2011 Florida Gators Offense: The X’s and O’s

Good god, less than a week from now, the Florida Gators will be running out of the tunnel in Will Muschamp’s debut. Funny. Seems like just yesterday I was telling Steve Addazio (read: my TV and some angry neighbors, and once, a friend who made the colossal mistake of watching a Florida football game with me) that I could call a more effective drive by picking plays out of a hat in a voice that could be heard in Missouri.

Of course, King Addazio is gone, and is Temple’s problem now. In his place is Charlie Weis, a highly respected offensive genius. And with Weis comes a new offense.

But there are questions to be answered still, some MAJOR questions yet to be answered or even looked at. We know that Brantley is under the gun a lot this year, the offensive line needs to play better, the playcalling will change…

One thing people haven’t really thought about is how opposing defenses will play Florida. Of course, that’s half of the equation too. Georgia in particular must be licking their chops, because Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme is especially designed to face pro style attacks like the one Florida will be using. Then again, Weis has beaten Grantham four of seven times head to head.

But let’s look at it Florida’s point of view. I’ll look from the opponent’s perspective before the game against them.

There’s been much talk about the John Brantley-Deonte Thompson friendship and combination. They have each other’s backs, they’ll pick each other up, etc. Cool. The Gators’ entire season hinges on these two guys, so they better be huge together.

But what in particular should we look for in the Gators’ offense?

1) Mismatches, mismatches, mismatches

So how does Charlie Weis do it? Simply put, he possesses a genius for locating a team’s weakness, and then matching up one of his own players to put the defense at a gigantic disadvantage at that position.

For example, a wide receiver on a linebacker is just about always under the mismatch category for the simple reason that wide receivers run faster than linebackers. Doesn’t matter if the LB can crash gaps, has great instincts, and can lay a bone jarring hit- in the SEC, no linebacker can run with a wide receiver, unless you’re talking about Vanderbilt.

This is Weis’ favorite mismatch. In particular, a slot receiver against a weakside linebacker. Chris Rainey and Andre Debose will likely be called upon for this job. Even in the SEC, where speed kills, no Will linebacker can match the nasty street runner speed in either of these guys. And then there’s Jeff Demps, who has dependable enough hands to catch passes in traffic.

In other cases, lining Omarious Hines up at tight end could mean death for defenses. He should by no means be considered a tight end. He is simply a receiver playing tight end until AC Leonard returns. His athletic ability is that of a wideout, yet he will be playing tight end, meaning that the defenses will be confused. That confusion can lead other defenses to play a linebacker on him- which as I just stated can be fatal.

A different type of mismatch would be to have the entire offensive line block straight up and have Jeff Demps run a counter or even a straight sweep. This will pit Jeff Demps, a 9.96 100 meter runner, against a big, heavy, 300 pound defensive lineman. That’s such a blatant disadvantage for the defense that if may be used once or twice a drive, if not more. Even if the defender could catch Demps, there’s still the matter of tackling him. He can shake tackles a rate far more than his size would suggest, although you won’t see him barreling over defenders like Tim Tebow.

A similar mismatch would be to replace Demps with Rainey or Debose or even Deonte Thompson on a reverse. Take away a little speed and a little more elusiveness and that’s the mismatch.

Finally, the most obvious mismatch is a one on one matchup with a wide receiver and a cornerback. The great wide receiver will always have the advantage over the great cornerback for the simple reason that it is far easier to make nasty cuts than to mimic them. Even if the defender follows the route cut a single step later, he’s still a step behind. Copy the route cut too quickly and the great receiver will simply improvise and change directions, leaving the DB flat footed.

So we know Weis will use mismatches to exploit defenses. What else can Gator fans get excited about?

2) Speed, speed, speed

Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen may be gone, but fortunately, the speed that they recruited is not. Between Demps, Rainey, Debose, Thompson, Mike Gillislee, Jordan Reed, Trey Burton, Frankie Hammond, Omarious Hines, and Robert Clark, the Gators have a lot of guys that are extremely fast for their positions.

Look for the entire gameplan to be built on the speed. Between deep fly routes to Thompson, big runs by Demps and Rainey, and simple screen/in patterns to Clark/Hammond/Hines, the Gators should utilize their speed to the max.

There’s also the nice thought of using the speed to block punts and kicks, as the Gators went 16-0 under Urban Meyer in games that they blocked some form of kick. And more often than not, it was by a fast player.

Let me put it this way: if Florida does not put a hefty sum of points on everybody they face, team talent and speed in particular will not be the issue. Will Muschamp said that’d he’d like to have the fastest team in America. Guess what? I think he’s got it, just like Urban Meyer did. That will not change.

3) Wild new packages

Rest assured, Gator fans, the dive, dive, sack and punt offense is gone. I actually called it a circus act gone wrong when Khloe Kardashian sized linemen happily crashed through whichever gaps they chose and blew up the play with such an exclamation point that President Barack Obama considered making a Hiroshima type memorial on the spot where our tiny scatback got leveled. Yes, this is as much an insult to Khloe as it is Addazio. Lamar made a pretty good arrangement with Khloe: a diamond in exchange for a wife AND a bodyguard. The only downside: fist fights and wrestling bouts over the leftovers!!! I mean, COME ON!!!

In any case, whatever you would like to call the hideous mess that was the Florida Gators’ offense, it’s gone now, having been replaced by… oh we’ve been there before. Aside from the major changes in coaching personnel, the next biggest change this offense will undergo is the play calling.

Like most math classes, this post will build on what we’ve learned previously… so when I say that his play-calling will be based off the notion that his team is faster than the defense and that he will create mismatches using that speed, you won’t be surprised, will you?

But it goes beyond that.

I don’t believe for a second that the Tebow package is gone. There’s simply no way that something used to completely eviscerate defenses for over 42 points a game can be completely taken out. Will it be used as much as it used to? Of course not, that’s why Charlie Weis is here, to bring in something new.

You might be confused now. Will you be confused when I tell you that Florida simply ran the wildcat with Tebow and there was nothing more to it than that? Because that’s essentially all Florida did. Tebow often had a tailback near him, and sometimes he gave it to him, other times not. Sometimes Tebow ran it, other times not. The triple option was a different package, a change of pace; like the wildcat would be to a pro style team. Not your primary offense, but when you do use it, it can be very useful.

So look for the Gators to play like a pro style team with the Wildcat as its change of pace package. I would be shocked if they ran it any more than four plays a game, if that. They very well may not run it at all. But I’m willing to bet that the Tebow package/wildcat stays. I could be wrong though, I will admit, since I am not as perfect as Steve Addazio at predicting the future. But then who is?

Aside from the Wildcat, there’s another equally damaging package that’s just coming to college football: the four backed diamond. It means a big bruising tailback lined up under center, two fast wide receivers/running backs about 3 yards behind the bruising tailback and about 3 yards to either side, and another player (position of choice) standing about 6 yards behind the big tailback. And then there are two wide receivers lined up

In this formation, anything goes. And I mean anything. Any one of the four can take the snap, hand it off to any of the other three, pitch it, run the option, even a reverse to one of the wide receivers lined up at the tight end spots. Of course, the positions aren’t that black and white: it’s more like an h-back, f-back, hybrid, and so on. So that will switch up a lot too.

4) Exciting playcalling

If I was heavily drunk and locked in the backseat of an SUV with four passed out friends on top of me, I could call a more exciting drive than Addazio could. Anybody could. Calling no plays at all is better than what Addazio did. Anyway, look for Charlie Weis to call pretty much whatever he feels like.

What does he usually feel like?

Well, the biggest thing is passing, sometimes to a fault. He just loves passing the football, and deep. Does that mean he never runs? Of course not. He’s not an inverse of Addazio in that sense; he has never had as much speed as he has now with Demps and Rainey in the backfield. But he can tend to get pass happy at times. This is his by far his biggest and most obvious fault. He can get a little predictable if the game is tight and it’s a third down and two- he will pass where most OC’s would run, or at least mix it up.

But we’re the Florida Gators. Games shouldn’t be close. We should be blowing everybody out of the water every week with the personnel we have. Talent has never been the issue; in fact, top to bottom, the Gators may very well be the most talented team in the nation. We’ll see that this season. Weis is the master of utilizing his talent.

Anyway, look for plenty of the standards: dives (gross), sweeps, counters, play action tight end hitch routes, shotgun bombs, etc, etc.

When not running the necessary evil plays, look for reverses and flea flickers. The flea flicker can be absolutely fatal to opponents with a guy as fast as Demps or as elusive as Rainey, and with an arm like Brantley has. And with receivers like Deonte Thompson (oh, please just catch the ball), Omarious Hines, Frankie Hammond, Andre Debose, Quinton Dunbar, Robert Clark, etc.

And the reverse can be just as deadly, when you look at the 40 yard dash times of all the receivers. Nobody can really catch Deonte Thompson in a straight footrace, and that’s exactly what they will have to do if they do not want to hear Orange and Blue blaring in the background.

5) Position musical chairs

Charlie Weis did lots of switching positions to fit his new pro style offense. Fans may be confused as to what they see on Saturday because it’s so different than the nightmare we saw a year ago. But confusion will lead to joy, and a barrage of points on the scoreboard.

Trey Burton moves from QB to f-back. Jordan Reed moves from QB to tight end. Chris Rainey moves from wide receiver to running back. Omarious Hines moves from wide receiver to tight end.

And John Brantley moves from shortstop to QB.

This is by far the most important change of all. His job will no longer be to take grounders from his center. The leadership responsibilities remain the same, though… and Deonte Thompson says he’s ready. Hmm. Let’s see if that’s true. Then we’ll see if the error prone outfielder is ready to haul in those long fly balls.

Overview

Any way you look at it, the Gators’ offense should be highly entertaining to watch in 2011. There’s still the speed and talent from the Urban Meyer days, but take away the bumbling moron of a playcaller and insert a true genius and watch what you’ll get.

An offense that scores as much as the 2008 Gators- with a different road to the end zone.

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