Florida showed off their offensive firepower in win over Ole Miss.
Lane Kiffin’s debut for Ole Miss football did not bring the desired result but showcased an arsenal of weapons to be used as chess pieces by Kiffin throughout the course of 2020. The initial impression of the Rebels offense was their immediate willingness to dive into the bag of tricks offensively.
Only time will tell if this was first-game excitement or Kiffin’s approach to the Ole Miss offense, but the amount of creativity within each play call alongside the variety of personnel with the likes of Jon Rhys Plumlee, the utility player of the system filling a role nearly identical to Taysom Hill in New Orleans only on a higher snap count. Numerous receptions around the line of scrimmage as well as a long-catch downfield. This reception didn’t show great route-running or overwhelming athleticism, but an unbelievable sense of confidence from Kiffin to his players.
One of the core premises of Kiffin’s more conventional passing offense is going to be the spices of FAU, incorporating their uptempo pace to Ole Miss in an effort to continue moving in the direction of modernization. Under center, this passing offense is built from the arm of Matt Corral, a 6-foot-1 sophomore from Long Beach Poly. Corral has an ability to extend the play with calculated movement through the pocket and then leaping into open space.
At the beginning of the second quarter, Ole Miss drove down the field and capped the drive with a touchdown completion from Corral to wide receiver Dontario Drummond. On a first-down conversion with 13:10 remaining in the quarter, the single striking comparison I drew to Corral was to Cam Newton and his performance in New England this season. This could make him into of the leading darkhorse quarterback candidates for the 2021 NFL Draft, hinging on the success of the Ole Miss offense.
A minute later, with 12:04 remaining in the quarter, Corral completes the series with the touchdown completion to Drummond, scoring on a roll-out to the right side of the field and finding Drummond between the rotating coverages.
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When a quarterback rolls out of the pocket, it can be more dangerous for the defense if the threat is through the air rather than on the ground. With defenders sliding to improvise coverage in the new area of the field, gaps are likely to appear in coverage and open opportunities.
Quarterbacks such as Corral who have this ability immediately become more attractive to an NFL franchise adopting this new philosophy of motion and misdirection. Currently at Ole Miss though, Lane Kiffin can incorporate this concept and create production dedicated to this skill.
The most impressive player of this game was far and away Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. The first attribute of Pitts is his size, measuring up to a prototype-label worthy 6-foot-6, 240 pounds. Pitts was only short of the Mackey Award for the best tight end in the nation because of a lack of blocking.
His first and immediate contribution to the Gator offense on their first drive was to be a blocking force on the left edge with a handful of productive running plays. Kyle Trask had four total touchdowns to Pitts, but the second and third to close and open the half were both the two that opened up the game for Florida but also showed off some of his best traits as a receiver.
The first touchdown happens with five seconds left in the first half, Pitts had already led the drive with multiple important receptions for conversions and chunk gains, including a sliding 19-yard reception which put the Gators into the red zone.
The drive finishes with an iso look on the left hash with Pitts and a corner whilst the rest of the offense appears out of close trips right. With an easy release outside thanks to Pitts length against the cornerback, he is able to take the brunt of a punch to the chest and uses his superior body control to contort back to the ball and falls into the endzone for what was likely a “more simple than it appears” touchdown based upon the seeming ease with his physical tools.
This play brought vivid reminders of Rob Gronkowski dominating Buffalo with post-fades year after year at Orchard Park.
Possibly best of all though was Pitt’s touchdown to open the second half. With 14:33 in the second quarter, Trask drops back from the 30 yard-line. Florida is in 11-personnel with Pitts hugging the line of scrimmage to the left on the same side as two other receivers. Pitts sits just off of the line of scrimmage and sneaks off unchipped once the edge is occupied by the left tackle.
With elite speed, Pitts tears past the shallow-set linebacker and find himself in open space across the Ole Miss logo at the 50-yard line, and carries on to shrug off a hopeless arm tackle for a 70-yard touchdown. NFL offenses can’t get enough of these kinds of game-altering plays, whether from mismatch monsters of speed-demon wideouts. Pitts has the speed and size the break off plays downfield, and likely around the line of scrimmage as well.
The final player of this matchup drawing legitimate interest to the NFL is Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, a senior in the Gator offense with a pro-style skillset to fit directly into an NFL offense. Strong-arm quarterbacks who can reach any portion of the field are truly dangerous, becoming a standard for modern quarterbacks to thrive.
Trask gave the impression of a rugged senior who has developed the ability to retain composure within the pocket and making plays. His delivery was consistent regardless of pressure and the results speak clearly, with 30 completions on 42 attempts and an average of 9.9 yards.
Next week features unranked matchups for both squads, but Ole Miss will find a comprehensive defensive matchup in Alabama and Florida will have back-to-back ranked games against Texas A&M and LSU in weeks 5 & 6. Each teams quarterbacks will have plenty to prove and the platform to do it on this October.