Dooley’s Dozen: Midseason grades for Florida football’s 2022 campaign

It is a little more than halfway through the 2022 Florida football season and we still don’t know where it is going.

The Gators have five games remaining and you hope for a sixth but they have to win twice to become bowl eligible. There was a time when worrying about making a lower-tiered bowl game was never even thought about.

But that was before Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain and Dan Mullen. And now Billy Napier.

Since Urban Meyer left, Florida has zero SEC titles, a .623 winning percentage and a pedestrian .548 winning percentage in SEC games.

However, we cannot worry about the past, just learn from it. Where is this new incarnation going? It’s an unscripted game so your guess is as good as anyone’s.

All we know is that we are seven games in and have an open week, so that means it is time for a special bonus edition of the Dooley’s Dozen. Today, it’s the 12 13 mid-season grades for Florida football at the halfway mark.

Team: Mundane C

Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun

Because that is what this team has been. Just kind of meh. There have been a lot of spectacular plays to go along with spectacularly bad plays. Florida is now 3-11 in its last 14 SEC games and that trend needs to change. But we can’t lay all of this on the current coaching staff. This is going to be the worst roster (we hope) that Napier will have as Florida’s coach.

Program: Trending B

Cyndi Chambers/Gainesville Sun

Trending upwards one hopes, and I think most people believe. The new facility is just one part of the new face of Florida football and we see the results of this massive support staff in recruiting. Florida has pushed all of the chips to the middle of the table and this seems to be the right time to do it. There continues to be some resistance, but it’s definitely going in the right direction.

Coaching: Tenuous C+

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

I will get over the go-for-two at Tennessee and the lack of clock management at the end of the first half against LSU. I do appreciate the way Florida has been able to get running backs loose and the effective use of the transfer portal on one side of the ball.

This coach requires blood pressure meds and I could do without the trend of depending on analytics, but overall, this expensive staff is still getting its feet wet.

The offense: Weird B-

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

I could show you a video of a dozen plays and you would be talking about Billy Napier being a better offensive coach than Mullen was. I could show you a dozen more and you might wonder what he was thinking. He is dealing with a loose cannon in [autotag]Anthony Richardson[/autotag] and trying to make the best of it.

Defense: Solid F

James Gilbert/Getty Images

Let’s not even get into the historically bad defensive stats. You’ve seen it. Guys playing 12 yards off the ball on third-and-8. Poor tackling. The worst third-down defense in the history of the game.

(OK, maybe I am exaggerating: Cumberland wasn’t very good in that 222-0 loss to Georgia Tech in 1916 and, no, I did not cover that game.)

As [autotag]Steve Spurrier[/autotag] said on my Monday podcast, “Try something different.” Whatever this is, it’s not working.

Offensive Backfield: Encouraging B+

AP Photo/Gary McCullough

Despite Richardson’s penchant for turnovers, he has played well enough for Florida to have a better record. I lay the Kentucky blame at his feet. But no others. And the tailbacks – especially [autotag]Montrell Johnson[/autotag] and [autotag]Trevor Etienne[/autotag] – keep breaking off monster runs. It seems odd that the four running backs have only 23 catches in seven games. Get them in space.

Offensive Line: Grinding A-

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

When you have a running game that has averaged more than 200 yards a game and a quarterback who has been sacked only five times, the big guys must be doing something right. Line coach [autotag]Rob Sale[/autotag] is a difference maker and we’re seeing it. Richardson’s escape-ability plays into that some, but the offensive line is doing its part.

Receivers: Not-too-shabby B-

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

Nobody is putting up monster numbers because of how much Florida runs the ball, but [autotag]Justin Shorter[/autotag] and [autotag]Ricky Pearsall[/autotag] are SEC receivers. After that, not so much. [autotag]Keon Zipperer[/autotag] has given Florida one capable tight end, but this is a two-tight end system.

I thought about dropping the grade down another notch because too many times the receivers are not getting open. But I was in a good mood.

Defensive line: Disappointing D-

Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun

We knew that defensive tackle was going to be an issue coming into the season and it has been exactly that. [autotag]Brenton Cox[/autotag] makes some big plays, but he is always rushing the passer and often is out of position. [autotag]Gervon Dexter[/autotag] gets double-teamed on almost every play because Florida doesn’t have a second tackle. It is a mess that needs to be solved with recruiting and the portal.

Linebackers: Average C

Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun

How poorly are the linebackers playing who are not named [autotag]Ventrell Miller[/autotag]? I’d give him an A-. The rest are a problem. And even Miller has trouble in coverage. [autotag]Shemar James[/autotag] is going to be a nice player here one day, but he’s a true freshman with a ways to go so that day is not today. [autotag]Amari Burney[/autotag] made the play of the season on opening night, but it too often lost in coverage.

Defensive backs: Frustrating D+

Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun

Look, when you have no pass rush, the defensive backs are going to suffer. But it’s more than that. It is guys not doing what they are supposed to do, not covering the areas in a zone that they are supposed to cover. These are a lot of four-star dudes who are not getting it done, making average quarterbacks look like Heisman candidates.

Fanbase: Patient B

Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun

Florida fans have shown up for six home games in the first seven and made themselves heard. They have also shown a little bit of patience that I didn’t know they had. Well, except for the Gidiots who always want everybody fired.

I think most fans understand that this isn’t going to get fixed overnight. They are ready for it, but for the most part, are not caving into the microwave mentality that permeates college football.

Overall: B- (Baker's Dozen Bonus!)

Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun

I don’t like where this team is with a 1-3 SEC record and three of the last four conference games away from home. I could see the Gators finishing 5-7 or 7-5, which is not far off from where we saw this season heading in the preseason.

You always hope for more and perhaps the off week was a chance to re-evaluate what they are doing on defense. But I like where this is all heading down the road. Hopefully for Florida fans, it gets there sooner rather than later.

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