Short pass, big play

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida hasn't made many big plays in the passing game this season, at least not without a receiver breaking a tackle to turn a short throw into a long gain.

But the Gators have had success with screen passes the past two weeks and the play might start being a bigger part of an offense that desperately needs an explosive element.

"That's just another aspect to the offense that we weren't really establishing earlier this year," RT Chaz Green said. "If we can develop the screen game then we'll have the screen run and pass game and that'll help us be even more successful of an offense throughout the season."

Florida likely will use more screens in the season's final three weeks, especially against Florida State's tough defensive front.

The traditional screen pass -- using the running back -- has been an improvement for the Gators mainly because they have spent so much time on it during practice this season, QB Jeff Driskel said. The biggest issue has been getting the offensive linemen to release rushers and get out in front of Gillislee at the proper time.

It worked perfectly against Missouri forthe go-ahead touchdown on a 45-yard screen pass to RB Mike Gillislee because RG Jon Halapio released DT Sheldon Richardson and got out into the right flat ahead of Gillislee; center Jonotthan Harrison also was able to get a block more than 20 yards down the field.

"If you let the D-line go too early, they're going to get there before the back gets out," Driskel said. "If you let them go too late, they're not going to be able to get out on their blocks. It's definitely the timing. We work on it a lot."

Gillislee also had a 29-yard gain on a screen pass to help set up a field goal against Georgia. The plays were successful in both games because of timing -- in the throw, the blocks and especially the call.

Particularly the call, because it takes advantage of a defense's aggressiveness. Defenses are flooding the box to stop the Gators' running game and force Driskel to move the ball through the air – which has been troubling because of a lack of playmakers at receiver and shortcomings in pass protection. Driskel has been under heavy pressure pretty much every time he drops back, which makes the screen the perfect call, especially if the defense is in man coverage.

"Screens passes help slow down the rush," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "It's always a concern for us defensively when you're rushing, you're rushing, you're rushing, and all of a sudden, you've got a screen coming out. If you play a lot of man like we do -- we've been hurt by the screen this year. They block the guy that's man on the back and you've got a big play because everybody else has their back to the ball. It's good to pick in situations with man coverage if you can. Zones, a lot of times people can see those a little better.

"There's no question it slows down the rush and makes defensive linemen a little more cognizant of having to play other things rather than just rushing the passer."

Muschamp said the Gators have been much more successful with the traditional running back screen than they have been with the receiver and tight end screens. The biggest issue with the receiver screens has been perimeter blocking. Those screens are easier on the quarterback because he doesn't have to sucker the pass rushers in. He just gets the snap and fires off the pass.

"There's all kinds of screens," offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. "You've got back screens, receiver screens, quick screens. So it's just kind of the matter as far as which ones you're putting in the game plan.

"We caught [Missouri] at the right time when we hit Mike. They were aggressive. Blitzes were called, which is usually when they get the biggest hit."