2013 Florida Preview – Offense
Florida RB Matt Jones
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Florida Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The offense was supposed to change things around under offensive coordinator Brent Pease, and it did to a point. The Gators were far more physical and far better at pounding away for the ground game, and now it'll be up to Matt Jones to carry the workload in place of Mike Gillislee working behind a banged up line that needs to replace the left side and has to be far, far better in pass protection. There as next to nothing happening down the field, and while there are good receivers in place, can they produce? Can quarterback Jeff Driskel get them the ball? This will once again be a pounding, old school Big Ten attack that should be extremely effective, but not explosive.
Star of the offense: Sophomore RB Matt Jones
Passing: Jeff Driskel
156-245, 1,646 yds, 12 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Jeff Driskel
118 carries, 413 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Quinton Dunbar
36 catches, 383 yds, 4 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore OT D.J. Humphries
Unsung star on the rise: Jones
Best pro prospect: Senior C Jonotthan Harrison
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jones, 2) Harrison, 3) Humphries
Strength of the offense: Power, Running Game
Weakness of the offense: Pass Protection, Explosion
There was some who hoped that junior Jeff Driskel had the toughness and game to be the next Tim Tebow. Unfortunately, so far, Florida is getting the NFL version. For what the Gators are doing offensively – with a conservative style that relies on the running game and defense – Driskel has been fine. He doesn't make major mistakes, but when he threw picks there were problems with two of his five interceptions coming in the loss to Georgia, and two more came in the loss to Louisville. While he didn't bomb away, he improved his short-range passing in a big way completing 64% of his throws after struggling as a freshman, and he was strong on third downs with both his legs and arm, barreling his way for the hard yards in key situations, finishing second on the team with 413 yards and four scores highlighted by a 70-yard dash against Vanderbilt, rushing for 177 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries.
At 6-4 and 236 pounds he has the size, and the arm isn't a question, but he has to do more with his tools and he has to improve as a leader. Not exactly the fiery type, he leads more by example and his play than by screaming and yelling, but that's fine. As long as he's moving the chains, there's absolutely no problem whatsoever.
There's no question mark this year like there was last season about who's the main man for the offense, and the backups are purely going to be backups. 6-2, 206-pound junior Tyler Murphy has been better at times in the offseason practices over the last few years than Driskel and, last season, Jacoby Brissett, he wasn't given much of a shot to show what he could do this year. More of a try-hard type than a talent, he has good enough arm to get by, but his real worth is as an athletic option who can take off from time to time and make things happen. Redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg is purely a scout teamer for the moment. The 6-2, 208-pound son of former Detroit head coach Marty Mornhinweg was a terrific recruit with good rushing skills and a live, accurate arm, but his job will be to keep improving to fight for the starting job in 2015.
Watch Out For … Driskel reading his progressions. He hasn't exactly been working in a highly sophisticated passing attack, seeing receiver, hitting receiver. Finding the No. 2 and 3 targets quicker and more efficiently is a must considering his experience, and as he improves, so will the passing game.
Strength: Toughness and mobility. All three of the top options can run, and while there might not be a Johnny Manziel who'll weave his way through defenses, all the quarterbacks are tough, smart players who make things happen. There's no Tebow, but like The Man, these quarterbacks will always convert a 3rd-and-3.
Weakness: Throwing the football. The passing attack was dead last in the SEC and 114th in the nation averaging a paltry 146 yards per game, and while there were deep balls and just enough big plays to get by, when the Gators had to throw, everything bogged down.
Outlook: The idea is to not let the quarterback lose games instead of asking them to win. Unlike last season when Driskel and Jacoby Brissett were locking horns in a battle for the starting job, there's a clear pecking order coming into the season. Now it's up to Driskel to start taking the offense by the horns and start making more big things happen to open up the attack more. However, that didn't happen in spring ball, and it's going to take a leap of faith to start taking more big shots down the field.
Unit Ranking: 7.5
Mike Gillislee did everything for the ground game that Jeff Driskel didn't handle, and now it'll be up to 6-2, 226-pound sophomore Matt Jones to be the new main man to pound away after finishing third on the team with 275 yards and three scores, doing most of his work in the win over Florida State and taking on a bigger role late in the season. After getting bigger and stronger over the last year, he looks good, quick and tough, perfectly built to handle the rigors of the power offense, but with a little bit of speed to burst through the hole.
Jones will combine forces with Mack Brown one of the stars of the 2010 whopper of a recruiting class. He has yet to shine or show what he can do, running for just 102 yards last year, but the talent is undeniable and the power is there. Arguably the nation's top rushing prospect three years ago, he has size, blazing speed and a world of upside, but he's not a conscientious blocker and needs to be a better receiver.
The combination of 5-11, 215-pound freshman Kevin Taylor and 5-9, 193-pound sophomore Mark Herndon will try to fill in when needed, but it'll be hard to find too much playing time if Jones and Brown are doing what they're supposed to. Taylor got to school early after running for 2,423 yards and 41 scores out of Belle Glade, while passing Emmitt Smith as Florida's all-time leading high school rusher finishing with 12,121 yards. A superstar prospect, he needs to get a little bit bigger and stronger, but he's an inside rusher who can move. Herndon is a walk-on who'll barrel a bit and will do all the little things, but it'll be a fight to get any carries.
The fullback has to fill a variety of roles for the Gator attack, and 5-10, 235-pound junior Hunter Joyer knows what he's supposed to do. Considering the nation's No. 1 fullback prospect two years ago, he's a tremendous blocker and can catch a little bit when needed. While he only caught four passes and only ran two times for one yard, he was a fantastic part of the offense, doing everything right to get the power ground game going. He'll be backed up by 6-3, 243-pound junior Gideon Ajagbe, a former defensive lineman who didn't do what he was supposed to for the other side of the ball. He's a blaster of a blocker and can even run a little bit. Once he gets a hang of things, there's the potential to be a weapon.
Watch Out For … Jones. A bigger, stronger Gillislee, he looked the part this offseason and should be a lock for 1,000 yards if Brown doesn't play a bigger role and cut into his workload. He started to show what he could do late last year, and now he should be a workhorse.
Strength: Inside runners. There's not a lot of finesse among this group, even with the speed and quickness across the board. Jones and Brown are between-the-tackles pounders, and Taylor is a slippery interior runner who slides his way through the openings.
Weakness: Proven production. Gillislee ran for 1,152 yards and Driskel added 413. Brown has yet to show up and Jones only ran for 275 yards and hasn't proven he can handle a full-season workload. There are options, and everything will be fine, but Gillislee was a nationally underappreciated star.
Outlook: The running game will carry the attack once again, but unlike last year when Gillislee handled everything, Jones and Brown should form a 1-2 punch. Taylor might be too good to keep out of the rotation and he could play a big role immediately. Don't overlook Joyer, who might be the nation's best pure fullback.
Unit Rating: 8
Is this the year when Quinton Dunbar breaks through? A great recruit in the epic 2010 class, he has No. 1 target ability with 6-1, 195-pound size – getting bigger over the last year – he has good deep speed at the X finishing second on the team with 36 catches for 383 yards and four scores, only averaging 10.6 yards per grab. Consistent more than spectacular, was good for a few catches per game, but failed to come up with more than 40 yards in any regular season game before being one of the few bright spots in the Sugar Bowl catching a career-high five passes for 70 yards. While he's a deep receiver with upside, he's not afraid to make the hard grab and hit when needed. Now he has to be more explosive. He'll work in a rotation with Andre Debose, who can play at the inside Z or the outside X. A dangerous playmaker who averaged 27 yards per catch two years ago, the 5-11, 189-pound senior only made three grabs last season for 15 yards, and now he has to make the most of his opportunities.
Is 6-1, 185-pound junior Loucheiz Purifoy really going to be a receiver? The star corner was working on the offensive side in a dual-threat role this offseason, and while his NFL future is on defense, he has the talent and speed to become a dangerous target to jump-start the woeful passing attack. There's a good chance he'll see plenty of action at the Z unless 5-9, 171-pound senior Solomon Patton can become more of a factor. He only caught one pass for 17 yards, but he was a dangerous runner averaging ten yards per pop on his 14 carries. Really, really fast, he'll be used in a variety of ways. Also in a fight for time will be 6-0, 190-pound sophomore Raphael Andrades, who caught two passes in his true freshman season. Physical, he can hit, but he needs to be more of a playmaking receiver.
At the F is senior Trey Burton, a 6-0, 225-pound running back, quarterback and fullback who finished second on the team with 190 yards and two scores out of the Wildcat, averaging 6.6 yards per carries, and caught 18 passes for 172 yards and a score doing a little bit of everything for the attack. Smart and versatile, Burton is a jack-of-all-trades, while 6-0, 208-pound sophomore Latroy Pittman will add more flash. One of the team's most willing blockers, he only caught two passes for six yards, but he'll pop when he gets his chances.
Former tight end Clay Burton moved over from defensive end and became a tough blocker for the ground game and an occasional receiver. The 6-4, 253-pound junior only caught two passes for 12 yards, but he's a tough, physical player who fills his role well for the offense. He's backed up by junior Tevin Westbrook, another big, strong hitter who at 6-5 and 262 pounds has imposing size and decent upside. He didn't catch any passes, but he does his job as a wall-off blocker.
Watch Out For … Dunbar – again. We've been here before. Dunbar was expected to blow up and become a special talent last year, and while he has the tools and abilities, he has to be far more explosive and a far bigger gamebreaker. It would also help if Jeff Driskel could get him the ball deep.
Strength: Blocking. It might not seem like that big a deal considering the recent history of Florida football, but the receivers can all hit and they're all physical. With the way the offense grinds out drives and pounds away for the running game, this group does its part.
Weakness: Big plays. There are way, way too many excellent talents to be so mediocre. No one ever makes something big happen and the yards after the catch are at a minimum. At the moment, there's no one who throws a scare into opposing defense.
Outlook: How mediocre has the passing game been? A first-round NFL corner is probably going to see time in the rotation. Purifoy is a special athlete who needs to be used in a variety of ways, but the offense needs Dunbar, Debose and others to step up, and there's hope for star recruits Ahmad Fullwood and Demarcus Robinson to use their size and abilities to become instant factors.
Unit Rating: 6.5
The offensive front had a nightmare of a time in pass protection, doing most of its work for the ground game. The big question mark is on the left side with the loss of tackle Xavier Nixon and guard James Wilson with 6-5, 280-pound D.J. Humphries taking over for Nixon and 6-5, 307-pound junior Max Garza ready to step in for Wilson. There's no denying Humphries' talent and upside, and he has the feet and athleticism in pass protection that Nixon didn't, but he's going to have a hard time generating power having to work really, really hard just to get up to 280. He'll be backed up by 313-pound sophomore Trip Thurman to add more size to the spot. Garcia is ready to roll after transferring in from Maryland where he worked as a left tackle. More athletic than Wilson, he should add more to the passing game.
6-3, 315-pound senior Jon Halapio is trying to get back from a knee injury that limited him this offseason. The veteran member up front after starting every game two years ago and holding down the job last season, he's a consistent blocker with the athleticism to work at tackle if absolutely needed. He'll be a rock at right guard, while there will be a fight for the right tackle job between 6-5, 304-pound junior Chaz Green, who had the job last season but was dinged up with an ankle problem this offseason, and 6-6, 312-pound sophomore Tyler Moore, who should be ready to go after starting out his career at Nebraska before playing at St. Petersburg Community College last year. A terrific talent, he's a blaster of a run blocker.
Anchoring the line is 6-3, 302-pound senior Jonotthan Harrison, a former guard who had the unfair task of trying to take over for the Pouncey brothers in the middle. Big, strong and with all the tools, he's one of the few healthy blockers in the mix this offseason. 6-5, 315-pound senior Kyle Koehne has been a spot starter and a nice reserve who can fill in anywhere in the interior.
Watch Out For … JUCO transfer Trenton Brown, a massive, MASSIVE, human being at 6-8 and 363 pounds coming from Georgia Military College. A destructive run blocker, he's going to be tried out at tackle, but he has a future inside somewhere.
Strength: Run blocking. See guy, hit guy. This group has no problems barreling over defensive fronts and is as physical as any line in the SEC. Even with some changes, the line will be just as effective.
Weakness: Pass protection. That should change with the more athletic Humphries and Garcia on the left side, but there's a lot of work to do up front after not doing much of anything to keep Jeff Driskel upright in some of the biggest games of the year. Driskel held on to the ball for too long, but the line didn't do its part.
Outlook: The line improved by leaps and bounds after a rough 2011, but it gave up way too many sacks and it has a problem now with health. Can there be a cohesive starting five throughout the entire season? There should be a decent rotation, and Koehne is a key reserve, but consistency will be the key.
Unit Rating: 7
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