5 statistical trends Florida needs to reverse in 2022

The Billy Napier era begins Sept. 3 when No. 7 Utah visits The Swamp (7 p.m., ESPN). The game is Florida’s first home game against a top-10 opponent since 1969, when No. 7 Houston visited The Swamp. Florida will hope for a similar result to that game, in which an unranked Gators group defeated the Cougars, 59-34, behind Cuban Comet National Player of the Week Carlos Alvarez receiving a performance. Whatever happens, the game against the Utes, one of the most disciplined and well-coached teams in college football, will serve as a big barometer for where Napier’s program stands as his tenure at Florida begins.

Another excellent barometer will be whether the Gators can reverse a handful of statistical trends that have dogged the program over the past few seasons. Here’s a look at 5 statistical trends Florida needs to reverse in 2022.

1. A run defense ranked in the bottom 5 of the SEC

Todd Grantham’s last two defenses at Florida ranged from average (2021) to awful (2020), and nowhere was the problem more evident than in run defense. The Gators ranked 71st overall and 10th in the SEC against the run in 2020 and 85th and 12th in 2021. How bad was he last season? LSU rushed for a season-high 321 yards against the Gators, upsetting Florida, 49-42, in Baton Rouge, despite having a lame duck head coach and a slew of injuries. South Carolina, with a D-II transfer making his first run at quarterback, rushed for a season-high 284 yards in Florida, 40-17. Dan Mullen was fired just over a week later. If Florida hopes to be better than the 6-game winning streak the program put up a season ago, it better get back to basics, adjust in gaps and make clean tackles against the run.

2. Special teams that are “special” again, not among the worst units in the SEC

Heading into the 2020 season, the Gators were one of the best programs in the SEC from a special teams standpoint. Over the last decade, Florida has produced multiple All-SEC punters and kickers and 1 All-SEC return man, and ranked first in the SEC in special teams efficiency, per SP+, 3 out of 10 years . Last season? The Gators finished a program-worst 97th in special teams efficiency SP+. Florida had the worst starting coverage team in the SEC in terms of net yards, the first time that’s happened in a century. And while the field goal unit was expected to take a step back after future Bengals legend Evan McPherson left for the NFL, the Gators had a punt blocked and returned for a game-winning touchdown in the game at Kentucky, capping his season of woe. But hey, at least Jeremy Crawshaw didn’t finish last in the league in points. His 44.1-yard average landed him on the All-SEC freshman team, even if the net was only 38.3 because of a punt coverage unit that went rank among the worst in the SEC (11th). Florida isn’t a deep team, which often hurts special teams units, but Napier and the Gators staff need to figure out how to get more out of that group in 2022.

3. A turnover margin differential of minus -9

Florida must finish better than 115th in the nation and 13th in the SEC (ahead of only Kentucky) in turnover margin in 2022. The Gators came up empty by producing turnovers in losses to Alabama, LSU, Missouri and South Carolina They weren’t much better at taking care of the football, and turnovers doomed them to blowout losses to Georgia (3 turnovers led directly to 17 Georgia points) and LSU (4 turnovers, including an Anthony Richardson interception for a kill in the fourth quarter). Florida final drive). The Gators have averaged 24 takeaways per season this century, the best number in the SEC, and Florida’s 22.2 ranks third in the SEC over the past 10 years. Revert to the mean and Florida is fine, but the Gators need to be better in that area in 2022.

4. 70.6 penalty yards per game

The Gators ranked 13th in the SEC (ahead of Ole Miss) and 119th nationally in penalty yards per game in 2021. That’s a shame and a trend that needs to be reversed. ‘year 1 under Napier. To emphasize better discipline, Napier’s team has had SEC officials at practices, not just games, all preseason players and have turned in videos of all their individual penalties in 2021. Players have said, to a man, that the penalty videos were enlightening and, in some cases, embarrassing. It should be noted that this is a recent trend: Mullen’s 2019 and 2020 Florida teams, which won an Orange Bowl and advanced to an SEC championship game, respectively, were ranked in the top 3 of the SEC with fewer penalties committed. Discipline fell apart last year and Napier, probably aware of these numbers, should see a quick fix here.

5. Another year outside the top 50 in total defense and hitting percentage defense

There’s almost nowhere to go except for a Florida defense that spent a second straight year outside the top 50 in total defense. Florida finished 51st last year, marking the first time since the stat was measured that the Gators spent back-to-back years outside the top 50.

How bad was the Grantham era by the standard of Florida’s defense?

From 1990 through the end of the 2017 season and Grantham’s arrival, Florida finished in the top 20 nationally in total defense 22 times, more than any program in the nation other than Alabama and Ohio State. Grantham’s defenses finished in the top 20 twice, then fell off a cliff in 2020 when they finished 83rd and Florida managed to lose 4 games despite having one of the best offenses in Florida history .

Florida’s hit rate defense (which measures the number of plays, from a down and distance standpoint, that the opposing offense has that can be considered successful in making the next down a 1st down, touchdown or favorable down and distance) was “. Much better: The Gators ranked 61st (of 76) in pass defense in 2020 and 55th in 2021. Wow!

Patrick Toney is considered one of the brightest young minds in the game. He and co-defensive coordinator Sean Spencer will need to improve this unit’s production in 2022, or a bowl game will be a difficult task.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.