Gators offense sputtering under Weis

GAINEVILLE, Fla. -- As bad as things were for Florida's offense last season, it's worse in 2011.

Not much, granted, but worse. Three yards and less than two points per game, in fact.

Hiring Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator was supposed to energize the Gators' offense. Quarterback John Brantley was a perfect fit for Weis' pro-style attack, Jordan Reed was going to be a weapon because Weis' offense features the tight end, and the offensive line was going to thrive in the run-first attack.

It didn't happen because of injuries (especially the one to Brantley's ankle) and under-performing linemen and receivers. For the most part, though, Weis has escaped criticism for a unit that is on pace to put up the fewest yards per game since 1988 and the fewest points per game since 2002.

He's being pretty hard on himself, though.

"We're 6-5," Weis said. "We're 6-5 and had a bunch of games where we didn't score very many points. Granted, John's injury was a big blow, but still, as you evolve, you're never happy. Anyone that comes off a season sitting 6-5 and says they're happy with how things have gone is really setting the bar awfully low."

Florida is averaging 27.3 points per game, which is slightly lower than last year's average (29.8). The Gators scored 48 points against Kentucky on Sept. 24 and then totaled 47 points in October.

The Gators are averaging 347.8 yards per game of total offense, only 3 yards shy of last year's average. But that's the lowest per-game total since they averaged 316.0 yards per game in 1988 -- two years before Steve Spurrier arrived.

Brantley missed 21⁄2 games with a severely sprained right ankle and seven other offensive players have missed all or parts of games or been limited because of injuries. That includes three offensive linemen and running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.

The offensive line has struggled, and the receivers have, with a few exceptions in certain games, been a non-factor in the offense. Deonte Thompson leads all wide receivers with 19 catches. Andre Debose has 423 yards and four touchdowns on only 15 catches, and he's the only receiver with more than 237 yards receiving.

But the worst stat is UF's third-down conversion rate. It's 32.6 percent (43 for 132), which is the worst since the Gators converted just 26.1 percent (42 of 161) in 1979, the first year the school began tracking that stat.

Brantley said the players are to blame for the offensive struggles. Weis, he said, is the reason the numbers aren't worse.

"Our offense, we've been inconsistent at times," Brantley said. "I think Coach Weis has done a great job with us, being patient. You always see him on the sidelines on Saturdays being the most calm person on the sideline.

"We all have faith in him. I think everyone on the offensive side has all the trust in the world with him."

Weis isn't using the injuries or the sub-par play on the offensive line and at receiver as an excuse for the offensive struggles.

"I definitely would not say, 'Well, that's the best they could have done [under the circumstances].' There's no chance that I'll think like that," Weis said. "I'm sure that as I go back I'll look at things both from the coaches' standpoint and the executive standpoint and say, 'God, we just weren't very good, either schematically or execution-wise.'

"I'm sure I'll be miserable. The odds of that happening are 100 percent."

Weis said he's expecting improvement next season, mainly because the players will have had a year in his system. The staff won't have to teach terminology, and that gives them the opportunity to expand the offense based on what they learned about each player this season.

Head coach Will Muschamp is expecting improvement, too, even though the Gators will have a new quarterback and new primary running backs.

"Our goal is to go to Atlanta [for the SEC Championship Game], so in all areas we need to improve," Muschamp said. "And we need to improve offensively. Regardless of the circumstances, regardless of youth, injuries -- we can go through the laundry list of reasons. At the end of the day, they're excuses, and we need to play better."

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.