GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Coach Urban Meyer expects to get Florida back to the "elite level," and he plans to have offensive coordinator Steve Addazio along for the rebuilding project.
Meyer said Monday he has no plans to fire or demote Addazio, whose lackluster offense and underachieving offensive line are receiving the brunt of the blame for the program's first three-game losing streak at home in more than two decades.
|Steve Addazio (left) has drawn a lot of heat for the Gators' lackluster offense, but Urban Meyer is keeping him. (US Presswire)|
Parting ways with Addazio doesn't appear to be a potential solution for Meyer. Then again, things coaches say during the season often change once it's over and the evaluation process begins.
Addazio joined Meyer's staff as tight ends coach in 2005 and has steadily increased his role in the offense. He became offensive line coach in 2007, assistant head coach in 2008, then took over play-calling duties last season.
The Gators (6-4, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) haven't been the same since.
In 2007, Florida averaged 38.1 points and 436.5 yards a game in conference play. In 2008, scoring increased to 44.9 points while yards dropped slightly to 429 yards a game.
With Tim Tebow returning for his senior season and Addazio taking over the offense in 2009, the Gators averaged 27.6 points and 375 yards. Although the points are about the same this season, yards are down more than 20 a game.
Meyer has refused to blame play-calling or personnel. But he has plenty of other excuses. First, he pointed to turnovers and red-zone woes. Then, it was key injuries. More recently, he blamed practice efficiency. Now, following a 36-14 loss to South Carolina that was much more lopsided than the final score, Meyer is attributing the team's problems to effort.
"I don't see an offense full of life," Meyer said. "I don't see a lot of energy. That's one thing as a head coach that concerns me. That's all personnel-based and success-based. ... I don't see that around our offense right now. We're trying to energize that group right now.
"We're a staff that believes energy equals production. ... We're trying to push that as hard as we can on this offensive outfit right now."
Meyer said he's trying to pinpoint the problem. He figures it stems from losing Tebow and linebacker Brandon Spikes, and not having enough chest-bumping, speech-giving, fire-breathing players to replace that kind of leadership.
"There's a void in our team right now somewhere and I'm trying to figure out what it is," said Meyer, who has played 17 true freshmen this season. "Whether it be energy level, whether it be chemistry, there's a little bit of a void and we've experienced that."
Center Mike Pouncey has noticed it, too.
"You've got people that go out there and give it their all and people that just drift away when things aren't going right," Pouncey said.
Regardless of what excuses the Gators use, it has become painfully obvious that quarterback John Brantley is a misfit in the spread option.
And what surely will sound like fingernails across a chalkboard for many Florida fans, Brantley insisted Monday he will return for his senior season. He said all the rumors and speculation that he will transfer are false.
"I'm a Gator through and through, I always will be a Gator, I love this place and no regrets at all," said Brantley, who expects more tweaks to the offense to better suit his skills. "This year definitely will help me out later in life. Everyone will face tragedies like this, hard times like this and you've just got to keep going, learn form it and move forward."
Although Meyer said the spread scheme has to have a dynamic quarterback to be effective, he said Brantley -- who has three touchdown passes and seven interceptions the last seven games -- will start Saturday against Appalachian State.
Meyer also said he regretted not using backups Trey Burton and Jordan Reed more against the Gamecocks.
"We felt a little panicked when things weren't going well," he said. "I'm one of those guys that get panicky. I've got to learn to shut my mouth sometimes and say, 'Look, we've got a plan, go with the plan.' I'd put that one on me. I'm used to plays around here and that wasn't happening."
Indeed, which makes everyone wonder whether Meyer will push the panic button with Addazio.
"I'm going to do the best I can to get this back to the elite level, which we all expect," Meyer said.