Most weeks, this site’s social media handles will promote a #(InsertTeam)HateWeek. I’m not the only one, either. No, I’m merely one of hundreds, if not thousands, of fans who spend the week leading up to each game using that theme and throwing jabs at our opponents. And since South Carolina has beaten Florida four out of the last five years, well, it would make sense for this week to be a spirited #SCHateWeek, right?
No, I don’t particularly like South Carolina now that Steve Spurrier has retired. But there’s been a certain absence of the sort of annual weekly hatred that Florida fans have become known for elucidating toward each opponent (myself included). And it’s not just because there’s little need to hate on a 3-6 team, or a school that hasn’t won a conference championship since it won the ACC in 1969.
It’s because this Jim McElwain football team, while a very promising one, has issues that need to be worked out. And the players themselves know that better than anybody else.
Florida’s defense is among the best in the nation, but the offense has to improve, and fast, before the SEC Championship Game. To me, the fix seems to be fairly simple. Treon Harris was, well, awful for three quarters against Vanderbilt, but worked exclusively from the pocket in the fourth quarter and ended the game by completing five of his final six passes. He was given a simple task- take the snap and throw it immediately to the receiver as he makes his cut- and was able to do it well enough to get the W. Now, let’s see if he can successfully operate this way consistently, over a long period of time. If Harris can quit dancing around in the backfield and prove himself to be a real threat throwing the ball downfield- even just for 12 yards- it can force the defense to back out of the box, which would help the running game get going.
Speaking of dancing around, this group of Florida receivers needs to learn to protect the football. What I mean by that is that Demarcus Robinson needs to learn to protect the football. I, along with many other members of the Gator media and fan base, have long ago noticed that Robinson has the tendency to carry the ball like a loaf of bread. Either that or he waves it around in his hand- ONE hand, mind you- like he’s trying to impress you that he can palm a football. It looks like a game of charades, and you’re stuck between Thor swinging a hammer around and Harry Potter who just discovered the magic of his wand. And finally, our worst fears were realized- he did it one too many times and Vandy punched it out of his hand. I love D-Rob, and know deep down that he’s an immensely talented athlete with a limitless potential. But dude. Protect. The. Football. Two hands, bro. Just like we were all taught in Pee Wee football.
Then there’s the Florida offensive line. After taking major steps forward each week following the Tennessee game, the line seemed to have regressed a bit against Vanderbilt. Then again, that was a top 20 Vandy defense in just about every statistical category, so I’ll hold off any stiff judgment. But I also counted four missed blocks against the Commodores, along with several collapsed and semi-collapsed pockets- which don’t exactly help Treon stay under control. Maybe that’s a red flag, and maybe not, but that’s another something to look for against South Carolina.
So there’s a lot of stuff this team needs to really work on against a Gamecocks team that’s nowhere near as good as it’s been in recent years, but decent enough to beat you if you mess around nonetheless. I don’t think many players consider this game a rivalry, but I know that they remember losing to the Gamecocks in the Swamp last year, and will want to return the favor. I get that. But this isn’t about payback; I’d rather win by four and see vast improvements than win by 20 because of a lot of gifts and not see any significant improvements.
Above all, I just want to see a team that looks more ready for Atlanta than it did last week.