Florida's 2012 offense: Better than you think, and why Brent Pease deserved his raise

USA TODAY Sports

It's rare that I come out to defend men making more than half a million dollars, but...

Brent Pease was one of a few Florida coaches who got a raise after the 2012 season — Only Gators has more of the numbers — because his offense helped Florida put together an 11-2 season and earn a Sugar Bowl berth.

That offense was not pretty, and not consistently good, but it was effective. Guess which parts of that description stuck with people who are paid to opine on college football?

From the article that Pollack retweeted, written by John Taylor:

After one year on the job in which his unit struggled mightily, Brent Pease is getting a bump in pay to go along with some additional "job security" — and some public confidence displayed by his boss to boot.

...

In 2012, UF finished 103rd in total offense (334.4 yards per game) and 76th in scoring offense (26.5 points per game). The season before Pease’s arrival, the Gators finished 105th (328.7 ypg) and 71st (25.5 ppg) in those two categories, respectively.

Drawing the comparison with the 2011 Florida offense coordinated by Charlie Weis is probably the best thing to do when trying to honestly evaluate Pease's performance at Florida, but using yards and points per game is a really reductive way to draw that comparison. Here's another one.


2012 (Pease) 2011 (Weis) 2010 (Addazio)
Yards per game 334.0 328.7 351.2
Yards per play 5.25 5.42 5.17
Points per game 26.5 25.5 29.8
Red zone scoring% 82.6% 86.5% 70.7%
Red zone TD% 52.2% 48.7% 60.3%
Turnovers 15 26 27
Offensive FEI .144 -.155 -.182
Next-year NFL players 2+ (Gillislee, Reed, ?) 2* (Rainey, Thompson) 3 (Pouncey, Gilbert, Hurt)
Record 11-2 7-6 8-5

*Jeff Demps was technically on an NFL roster in 2012, but he doesn't quite count.

Pease's offense wasn't demonstrably better on a per-play basis or a per-game basis than the Weis offense in 2011 or the Steve Addazio one in 2010, but it avoided turnovers at a much better clip, committing just over one per game after the Gators spent two years handing over at least two per contest.

This was a huge, huge, huge advantage for Florida in 2012, because the Gators offense generally didn't waste possessions, didn't put the Florida defense in tough situations, and allowed a superb special teams unit led by Caleb Sturgis and Kyle Christy bang long kicks that either put points on the board or buried opponents deep in their own end. (The above chart doesn't do a good job of capturing how much value there was in just getting within Sturgis' range for Florida in 2012, and neither do final scores, but Sturgis field goals were critical parts of keeping Florida in seven of 13 games last season, by my count.)

When you factor in outliers that helped skew these results, I think things look even better for Pease. His offense handed over six turnovers (and, yes, all six were on the offense) against Georgia and just nine in Florida's other 12 games. Pease's offense didn't have any huge days against cupcakes (2011 Florida beat three of its first four teams by 38+ points, and had to throw all over the field to beat Furman; 2010 Florida thumped Vanderbilt 55-14 and Appalachian State 48-10), and was "worst" in a win over South Carolina, when the Gators totaled 183 yards and scored 44 points, a season high, thanks to three touchdown drives of 11 or fewer yards.

And while Weis and Addazio had and used home run-hitters (Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps for both, and, for Weis in 2011, Andre Debose), those big plays skew yards per play significantly; take away just Debose's three-catch, 151-yard day against Furman, and Weis' offense would have been worse on a per-play basis than Pease's.

Meanwhile, take away just, say, the penalty that wiped out the gorgeous 41-yard touchdown catch by Omarius Hines against South Carolina, and 2012 Florida's suddenly scoring exactly 27 points per game and averaging better than 5.3 yards per play.

I don't think Pease making chicken salad from chicken shit should be overlooked, either. While Addazio had a theoretically strong offensive line (one he had recruited and coached, too), his Gators couldn't run the ball at all, and Weis had a fifth-year senior at QB, two NFL players in the backfield, an NFL wideout catching passes, and a future NFL tight end, but couldn't figure out a way to keep John Brantley upright long enough to do much more than shred bad teams and pick apart Alabama for a half. Those offenses underutilized the talent available, and underachieved.

Pease had 2013 NFL Draft picks Mike Gillislee and Jordan Reed (and undrafted free agents Omarius Hines and Xavier Nixon), but so did his predecessors, and Pease didn't have the luxury of having a veteran quarterback or an NFL-ready receiver on his roster. So he whipped up a mad scientist's hybrid offense, running Jeff Driskel out of the pistol, using Solomon Patton as a lethal weapon on reverses, putting four backs in a row in the backfield on occasion, and mixing the Wildcat with an overloaded line to great effect. His was, in that sense, an overachieving unit.

I refer to the Florida fan base's eternal desire for pass-happy Spurrier-esque offenses pretty frequently, but I do so in part because I don't count myself out of that cohort: I, too, loved Danny Wuerffel, and Rex Grossman, and hanging half a hundred. Watching the Florida offense have to scrape out first downs is not my ideal Saturday pastime, either. I get that Pease's offense was not aesthetically pleasing, nor what people expected from a guy who had been an integral part of Boise State's supposedly pass-happy, trick play-reliant attack.

But I watched Pease do something relatively new for Florida in 2012, making use of every marginal player to the greatest effect possible, and came away wondering what he'll do when he has talent on the field commensurate with the creativity in his brain. And Florida fans remember Weis and Addazio misusing better talent than Pease had (or should, anyway), and remember how those seasons turned out.

I'm okay with giving that guy a raise (and a relatively modest one that keeps him well under what Weis' salary was, at that) to stay on with these Gators, because his benighted unit was really much better than his predecessors' were — and because the flashes I saw convinced me that the future is brighter still.

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