2011 Florida Preview – Offense
Florida RB Jeff Demps
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Florida Gator Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The 2010 Florida offense was the working definition of a square peg trying to fit in a round hole as it tried to go on with life after Tim. Ready to take over at quarterback was a big-time talent in John Brantley, who possessed the next-level tools to make the passing game sing, but the old coaching staff had no earthly clue how to utilize his skills. This coaching staff does. The Charlie Weis infamous "schematic advantage" actually will make a big difference for an offense that finished 82nd in the nation in yards. If Brantley doesn't take to the new system, superstar recruit Jeff Driskel will, but no matter who's under center, the passing game will be far more efficient and effective. The receivers will be utilized better, the tight ends are going to be terrific, and speed backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps should get more room to move while Mack Brown should grow into a star back as the season goes on. And then there's the line. There's talent up front, but it's going to take a while to find the right combination to make all the pieces fit. No, the Gator offense isn't going to explode right away under the new regime, but it's going to be better. There's too much talent to be any worse.
Star of the offense: Senior RB Jeff Demps
Passing: John Brantley
200-329, 2,061 yds, 9 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Jeff Demps
92 carries, 551 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Deonte Thompson
38 catches, 570 yds, 1 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior QB John Brantley
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Quinton Dunbar
Best pro prospect: Sophomore TE Jordan Reed
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Demps, 2) Reed, 3) RB/WR Chris Rainey
Strength of the offense: Speed, Charlie Weis
Weakness of the offense: Line Experience, Proven Passer
State of the Unit: This should work. Florida is Florida, so there's quarterback talent by the bucketload, and no one is better at coaching up passers than Charlie Weis. There's work to do, a lot of work, after the Gator passing game came up with a miserable season finishing 88th in the country and tenth in the SEC in yards, which wouldn't be that big a deal if the passing game wasn't also 94th in the nation and 11th in the SEC in efficiency. The right coaches and the right players are in place, and now the production has to come.
Senior John Brantley came to Florida because he wanted to play for Florida. Never mind that he didn't fit the old Urban Meyer system in any way, and forget that he could've gone anywhere, but his dad and brother both went to UF and he had always dreamed of becoming a Gator. After a miserable first year as the guy who had to follow Tebow, he got an all-timer of a break getting Weis as his tutor, and now he has one year to harness his immense skills and talent.
At 6-3 and 220 pounds he has the right size, and he has the NFL arm that can push the ball all over the place, but he's not all that mobile and isn't a spread quarterback in any way. He's a pro-style passer who honed his skills under his high school coach, former UF star Kerwin Bell, and he has to develop in a hurry with so many other good players waiting in the wings. While he completed 61% of his passes, he only threw for 2,061 yards and nine touchdowns with ten interceptions with two of his scoring passes coming against Vanderbilt and four of them coming in the first two games against Miami University and South Florida. Part of the problem was the offense, part of it was a green receiving corps, and part of the reason was that he was just plain bad. He didn't use his deep arm enough and he was way too indecisive. That should change right away under Weis. It has to.
For now, 6-2, 192-pound redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy is in the hunt for reps. The walk-on had a chance to go to several mid-level programs, but he chose to come to Florida where he brings tremendous athleticism and rushing skills to the backfield. He's the X factor option with the ability to make the offense fly … under the old regime. He might be a decent passer, but his game is his athleticism and playmaking skills with the ball in his hands.
It's always hard to follow a legend, like Brantley had to do going into last year, but it's not a bad thing to be the guy after the guy who follows a legend. True freshman Jeff Driskel is the perfect fit for the new offense with 6-4, 238-pound size, a tremendous arm, and just enough mobility to not be a stick in the mud. He's a bomber with the touch to connect on the short to midrange throws with accuracy, and the gun to push it deep and stretch the field. Considered the top quarterback recruit in the nation by many, he could've gone anywhere and now has to deal with through-the-roof hype. It's a stretch to say that the expectations are at a Tebow-like level when No. 15 entered the program, but they're not far off. He's that good.
Watch Out For … Brantley to be fine. Forget about the spring game that showed nothing, and dismiss the idea that the pop wasn't there to the passing game throughout the offseason. Brantley has the job, and while he'll be pushed hard by the slew of star players waiting in the wings, if he's merely competent, he's the leader for this season.
Strength: Talent. Driskel would probably be the Opening Day starter at about 100 other schools, and if he doesn't start this year it'll only be because the coaching staff wants to go with the veteran who has a year of starting work with the receivers. Brantley has the skills to be a decent NFL draft pick with a good senior year, and Murphy is a dream of a spread quarterback who can be used in a variety of ways.
Weakness: Touchdown passes. Against Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida State, Brantley threw a grand total of zero touchdown passes. Weis is a god of an offensive coach, but he has to turn the one-time superstar recruit into an NFL bomber faster than he might like.
Outlook: In a perfect world, Brantley becomes Brady Quinn, Driskel gets a year on the sidelines to learn the ropes, and the passing game does enough to start moving the chains on a regular basis. In reality, Brantley has to rock out of the gate or the young hotshot is going to start his era early on. It might take a year for everything to start clicking, but the spotlight is on Brantley to use his immense talents to be a difference maker from Game One.
Unit Rating: 8
State of the Unit: It's not like Charlie Weis ignored the running game when he was at Notre Dame. Far from it, and he did a great job with the Kansas City Chief offense of getting the speedy playmakers involved. He has the same sort of talents to work with now, and he's going to get the ball in their hands in a variety of ways.
On the plus side, senior Jeff Demps is fast enough to be a star collegiate sprinter who spends part of his time ripping up the track, but the problem is that he sometimes plays like a track guy playing football and not the other way around. The 5-8, 181-pound flash of lightning ran for a team-leading 551 yards and three touchdowns, but 237 of the yards and two of the scores came in the first two games of the season, and he was M.I.A. for a large portion of the season as he tried to get through a foot problem. When he's right, he's the ultimate weapon as a runner, kick returner, and receiver, but he has to prove he can consistently produce for a full season.
Senior Chris Rainey is part receiver, part running back, and all speed with 4.24 wheels and the ability to hit the home run from anywhere on the field. However, he suffered a knee injury early on last year and was held to just 366 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Used mostly as a receiver, he closed out the second half of the year strong with 25 grabs for 216 yards and three scores, but he never got loose averaging an inexcusable 8.6 yards per catch. There's a chance he could be Percy Harvin-like if he can stay healthy.
Sophomore Mack Brown was one of the stars of the 2010 whopper of a recruiting class, and he got his feet wet with three carries for 23 yards, burning his redshirt season early on against South Florida. The team's best pure running back, arguably the nation's top rushing prospect two years ago has 5-10, 193-pound size, blazing speed, and good power for his size. With the injury issues the other backs have had, he'll play a bigger role.
In a sort of hybrid role, one-time star quarterback prospect Trey Burton will work as part fullback, part running back, and part tight end. The 6-2, 222-pounder is smart, tough, and talented completing 4-of-6 passes for 83 yards with a pick, finishing second on the team with 32 catches for 210 yards and a score, and finishing third on the team with 349 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns highlighted by the five scores in five carries against Kentucky. He has the arm and the accuracy to be a good passer, but the sophomore's job will be to bring the power to the ground game while serving as a short range outlet target for the passing attack.
Watch Out For … Brown. Rainey and Demps will be fun toys for Weis to play around with, but when it's time to get serious and start running the ball, Brown will turn out to be the best option as the season goes on.
Strength: Speed and experience. No, Demps and Rainey weren't in the rotation with Emmitt Smith; it only seems like it. Put these two with any other two running backs in America and they'd probably win any 4x4 relay.
Weakness: Sure-thing production from the running backs. The Gators haven't really had a consistent running back over the years as Urban Meyer seemed to be consistently in search of a guy to count on week-in-and-week-out – anyone remember Emmanuel Moody? – and now the offense needs everyone to stay healthy. That's not a given considering the team's recent history.
Outlook: The hope is for Brown to be the regular runner while Demps and Rainey each take turns trying to do big things. There won't be as much running from the quarterbacks as there was under Meyer, so almost all the production will come from the slew of speed backs who have to show they can get the job done.
Unit Rating: 8
State of the Unit: Wrong routes, dropped passes, disappearing acts, and more. That was last season for the Florida receiving corps that had to replace top targets Riley Cooper and David Nelson, and struggled. Including the running backs, six of the top seven pass catchers are back, the quarterback play should improve, and the coaching staff knows how to get the forward pass working. Now the receivers have to show they can handle the workload.
Senior Deonte Thompson led the team in receiving, but he only caught 38 passes for 570 yards and a touchdown. The 15 yards per catch looked great, but there were too many drops and not enough game-changing moments with that lone scoring grab coming against Vanderbilt. At 6-0 and 200 pounds he has the size to go along with the phenomenal 4.3 speed on the outside, but so far he's mostly known as the guy who commented that he was happy to have a "real quarterback" throwing to him when John Brantley replaced Tim Tebow.
Sophomore Quinton Dunbar was a great recruit in last year's epic class, but he didn't get a lot of attention with all the other four and five-star talents brought in. At 6-1 and 170 pounds he has good enough size to get by and the deep speed to stretch the field. The star of spring ball, he is expected to be the star of the new offense with the skills and route-running ability to put up huge numbers at the X. If he doesn't start, he'll be a key No. 3 receiver next to Thompson.
6-1, 176-pound junior Frankie Hammond had a phenomenal 2010 offseason, and while he showed flashes, he only caught 22 passes for 276 yards and two scores. A sprinter on the Florida track team, speed isn't a problem and he has the moves and the abilities to be a yard-after-catch machine. Now he needs the ball in his hands on the move. Working in the rotation at the Z will be junior Omarius Hines, a seven-game starter who caught 20 passes for 281 yards and a score. Able to run the ball if needed, he was great in end-arounds finishing with 152 yards and two scores. At 6-2 and 211 pounds, he brings more size to the position on the inside.
Somewhere in the rotation will be Andre Debose, a one-time star recruit who still has the skill and talent, but he has to start showing it off after averaging a mere 9.6 yards per catch on his ten grabs. He was supposed to be a big-time factor immediately, but he suffered a torn hamstring and missed the entire 2009 season. An elite athlete with next-level speed and leaping ability in a 5-11, 180-pound frame, he should do more than just be a phenomenal, All-America-caliber kickoff returner.
Florida has come up with some terrific tight ends over the years, and sophomore Jordan Reed is one of them. The former quarterback was used in the spread completing 26-of-46 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns with a pick while running for 328 yards and five scores. He also caught six passes for 79 yards and a score. Now he's going to be more of a true tight end looking faster and quicker this offseason, and while he's not huge at 6-3 and 237 pounds, he can get physical.
True freshman A.C. Leonard got to school early and showed he's ready to be part of the tight end mix right away. The 6-4, 245-pounder was a dangerous pass rushing defensive player in high school and a field-stretching tight end. The star recruit picked up the offense and was good enough to allow the coaching staff to use more two tight end sets.
Watch Out For … Dunbar. With all the talk about how the quarterbacks are going to benefit the most from the change in coaches, Dunbar appears to be the breakout star of the lot under Weis. He got it right away this offseason as a terrific route runner and enough of a deep threat to be the main man on big plays for John Brantley.
Strength: Tight end. Florida has a world of speed at receiver and tremendous upside, but the emergence of Leonard makes the Gators loaded at tight end. With Reed and Leonard, the combinations and possibilities expand in a big way after last season.
Weakness: Scoring. Chris Rainey caught three touchdown passes and Hammond made two scoring grabs. QB John Brantley had the third-most scoring grabs on the team, tying with six other players with one. The Gators need a dangerous go-to playmaker who gets the ball in the end zone.
Outlook: The quarterback play gets all the attention under the new coaching staff, but the receivers will blossom even more if all goes according to plan. Thompson, Hammond, and Dunbar could make for a whale of a trio, while Reed has All-America potential at tight end. Next year this group could be elite, and for right now it's not going to be that bad.
Unit Rating: 7.5
State of the Unit: A disappointment last season, the line struggled in pass protection – partly because of the indecisiveness of the quarterbacks – and didn't do enough for the ground game. Mike Pouncey's consistent impression of the Steve Nash bounce pass on the shotgun snap was a microcosm of how the season went for the Gator front five, but the Miami Dolphin will be missed, as will three other starters up front. But all is not lost. There's depth, talent, and potential to do more for the ground game once the right combination is settled on.
The lone returning starter is a good one. 6-6, 290-pound junior Xavier Nixon can play either tackle spot and has shown that he's ready to be a bigger factor by getting smaller. Ultra-athletic for the position, he's strong in pass protection and has All-SEC caliber talent. The key is keeping the weight down as he's a much better all-around player when he's under 300 pounds. He'll get a long look at left tackle, while 6-5, 300-pound sophomore Kyle Koehne will see time in the rotation at both tackle spots after working last year as a reserve in every game. He's not nearly athletic enough to be a seamless replacement for Nixon, but he's extremely strong.
Working at one of the tackle jobs is redshirt freshman Chaz Green, who saw time at left tackle this spring but will likely spend the year on the right side. The 6-5, 289-pounder was one of the team's star offensive lineman recruits last year, and while he was expected to see time early on, he didn't play. Great on the move, he should be terrific in pass protection over time if he can hold off junior Matt Patchan for a job. Talent-wise, the 6-6, 292-pound former defensive lineman has the skills to be special. Health-wise, he can't be counted on for a full season. He busted his tail to go from being a skinny athletic blocker to a 6-6, 292-pound mauler, but he has to be ready to go after dealing with a variety of issues in his past from a torn ACL to a gunshot wound to the shoulder.
Trying to be the next great Florida center after the Pouncey brothers dominated the position is sophomore Jonotthan Harrison, a 6-3, 300-pound guard who'll get a long look at the inside job. Big, strong, and smart, he has all the tools to be terrific with a little bit of time. Also in the hunt for the starting spot is Sam Robey, a 6-3, 302-pound junior who has been a decent backup over the years when healthy. He's big, strong, and able to work anywhere along the interior.
6-3, 303-pound sophomore Jon Halapio will get the call at right guard, but he could move out to tackle if needed. A starter for seven games last year, he showed off his tremendous strength and showed the potential to be an anchor of a run blocker with a little more time. He'll work with sophomore Nick Alajajian, who was part of the special teams blocking unit throughout last year and saw a little time at right tackle. Now he'll fight for the center job while also working at right guard. Banged up, he needs to get healthy and has to find a role early on, but at 6-4 and 295 pounds he has the size, athleticism and ability to play anywhere along the front. A superstar recruit, his career hasn't taken off yet, but he'll get his chances.
6-5, 285-pound sophomore Ian Silberman came to Florida as a top-shelf, four-star tackle prospect and saw a little bit of time as a true freshman. Now he'll get a shot at the open left guard job, but he could easily move to the outside if needed. While he's not a big mauler, he's athletic, strong, and built to be a key piece of the puzzle for the next few years. 6-4, 324-pound senior James Wilson started four times at right guard two years ago and will get a shot at the left side this year. One of the team's biggest blockers, he has the bulk and the experience to be a blaster for the ground game, but he has to get past the knee injury that kept him out from most of last season.
Watch Out For … the shuffling. Is Green going to play on the right side or the left? Is Patchan going to be healthy enough to be a factor? Is Harrison going to stay at center and is Silberman going to be an answer at guard? There are a ton of moving parts to the remade Gator line, and it could take a few games to figure it all out.
Strength: Young talent. There might be several major question marks, but the line will get the time to figure it all out over the next few years. Wilson is the only senior on the projected two-deep depth chart, and there's enough four-star talent and versatility to tinker around to find the five best blockers and get them on the field.
Weakness: Experience and cohesion. The major turnover could be a problem early on. Charlie Weis's offenses weren't always rocks in pass protection, and the quarterbacks could be in big trouble early on unless the starting five is sharp.
Outlook: If there's going to be a major change in style, there might as well be a rebuilding job done on the line. It's all relative, of course. It's not like the Gators are pulling big bodies out of the math classes to fill the holes; the players in the combination are big-time talents who can all play. It might just take a little while to find the right fit.
Unit Rating: 7
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