By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
We are only four games into his first season as the offensive coordinator at Florida, but the sample size is big enough to declare the hiring of Charlie Weis a success at Florida.
Weis, the former head coach at Notre Dame and most recently the offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, has breathed new life into a Florida offense that stagnated for much of Urban Meyer’s final season in Gainesville. Fresh off of a 48–10 win at Kentucky, the Gators rank 22nd in the nation in total offense (461.8 ypg), up from 82nd last season (350.9 ypg).
The 2011 Gators are getting it done with the big play. Last season, Florida had 180 plays from scrimmage that went for 10-plus yards (ranking 50th in the nation) and 49 plays that went for 20-plus yards (tied for 78th in the nation). This year, under Weis’ guidance, those numbers are way up — 75 plays of 10-plus yards in only four games (tied for fifth nationally) and 23 plays of 20-plus yards (12th in the nation).
Weis is putting the ball in the hands of his playmakers, which is why most of the Gators’ big plays are coming in the running game. Chris Rainey already has 17 runs of at least 10 yards — five more than he had all last season. And fellow running back Jeff Demps currently leads the nation with eight rushes of 20 yards or more.
Florida head coach Will Muschamp, a defensive coach, praised the way his offensive coordinator is using Rainey and Demps after the duo each topped 100 yards vs. Kentucky.
“The thing that concerns you (as a defensive coach) is that Charlie does a great job of creating space plays for them that creates a lot of one on ones,” says Muschamp. “One missed tackle against those two guys, and they can take it the distance. They are great guys, have great speed, great in the open field, catch the ball well, run the ball hard, they are competitive and tough. They have all the intangibles that good football players have.”
Now comes the hard part.
Rainey, Demps and the rest of the Florida offense are about to embark on as difficult of a two-week stretch as possible, with dates against No. 2 Alabama and No. 1 LSU looming in the next two weeks. A year ago, the Gators were swept by the two SEC West powers thanks largely to an offense that managed only 281 yards against Alabama and 243 against LSU.
Weis will have a chance to earn his reported $765,000 salary in the coming weeks.
Also Read: Our SEC Power Rankings for Week 4.
AROUND THE SEC
• Vanderbilt’s Trey Wilson leads the nation with 109 yards in interception returns, while fellow starting cornerback Casey Hayard is tied for third with 96 yards in returns. The Commodores as a team have intercepted 14 passes, five more than the No. 2 team in the nation, Ohio. One more stat: Vanderbilt has intercepted 11.5 percent of its opponents’ passes.
• Alabama has given up 15 points or less in 23 of its 31 games since the start of the 2009 season.
• Alabama is giving up 1.8 yards per rushing attempt to lead the league. Kentucky is last at 5.1 per attempt.
• Ole Miss quarterbacks Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt combined to complete 12-of-30 attempts in the Rebels’ loss to Georgia. In two SEC games, Mackey and Stoudt are 27-of-60 with seven interceptions.
• Georgia freshman Isaiah Crowell is living up to the hype. The Columbus, Ga., native is tied for fourth in the SEC in rushing with 411 yards, an average of 102.8 per game.
• SEC teams have combined to convert 33 of their 64 fourth down attempts. South Carolina and Kentucky lead the league with 10 fourth down tries each; the Gamecocks are 6-of-10, while the Cats are only 2-of-10.
but also allowed seven drives of at least 30 yards. In their first three games, the Tigers gave up a total of eight drives of at least 30 yards.