Florida Gators football: Jim McElwain can exploit these Iowa tendencies

TAMPA, Fla. – The 2016 season has been a roller coaster ride for this Florida Gators football team.

The huge road win in Baton Rouge that was supposed to be a home game. The terrible offensive performances against Arkansas, Florida State and Alabama. The inability of the offensive line to keep the QB healthy for what seemed like the 10th consecutive year.

After all of that, the Gators’ prize is a trip to Tampa to play the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Outback Bowl. Fortunately for Gators fans, Jan. 2 falls on a Monday. Most everyone has the day off from work and the hangovers will have had an extra day to dissipate.

Also fortunate for Gators fans, Iowa is nowhere near the caliber of the Michigan team that obliterated Florida last year in the Citrus Bowl.

I examined the film to see exactly what the Hawkeyes are. What I see is a solid team with tendencies that the Gators can exploit, both on offense and defense. Florida Gators offense vs. Iowa Hawkeyes defense

When watching tape of the Iowa defense, one thing immediately jumped out. The Hawkeyes don’t seem to have a nickel defense. Iowa defensive alignment against a 3-wide receiver alignment by Penn State. In the screenshot above, you can see that Penn State aligned with three wide receivers and a tight end in the backfield. Iowa countered with its standard 4-3 defense (linebackers circled). This means that there are four defensive backs to cover those three wide receivers.

So unless Iowa plays single coverage on all of the receivers, a linebacker is going to be isolated against the tight end.

That’s exactly what happens on this play. Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell (43) takes a step inside because of the fake to the running back, allowing the Penn State tight end to get the corner. Two plays later, Iowa linebacker Bo Bower (41) completely loses the tight end while in coverage, allowing a huge play that led to a TD. This isn’t an isolated occurrence. The same thing happened against Michigan, although the Wolverines didn’t use a three-receiver alignment to achieve it. On this play, they instead occupied a linebacker with tight end Jake Butt, allowing the fullback to slip into the flat. This is relevant to Florida fans because the Gators have used this exact action via tight end Deandre Goolsby. They often fake the run to Jordan Scarlett to get Goolsby into the flat. Iowa does not come out of the 4-3 alignment, even on third-and-long situations. It splits linebacker Ben Niemann (44) out wide in coverage. This means that if the Gators decide to go with four wide receivers, there is the potential to have a slot receiver like Brandon Powell matched up against a linebacker.

The Gators could even work Tyrie Cleveland or Antonio Callaway out of the slot, forcing Iowa to either bring in an extra defensive back or risk a huge play with a linebacker in man-to-man coverage. If Iowa instead decides to sit in a zone, a […]