Ryan Young/SEC Country Florida coach Jim McElwain prepares for the game against Arkansas. FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — I’ve lauded Jim McElwain for his in-game strategy.
I’ve been thrilled with his willingness to attempt to convert fourth downs to prolong drives in enemy territory. I admire these decisions not because it is a risk. I admire it because he has put thought into the decision-making process. He understands that statistically, being aggressive on fourth down is the right thing to do. He is comfortable that he has made the right decision, irrespective of the result.
The result of Florida’s game against Arkansas on Saturday was an embarrassment. But the decision-making process, both in the game-plan preparation and the discussion afterward, was an embarrassment as well.
In Friday’s preview , I expressed concern that Gators QB Luke Del Rio would be making his first start on the road. After two early drops by his receivers cost Florida a pick-6 and a third-down conversion, Del Rio looked like a true freshman. It became clear by the end of the first quarter — and definitely by the half — that Del Rio was overmatched.
With the Gators marching to tie the game at 14, Del Rio threw a backbreaking interception to Arkansas free safety Josh Liddell. Just prior to the snap, the strong safety crept up 5 yards, a dead giveaway that the free safety is going to be playing center field — right where Del Rio was trying to throw the ball.
This is a true freshman mistake, and it’s one that you might be able to justify for someone with Del Rio’s lack of on-field experience. Except he made the exact same mistake twice against Missouri two weeks ago, predetermining his throw to the middle of the field despite the pre-snap read.
McElwain likes to say he tells his players to be proud of what they put on film. Well, Del Rio keeps putting the same mistakes on film week after week. He kept holding the ball and double clutching so much that I wondered whether the receivers were being blanketed by Arkansas. But reporters in the press booth were adamant that there were open receivers. Del Rio just wasn’t able to get them the ball. Maybe you can’t see it on the broadcast but receivers are open https://t.co/2NltdIf8Ia — Nick de la Torre (@NickdelaTorreGC) November 5, 2016 After the game, McElwain started talking about how it isn’t too late to use either of his true freshmen QBs, Kyle Trask or Feleipe Franks. He’s wrong. Even worse, this shows a poor process for making decisions.
Right after the Florida game, I watched Alabama true freshman Jalen Hurts lead the Crimson Tide to a road win at LSU (Rivals had Hurts ranked as the 231st overall recruit; Franks ranked 57th). It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t his best work. But his ability to perform in that game is directly correlated to the experience he got against cupcakes such as Western Kentucky and Kent State.
Nick Saban saw that his more-experienced […]