2012 Florida Preview – Offense
Florida WR Quinton Dunbar
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Florida Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: A phenomenal flop last season, the Florida offense went absolutely nowhere averaging a pathetic 329 yards per game and doing nothing against the defenses with a pulse. Charlie Weis is off to Kansas and in steps new offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who has a boatload of talent to work with and appears to be ready to turn things around. The line should be night-and-day better, more physical, and more consistent as long as the starting five can stay healthy. Mike Gillislee leads a promising group of running backs that should benefit behind the improved front five, and Quinton Dunbar appears ready to become the breakout star of a receiving corps that looks that part but produced jack squat last season. The key to the season, though, is the quarterback situation with superstar prospects Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett battling it out for time. Neither one looks like a world-beater yet, and no matter what else the Gators do this year they're not going anywhere without improved quarterback play.
Star of the offense: Sophomore WR Quinton Dunbar
Passing: Jacoby Brissett
18-39, 206 yds, 2 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Mike Gillislee
56 carries, 328 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Jordan Reed
28 catches, 307 yds, 2 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore QB Jeff Driskel and/or Jacoby Brissett
Unsung star on the rise: Senior RB Mike Gillislee
Best pro prospect: Dunbar
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Dunbar, 2) OT Xavier Nixon, 3) OT Matt Patchan
Strength of the offense: Line Experience, Potential Talent
Weakness of the offense: Proven Quarterback, Proven Production
The quarterback situation will be up in the air up until the opener, and even then it might be settled. The most experienced option is sophomore Jacoby Brissett, a 6-3, 229-pound talent who wasn't quite an elite of the elite recruit last year, but was good enough to see time when John Brantley went down. Predictably, for a first year player, he struggled completing just 46% of his passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns with four interceptions, but he showed off some running skills with two scores. He was far more consistent this offseason and he appears to be reading his progressions better, but he still needs time. The upside is limitless and he'd grow into a sure-thing franchise-maker at just about anywhere else, but he'll have to battle for time.
Sophomore Jeff Driskel wasn't quite considered another Tim Tebow when he came in last year, but he was considered by many to be the top quarterback prospect in the country. The hype and promise were through the roof as a possible perfect fit for what the new Gator offense wants to do. At 6-4 and 232 pounds he has NFL size, a next-level arm, and just enough mobility to not be a stick in the mud. A bomber with great touch on his short-to-midrange throws, he has all the tools but he needs time and needs more seasoning. The dream was that he'd take the program and make it his when he got his shot last year, but he was awful completing just 47% of his throws for 148 yards with two interceptions in his little bit of work before getting hurt. He has the talent to be a top pro prospect, but he has to stand out as the main man and separate himself from Brissett.
It's a two-man race for the starting job, but sophomore Tyler Murphy might make a little bit of a push. At times he was better than Brissett and Driskel, and he's providing just enough of a push to be a good emergency option adding more of an athletic rushing element to the mix while also being able to bomb away when needed. At 6-2 and 204 pounds he has good size and he's been great as a scout teamer.
Watch Out For … the coaching staff to be wishy-washy about the starter. The fear is that by definitively going with Brissett or Driskel the other will want to bolt. It might take a long time to figure out who the right guy is.
Strength: Talent. There might not be a wrong answer. Driskel, if developed properly, has No. 1 overall pick potential, but he can't be looking over his shoulder. Brissett has been every bit as good in practices.
Weakness: Proven production. Brissett and Driskel were both true freshmen, but they were awful when thrown to the wolves. John Brantley wasn't much better in a miserable year for a passing game that finished with just 2,414 yards and 13 touchdowns and 13 picks. There's no excuse for the air attack to be this poor again.
Outlook: The talent is undeniable and there's plenty of upside and promise. Now the coaching staff has to walk the tightrope to figure out which option is best, but Brissett and Driskel are dead-even in terms of their progression and neither one is backing down in the race. This could turn out to be the nation's biggest quarterback controversy going into the fall.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Is Mike Gillislee ready to give the Gators a running game again? While the 5-11, 201-pound senior finished third last season with 328 yards and two scores, averaging 5.9 yards per carry, he was mostly used in blowouts being stuck behind Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Now the No. 1 gig is his and he appears to be ready to take over in a variety of ways. He has nice hands, even though he didn't catch a ball last season, and he's extremely quick, but in this offense he'll never be a workhorse. His job will be to come up with big plays in the 15-or-so carries he'll get a game.
Eventually, sophomore Mack Brown will be the main man for the ground game. One of the stars of the 2010 whopper of a recruiting class, he got a little bit of work in last year running 42 times in a little bit of work, but he bulked up to 210 pounds on his 5-11 frame and he's built to handle the workload whenever needed. Arguably the nation's top rushing prospect two years ago, he has size, blazing speed, and good power for his size.
Is Chris Johnson really in the mix for a top backup job? He was terrific in the spring game running for 50 yards and a touchdown, and while that's not indicative of too much, he showed throughout the offseason that he's ready to become a factor in the rotation. The 5-9, 205-pound sophomore is tough, physical, and deep in the mix for the No. 2 job.
The Gators have no shortage of pounders for a short yardage role. 5-10, 244-pound sophomore Hunter Joyer was considered the No. 1 fullback prospect in the nation when he signed on last year, and while he's a tremendous blocker, he's also expected to be a sure-thing when the team needs the hard yard.
The X factor is Trey Burton, a 6-3, 227-pound junior who's part fullback, part H-Back, part tight end running for 125 yards and three touchdowns while catching 19 passes for 149 yards and a score. Also a part-time quarterback in the wildcat package, which will still be a part of the new offense, he completed 4-of-6 passes for 16 yards. Smart, tough, and versatile, he'll once again be used in a variety of roles.
Also doing a little of everything will the 6-2, 223-pound Omarius Hines, a senior tight end who's being moved over to a different, Burton-like role being used as a blocker in the backfield, a part-time runner, and a receiver. He caught seven passes for 106 yards last season as a big play target.
Watch Out For … Gillislee. Florida always seems to come into a season with a grand plan for a back to breakout and become a star, and it never quite happens. Gillislee is being given the ball and he'll get every opportunity to carry the offense as long as he's producing.
Strength: Talent. Brown could've gone anywhere and would've been the featured back by now. Eventually he'll be the No. 1, but Johnson is proving in practices that he can produce. There isn't a more talented set of fullbacks in America than Burton and Reed.
Weakness: Warp speed. There might be talent in the backfield, and everyone can run, but the world-class wheels of Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps are gone. There will still be big plays, but they'll just be a half-click slower.
Outlook: The running game couldn't find a groove last season, but it'll play a more prominent role this year. The offensive line is better meaning the production should be stronger, and there should be a good, talented rotation of backs to keep everyone fresh. Don't be shocked if this isn't one of the team's biggest areas of improvement.
Unit Rating: 7.5
The receiving corps was one of the team's biggest disappointments last year with the leading wideout, Deonte Thompson, catching just 21 passes. The second-leading wide receiver was junior Andre Debose, but he only caught 16 passes for 432 yards. However, he led the way with four touchdown catches and averaged a whopping 27 yards per catch. He has 5-11, 186 pound size and elite athleticism and leaping ability, but he was underwhelming this offseason and needs to show he can be a consistent playmaker. If nothing else, he's a whale of a kickoff returner averaging 26.1 yards per try.
It's the last chance for senior Frankie Hammond Jr., a 6-1, 185-pound senior with deep play ability and phenomenal speed. A sprinter on the Florida track team, he has the wheels, but he hasn't been able to put it all together catching just 18 passes for 171 yards and no touchdowns. A player with his experience and speed shouldn't have a long pass play of just 25 yards, and now he needs to get the ball in his hands more on the move in the slot.
Sophomore Quinton Dunbar was a great recruit in the epic 2010 class, and he'll eventually be the No. 1 target. He has shown over the last two offseasons that he has the upside, starring in spring ball last year and doing a good job this offseason, and at 6-1 and 183 pounds he has the size to go along with his talent. He showed flashes last year catching 14 passes for 216 yards and two scores, with the touchdowns coming in the final two games of the year, and he could be the breakout star in the revamped offense.
Junior Solomon Patton is a 5-9, 169-pound speedster at the Z, but he only caught three passes for 35 yards last year and was banged up this offseason with a groin injury. A top prospect in 2010, he has yet to break through but he's a key special teamer. Also dinged up with a groin problem is Stephen Alli, a massive 6-6, 217-pound junior who worked mostly on special teams so far. He didn't catch any passes last year, but he'll get a little bit of a chance at the X behind Debose.
Ready to make an impact right away is true freshman Latroy Pittman, a 6-0, 195-pound flash who's physical enough to possibly play corner if needed but is too talented to not get work in the slot. While he's not all that big, he might be the team's best blocking receiver. He's going to be a key part of the passing game in the near future, coming up with a great spring after getting to school early, and will be used in a variety of ways.
Junior Jordan Reed has all the talent to become a legitimate Mackey Award candidate, but he has yet to show it off and didn't do anything in offseason practices to show he's ready to take a huge step forward. Even so, he's the team's leading returning receiver catching 28 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns after being used a bit as a spread quarterback in 2010. Now a true tight end, the 6-3, 239-pounder has to be even more of a go-to target and he has to be more consistent.
6-4, 242-pound sophomore Clay Burton is learning on the fly after moving over from defensive end. A good linebacker prospect when he came to Florida, he's going to need a while before he's more than a blocker, while sophomore A.C Leonard is back after being arrested and suspended for a stretch. At 6-4 and 245 pounds he has excellent size and a whole of upside, coming to Florida as a superstar recruit, and now he'll be a bigger part of the attack after catching eight passes for 99 yards.
Watch Out For … Dunbar. There's a chance, if he puts it all together, that he could be the most talented receiver to come through the program in a long, long time. All the skills are there, and now he's being counted on to become a special, No. 1 target with more throws his way.
Strength: An improved offense. It's not like Charlie Weis doesn't know how to make a passing game go, but he never got the production needed out of the receivers and the quarterbacks struggled behind a shaky offensive line. This year, if the quarterbacks improve, the Brent Pease attack should do more to get the ball to the wideouts.
Weakness: Tight end? This was supposed to be major strength coming into last year but it was just okay. This offseason the tight ends have been called out for merely being average, but that could quickly change. Reed is too talented to not be a factor and Leonard has special talent.
Outlook: Let's try this again. The Gator receivers have speed, skill, and a world of upside, but now they have to produce. Dunbar is an undeniable star in the making, while Hammond and Debose have been around long enough to know what they're doing. The big X factor will be the quarterback play, but the receiving corps is in place to become terrific. There's a chance, though, that this might be a more talented group than the numbers will show.
Unit Rating: 7.5
A mega-clunker over the last few years, the offensive line has to be better starting with solidifying the left tackle spot. Four different players got starts last year, but now it's a battle between 6-6, 279-pound junior Matt Patchan and 6-6, 309-pound senior Xavier Nixon, with Nixon taking over this offseason and with Patchan moving over to the right side.
The 6-6, 309-pound Nixon has beefed up a bit over the last year and is a decent veteran, but he hasn't made much of an improvement since his excellent freshman season. He's experienced, athletic, and is decent in pass protection, but he has to keep his weight in check. The 6-6, 279-pound Patchan might be smaller, but he's a big-time, promising talent. The former defensive lineman started seven games last year and settled in late in the year on the right side after getting knocked out in 2010 with a knee injury. He has worked his tail off to become a top blocker, and he should be growing into his own.
Still trying to emerge as the next great Florida center is Jonotthan Harrison, a 6-3, 309-pound junior guard who took over the spot from the Pouncey brothers last year and started every game but one. He's big, strong, and has all the tools. He's coming into his own.
6-3, 325-pound junior Jon Halapio was the only player who started every game in the same spot at right guard. He was also the most consistent blocker and was one of the high points for a struggling line. While he has the athleticism to work at tackle, he's too strong and too promising to not be a rock on the inside.
Can James Wilson stay healthy? At 6-4 and 327 pounds he has great size at left guard, but he's never been able to stay at 100% with a knee injury the biggest problem. He says he's healthy this year and he's ready to put it all together in his sixth season, and he should be a blaster for the ground game. If he has problems again, 6-3, 297-pound senior Sam Robey will be able to step in. A decent swing backup through the years, he can see time just about anywhere along the interior.
If Patchan ever works at left tackle, sophomore Chaz Green appears to be more than ready to step in. Even if he's a backup he's proving this offseason to be improved enough and promising enough to push for time with 6-5, 300-pound size and terrific feet. He'll be a starter next year if he can't shoehorn his way in this season.
Watch Out For … Patchan. He's a terrific talent who can work at either tackle spot and started to come into his own on the right side last year. As long as he stays healthy, he should be a dominant pass blocker. He'll be great against SEC speed rushers.
Strength: Experience. Four starters are back and that doesn't include Wilson, who finally appears to be right and got the starting nod against Ohio State. Finding proven veterans was a problem going into last season, but that's hardly an issue this year.
Weakness: Run blocking. Can this group blow anyone off the ball? It's trying to get tougher and more physical, but it was dominated time and again last year and was never consistent. Part of the problem was the inability to come up with a set lineup over the second half of the year, and that shouldn't be as much of an issue this year.
Outlook: The call has gone out from the coaching staff to be much, much better. The line has to get nastier, tougher, and more cohesive, and it has to start beating people up. This won't be a finesse line this year; it'll come out with an attitude. The potential is there to be great if the projected starting five can stay healthy, and everything is in place for a huge improvement.
Unit Rating: 7.5
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