offense in Jim McElwain’s Second Year

The Gators kicked off McElwain’s first season with questions at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Will Grier won the starting job going into Week 2 last year and never looked back, leading the Gators to a 6-0 record before failing a drug test for a banned substance and receiving a 12-month suspension. The offense sputtered, sometimes coming to a complete stop, under Treon Harris on the way to finishing 97th and 107th in points per game and total offense, respectively.

In nine SEC games in 2015, the Gators averaged 22.7PPG; the Gators went 7-2 in those games. Before that, the Gators hadn’t won 10+ games since 2012. That year, the Gators averaged 25.9PPG in SEC play, posting a 7-1 record. Using those numbers as a target, the Gator offense will need to find a way to put up about 24PPG against the SEC to be in a position to win the East.


This year, redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio will hope to emulate Grier’s on-field success under Jim McElwain’s tutelage. Luke Del Rio, son of Oakland Raiders Head Coach, Jack Del Rio, won a tough battle over Purdue graduate transfer, Austin Appleby, which lasted three weeks into fall camp. The young Del Rio is in his third season under offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier – the two worked together at Alabama before landing in Gainesville – and is the son of an NFL coach, so expect him to look calm and collected, make quick reads, clean throws, and good decisions while solidifying himself as the Gators’ leader for the next three seasons.

Wide Receivers

Expect Antonio Callaway to lead the Gators’ receivers, despite a tumultuous off-season. The dynamic true sophomore led the SEC in YPC and the team in receiving yards last season, including the game-winning touchdown against Tennessee, on which Callaway caught an 18-yard hook route up the sideline for another 45 yards to help seal the Gators’ 11th consecutive victory over the Vols.

The quarterback group is high on newcomers Dre Massey and Tyrie Cleveland, who will push Brandon Powell (JR), C.J. Worton (JR), and Ahmad Fulwood (SR) for playing time. McElwain rewards practicing hard and having the right attitude, and Cleveland has had some early issues off the field, so it may take him a few weeks to get out of the dog house. That being said, one of the newcomers will need to emerge as a legitimate weapon for the offense to flourish. Powell and Worton have shown flashes, but neither has been able to put it together for a full season, while Fulwood usually looks great in spring and fall camp but doesn’t shine during the season. For the vertical passing game to show any life, one of the new guys and one of the returners will need to become consistent, reliable targets for Del Rio and fill Demarcus Robinson’s shoes.

Tight Ends

If you’ve followed McElwain’s trajectory since his time in Tuscaloosa, you know the tight end position is the real X-factor in his offenses, not only in the passing game, but also as run blockers. Jake McGee and DeAndre Goolsby were clutch on third and fourth downs for the Gators last year. Goolsby (JR) returns and redshirt sophomore C’yontai Lewis will look to contribute as well. Both have the athleticism and size (6’4”, 230 lbs.) to cause mismatches in the passing game against man schemes, too large for most defensive backs and too fast for most linebackers.
McElwain will utilize these two by running them on lots of Y-Option routes. The Y-Option concept holds that regardless of the defensive call, the tight end should be open so long as he can recognize the defense quickly. Goolsby and Lewis will be well drilled and ready to make those reads. McElwain has a knack for dialing up big plays to the tight end when his offense needs it most, and the Gators have the talent here to continue that trend.

Running Backs

Last year, leading rusher Kelvin Taylor had 1,035 yard and the Gators finished 13th in the SEC in RYPG, with 126.9. Jordan Cronkrite (SO) and JUCO transfer Mark Thompson are the favorites to lead the rushing attack in 2016 with Jordan Scarlett (SO) also in the mix. Cronkrite has an early lead in the competition as Thompson has shown some ball security issues in recent scrimmages. However, Thompson is a bruiser at 6’2”, 240 lbs., so look for him to get the call in short yardage situations, and if he can fix the fumbling problems, he has breakout potential. Lamical Perine, cousin of Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine, may also factor into the mix here but if the other backs look good early in the season, expect a redshirt. Regardless of who the feature back is or if McElwain and Nussmeier opt for a running back by committee, the ground game will need to put up 145 YPG to bring defenders into the box and create opportunities for Del Rio and the receivers. Of course, the running backs will need the O-Line to step up to hit those numbers. Speaking of the O-Line…

Offensive Line

Anyone who knows SEC football can tell you that games are won and lost in the trenches. Luckily for the Gators, the defensive line was superb last year, as the offensive line finished 13th in the SEC in rushing and gave up an FBS-leading 45 sacks; albeit, some of those sacks can be blamed on an ineffective and indecisive Treon Harris.

David Sharpe (JR), Martez Ivey (SO), Cameron Dillard (RJR), Tyler Jordan (SO), and Frederick Johnson (SO), are the projected starters from left to right after Antonio Riles (JR), the projected starter at left guard, tore his ACL in fall camp and is out for the season.

Martez Ivey is an NFL talent who can play tackle or guard on either side of the ball. Expect him to shine and cement himself as an eventual top-10 NFL pick. Barring further injury, look for Jawaan Taylor (FR) and Nick Buchanon (RFR) to provide depth early on. The Gators are also hopeful that Brandon Sandifer (RFR) and Richerd Desir-Jones (RFR) will develop quickly and be able to work their way onto the field. Taylor may well finish the year as the starter at right tackle, but it’s tough to ask an 18 year-old to step in and start Day 1 in the SEC.

Depth looks to be an issue early on for the Gator O-Line this year. Without at least eight bodies to rotate, the starters will be asked to handle as many snaps as they can. Luke Del Rio needs to show poise and toughness, because he will take some hits early as this group tries to figure out a rotation that allows the starters rest when they need it without a major drop off in performance.

Surprisingly, this is actually an improvement for the Gators, as they did not have enough scholarship linemen to have a real spring game in 2015. Sustaining major injuries to this unit would still be crippling for the entire offense.

Extra Points/Field Goals

Eddy Pineiro. That is all.


The Gators are going to line up in a myriad of formations this fall, while McElwain and Nussmeier work their magic to keep defenses off-balance and give the passing game a real chance to take off under Luke Del Rio. The run game comes first in Gainesville these days, but its success will rely on the ability of the O-Line to stay healthy and develop a couple newcomers to contribute to some type of rotation.

Expect to see multiple receivers attack the middle of the field, putting pressure on safeties and linebackers to commit one way, for Del Rio to read then throw the other way. And don’t be surprised when the tight ends find themselves all alone for a first down or touchdown when it matters. The Gator offense hasn’t looked great in recent history but expect it to show some life this season. Florida will win at least nine games during the regular season and should be the favorite to win the SEC East and play in Atlanta.

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