Grading the offense

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Now that the 2012 season is over, it's time to examine how well the Gators performed in each area this season. Today, GatorNation will grade the offense. On Wednesday we'll tackle the defense.


The starter: Jeff Driskel

Key reserve: Jacoby Brissett

Projected starter in 2013: Driskel

The breakdown: Driskel had a solid first season as a starter, throwing for 1,646 yards and 12 touchdowns with five interceptions. He also ran for 413 yards and four more touchdowns. But he struggled with the things that most young quarterbacks do: holding on to the ball too long, staring down receivers, reading defenses. He wasn't helped by an offensive line that was inconsistent in pass protection and a group of underwhelming receivers. Driskel didn't play well in two games, and those are the games the Gators lost: against Georgia and Louisville. He committed seven of his 10 turnovers in those two games (four interceptions, three fumbles). He never got to the point where he could carry the offense with his arm, and that hurt UF against Louisville. He needs to show considerable growth in the offseason in the film room and on the field. Now that Brissett has transferred, he'll benefit from not having to split reps in a quarterback competition.

Grade: C

Running backs

The starter: Mike Gillislee

Key reserves: Trey Burton (FB), Hunter Joyer (FB), Matt Jones, Mack Brown, Omarius Hines

Projected starter in 2013: Jones, Joyer (FB)

The breakdown: Gillislee was everything the coaching staff needed and wanted: a durable player who was able to run between the tackles and carry the offense. He gained 1,152 yards to become the first UF player to rush for 1,000 yards since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.

Jones came on in the second half of the season after a chat with coach Will Muschamp in which Muschamp told him to stop dancing around in the backfield and hit the hole. Jones gained 183 of his 275 yards in the final six games, including 81 yards against Florida State's top-ranked rush defense.

Burton had a monster game against Tennessee (129 yards of total offense and two TDs) and continues to run the wildcat formation in every game. He's a solid receiver out of the backfield (18 catches) but his biggest asset is his intelligence.

Joyer has improved as a blocker from his freshman season, although he struggled in the Louisville game. He was supposed to have been more involved in the passing game, but that never developed.

Hines (159 yards of total offense this season) was underused. He seemed to make a play every time he touched the ball. He should have gotten 75 touches on offense.

Grade: B

Wide receivers/tight end

The starters: Frankie Hammond, Quinton Dunbar, Jordan Reed (TE)

Key reserves: Solomon Patton, Latroy Pittman, Raphael Andrades, Andre Debose, Tevin Westbrook (TE), Clay Burton (TE).

Projected 2013 starters: Dunbar, Pittman, Colin Thompson (TE)

The breakdown: Other than Reed, the Gators didn't have a consistent playmaker. He caught a team-high 45 passes for 559 yards and three touchdowns and leaves for the NFL after catching 79 passes in two seasons. The 6-foot-3, 243-pound redshirt junior is a matchup nightmare for linebackers and defensive backs, and the Gators could have exploited that even more.

The receivers were a disappointment for the third season in a row. Dunbar led the group with 31 catches for 383 yards and four touchdowns, which are the kind of numbers you'd expect out of a No. 3 receiver and not the team's top option at the position.

Hammond, whom Muschamp called the Gators' most consistent receiver, caught 22 passes and no other wide receiver caught more than three (Debose). Pittman and Andrades were used mainly as blockers and Debose was in the doghouse for virtually the entire season because of attitude, work ethic and consistency issues.

It's befuddling that Florida could have no threats at this position in a state that's loaded with skill-position talent. This was the position that really held the offense back in 2012. Aubrey Hill resigned just before practice began and the Gators were coached by a GA throughout the season, but that shouldn't be used as an excuse because the receivers haven't been productive since the 2009 season.

Grade: D

Offensive line

The starters: LT Xavier Nixon, LG James Wilson, C Jonotthan Harrison, RG Jon Halapio, RT Chaz Green.

Key reserves: G/T Kyle Koehne, OT D.J. Humphries, C Sam Robey, G Ian Silberman.

Projected starters in 2013: LT Humphries, LG Max Garcia, C Harrison, RG Halapio, RT Green

The breakdown: This unit needed to get tougher mentally and physically in the offseason, and it did. The Gators did a solid job running the football and were at their best against two of the nation's top defensive fronts in LSU and Florida State. Florida ran for a combined 420 yards against those defenses, including 244 yards against the Seminoles and their top-ranked rush defense.

However, the line struggled in pass protection, especially in the middle. Delayed blitzes and overloads inside gave the line all kinds of trouble, and the backs and tight ends didn't always come through with help, either.

A big issue, too, was injuries. The line was completely healthy for the LSU game but at least one starter was banged up until the FSU game.

Still, it was a solid effort by a group that Muschamp called soft at the end of the 2011 regular season.

Grade: C