The Florida Gators will be entering into a new age come next fall, the post Tim Tebow era. Gone is the era that bore 2 National Titles, 2 SEC Championships, 1 Heisman trophy, several All-Americans, and a memorable promise. Gone are the days where the Gator QB out-rushed the running backs, no more jump passes, no more QB trampling safeties. Also gone are 3 senior wide receivers and the starting TE as well 3 offensive linemen.
Enter QB John Brantley and his crew.
In short the Gator offense has seen a complete overhaul this spring. This has included a new quarterback and receivers, players switching to new positions and even new formations. A look at the 2010 offense by position.
The offense will be different with Brantley under center. For starters he is more of a traditional quarterback, meaning he is more comfortable in the pocket than running out of it. His arm and accuracy are his greatest assets. As a redshirt junior who was the #4 QB recruit (as per ESPN) coming out of high school, Brantley is familiar with the system and his group of young receivers and he enjoys all the confidence in the world from his coaches and teammates, so do not be surprised if he erupts on the national stage in 2010. The role of the quarterback will obviously change as Brantley brings a different set of tools to the table. The Gator offense should open up vertically with Brantley and the new receivers. He will be expected to spread the ball to the many weapons that this offense intends to deploy.
The only returning receivers with any gametime experience are Carl Moore, Deonte Thompson, and Omarius Hines. Moore is a senior who missed all of last year with a back injury. He is a strong and physical receiver (6’3, 220lbs) who showed his best stuff late in the spring. He has never contributed much in his 2 year career but his emergence this spring has eased some concerns. Thompson, a junior, is known for his blazing speed and dropped opportunities. He is expected to take the next step and become a go-to guy in 2010. Hines did not catch many balls last year but did show signs of having a connection with Brantley as he made the most of his few targets. The spread offense needs more than 3 receivers to be effective and the Gators will need 2 or more of their young ones to step up. Andre Debose, a redshirt freshman that miss all of 2009 due to a torn tendon in his hamstring, was the star of the 2009 recruiting class and was supposed to make Florida fans forget about Percy Harvin (as much as that is possible). Debose participated in full contact practice during the last week of spring and looked good doing so. He is expected to be in full form this fall and could be an X factor much like Harvin was as a true freshman. JR RB Chris Rainey has been moved to the slot this spring and will be utilized as a WR this upcoming season. He is simply another lightning fast target for Brantley to play with. He has made numerous big plays from the RB position and there is no reason to believe that will change with his additional work in the slot. Frankie Hammond and T.J. Lawrence, 2 sophomores with little game experience, bring more athletecism and speed to the offense. One or both could have a breakout year. Early enrollees Solomon Patton and Robert Clark benefitted from spring practice and could contribute as well. Incoming 4 star recruits Adrian Coxson and Chris Dunkley will also be in the mix. With this plethora of talented, yet unproven, receivers the Gator offense will be more aerial than last year and could surprise defenses if they are overlooked.
A position of strength for Florida as they return all 3 primary ball carriers and add quality youth. Emmanuel Moody and speed demon Jeff Demps will start fall practice as the co starters. Demps is a diminutive back with a knack for making big plays. Once he gets into the open field it’s “good bye see you later” as evidenced by his 7.5 yds/carry average and 7 Tds. Moody is more of a complete back capable of running between the tackles and blocking. Unfortunately he has been plagued by injuries throughout his career and he cannot be relied upon to carry the full load. True sophomore Mike Gillislee (right) had a great spring and emerged as the most reliable back (Demps was a no show due to track season). He will push both veterans for playing time. He has shown to be an explosive and powerful runner and should perform when given the chance. He averaged 8.6 yards per carry last year as a true freshman, in mostly mop up duty. Highly touted incoming freshman Mack Brown will also be in the mix come fall. With the quality and quantity of the running backs it is difficult to envision Brantley running like Tebow did. The Gators have shown a lot of 2 back sets in the spring, some I formation, so the running game is expected to be running back centered this year.
Losing All American center and Maurkice Pouncy is a blow, but returning his twin brother Mike is a blessing. The Gators replace two other seniors with potentially better underclassmen. The starting line will be a team strength and should look something like this: Nixon, Johnson, Pouncey, Wilson, Gilbert. The O-Line is deep and stacked with a nice mixture of veterans and youngsters. Second teamers; Hurt, Patchen, Young, Robey, Alajijian could start for most teams in the country and will push the first group for playing time. Offensive coordinator/O-Line coach Steve Addazio had nothing but praise for his group at the end of the spring, “We feel we have one of the best offensive lines in the country.” he said.
Last year, departed starter Aaron Hernandez led the team in receptions and hurt many opponents with his versatility. He was a mismatch for nearly every team he faced. This year the Gators have no such talent at the position. At least not any proven ones. Former QB Jordan Reed was moved over to the position and has fared well so far. He is still a work in progress but has shown the ability to be a dangerous threat. His size and athleticism make him ideal for the position, but it remains to be seen if his route running and hands are enough to be a starting TE in the SEC. The last time Meyer converted a back up QB to TE, Cornelius Ingram tore up the SEC as a junior. Depth will be provided by 2 freshmen, Gerald Christian and Desmond Parks. Christian, an early enrollee that was ranked as one of the top TE in the nation by most recruiting services, is already 6’3 240 pounds and ready to contribute. Parks redshirted last year after injuring his knee, but before the injury he had earned the backup role to Hernandez. Just like the wide receivers, the TEs have potential to do well, but until they show it on the field there will be doubts.
There is growing optimism in Gainsville that this offense will be more exciting than it was in Tebow’s “dive option” senior season. The team will have to get over losing it’s field marshall and workhorse, but there is plenty of explosive players waiting to touch the ball. If Brantley lives up to his coaches expectations, this offense will be more explosive than last year’s. If a couple of players can emerge in the passing game this offense will be difficult to stop and will put up points by the bunch. The pressure is on the Offensive Coordinator to turn this bunch lose. The days of the “Fun & Gun” are long gone, but the “Meyer Spread”, has also had its share of offensive success, under Dan Mullen mostly. But Mullen is gone and Addazio convinced no one last year with his monotonous and conservative play-calling, but he will have another year to prove his worth with the new group. I like coach Addazio, so im hoping the offense lives up to its potential.
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Written by The Gator Great