2009 Florida Preview - Offense
Florida TE Aaron Hernandez
Florida TE Aaron Hernandez
Posted Jun 22, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Florida Gator Offense

Florida Gators

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Florida Preview | 2009 Florida Offense
- 2009 Florida Defense
| 2009 Florida Depth Chart
- 2008 Florida Preview
| 2007 Florida Preview | 2006 Florida Preview 

What you need to know: The offense will be missing the sure-thing receiving stars with Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy gone, but there's speed to burn at running back, the line should grow into something terrific, and the quarterback situation is special. Tim Tebow makes everyone around him better, while John Brantley is a strong backup who'll be a superstar next year. New offensive coordinator Steve Addazio will use a little I-formation to go along with the normal spread attack, but no matter what the scheme, the offense will be balanced after running for 231 yards per game and throwing for 214. The offense finished fourth in the country in scoring and 15th in total yards, and while it won't be quite as good with the shake-up at receiver, it'll still be one of the nation's most efficient attacks thanks to Tebow. He'll try to be used more as a pro-style passer, but when push comes to shove, he'll use his running skills to do some pushing and shoving.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Tim Tebow
192-298, 2,746 yds, 30 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Tim Tebow
176 carries, 673 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: Aaron Hernandez
34 catches, 381 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Tim Tebow
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore WR Deonte Thompson
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman C Sam Robey
Best pro prospect: Tebow
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Tebow, 2) TE Aaron Hernandez, 3) OG Mike Pouncey
Strength of the offense: Tebow, Speed
Weakness of the offense: Workhorse Running Back, Sure-Thing No. 1 WR


Projected Starters: Senior Tim Tebow hasn't had a bad career. Two national titles, a Heisman, a Heisman runner-up (which would've been a win last year had the voting been done after the bowls), folk-hero, Paul Bunyan-like legendary status, a plaque to immortalize his "you will never see a team play harder" speech after the Ole Miss loss ... he's been busy. He came up with the greatest statistical season in the history of college football as the first to ever run and throw for 20 touchdowns in the same year, doing it in 2007, and followed it up by being even better as an all-around player with 30 touchdowns and four interceptions, with two of them coming in the national title win over Oklahoma, while running for a mere 12 scores and 673 yards. More than the statistics, he's the ultimate leader and the ultimate put-a-team-on-his-back warrior. Yes, the intangibles angle has gotten way out of control and the gushing from the media has taken on a life of his own, but there's no denying what he did to carry the Gators through the fourth quarter in the SEC title win over Alabama, powering away with the running game while throwing pinpoint pass after pinpoint pass, and when things weren't going exactly smooth in the national title, he made up for the problems and inconsistencies by running for 109 yards, his only 100-yard rushing day of the year. Now he wants to go from being among the greatest players in college football history to a top pro prospect.

There are still concerns about his throwing motion, there's a knock that he's more of a thrower than a passer, even though he's among the most efficient college passers of all time, and his running ability is seen as a bit of a knock when it comes to how the pro scouts view him; he won't be able to barrel his way over Ray Lewis when things aren't going well. Even so, one major scouting service has the 6-3, 245-pound  Tebow ranked even with Colt McCoy of Texas, and while his focus will be on winning another national title, he has made it very clear that he wants to work on his pro skills.

Projected Top Reserves: Tim Tebow is one of the great players to ever set foot on a college football field, and he might end his career as the greatest quarterback of all-time. Sophomore John Brantley might be the better pro prospect. The 6-3, 217-pound sophomore has seen a little bit of mop-up work, completing 18-of-28 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, but he was fantastic this spring and showed why he was such a big-time recruit a few years ago. He could've gone anywhere, but he had always dreamed of becoming a Gator after his day and brother played for UF, and with former star quarterback Kerwin Bell his high school coach. He has a live arm, tremendous command of the offense, and a good enough combination of mobility and accuracy to step in and lead the team to a national title if disaster strikes The Franchise.

On the way is Jordan Reed, a 6-3, 225-pound dual-threat player with great mobility for his size and a phenomenal arm. While he wasn't a superstar recruit, at least by Florida's standards, he's a smart prospect who'll get several years to develop. In a perfect world, he'll be in the hunt for the starting job in 2012.

Watch Out For ... Brantley. The talk of spring ball, he showed off an impressive arm making every throw and every read possible while looking the part of a starter. He won't come in unless Tebow gets hurt or unless there are blowouts, but he's the real deal.
Tim Tebow. The Gators are loaded without Tebow, but he's the band-leader and the lightning rod who takes all the pressure on himself. He's having a dream career.
A No. 3. It's nitpicking, but with Cam Newton transferring, there isn't a third option in an emergency and there won't be a challenger for Brantley going into next year.
Outlook: Tebow will be the front-runner for the Heisman, Brantley is a superstar waiting to bust out, and the passing game should be special even with some new starters at receiver. New quarterback coach Scott Loeffler will try to tweak things to get even more out the air attack, but there's no need to mess with what has worked so well.
Rating: 10

Running Backs

Projected Starter: How will the offense use Jeffrey Demps? So fast that he missed most of spring ball to run for the Gator track team, he has shown no ill-effects after suffering a groin problem that required surgery. The 5-8, 183-pound sophomore has the home-run hitting wheels to be used in a Percy Harvin-like role as a receiver as well as a runner, catching 15 passes for 141 yards and a score, but he was at his best as a runner averaging 7.8 yards per carry with 605 yards and seven scores with back-to-back 100-yard games against Arkansas and LSU. He started the for most of the second half of last year, and while he's not a workhorse, he'll be the main man in key spots. 

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Chris Rainey hasn't always been healthy, but he's the team's best hone-run hitting options. There's fast, there's Florida fast, and then there's Rainey, who runs a 4.24 and showed off his wheels averaging 7.8 yards per carry with 652 yards and four scores. While he's not big at just 5-9 and 175 pounds, he's tough and can handle 10-to-15 touches per game. While he hasn't been used much as a receiver, that could change to get his speed on the move.

Junior Emmanuel Moody was supposed to be the savior of the running game after transferring over from USC, and while he was fine, he wasn't special running for 412 yards with a touchdown. However, the 6-0, 210-pounder averaged 7.2 yards per carry and was able to bring a power option in the speedy backfield. He showed this offseason that could be used more as a receiver. Now he has to get healthy after suffering a hand injury and he has to show he can get his head in the game. Not the most consistent of players, he makes too many mistakes.

Senior Brandon James is more of a star for the special teams than the offense, but he'll get a little bit of work after running for 59 yards and two touchdowns and catching 11 passes for 95 yards and a score. The 5-7. 185-pounder will line up in a variety of ways, but he'll make his biggest mark as one of the nation's top kick and punt returners.

If and when the offense ever uses a fullback, Southern Illinois transfer Rick Burgess will step in after showing good hands for the passing game and decent blocking skills. The 6-1, 230-pound senior will do a little of everything and will have to show he can handle the workload after projected starter, Steven Wilks, suffered a torn ACL this spring.

Watch Out For ... a steady rotation. Tim Tebow will still be the running game when needed, but he'll work more on being a passer and the occasional fullback-like option. The ground game will rely on Rainey, Demps and Moody to get a near-equal amount of work.
Yards per carry. The numbers are cartoonish. The team averaged 5.9 yards per carry with Rainey and Demps each averaging 7.8 yards per dash and with Moody averaging 7.2 yards per pop.
Percy Harvin. While Tebow got all the credit for carrying the team to a national title, it wouldn't have happened without Harvin, who averaged 9.4 yards per carry with ten touchdowns. He finished second on the team in rushing, behind Tebow. There's speed returning, but there isn't anyone who's as good as the now-Minnesota Viking.
Outlook: The running backs have the flash, they have the speed, and they have the experience, but there needs to be more of the workload shouldered. Urban Meyer hasn't always relied on his running backs, but he might do more this year with so many good options. In a pinch, though, it'll be Tebow who carries the ball.
Rating: 8


Projected Starters: The star of the passing game should be Aaron Hernandez, the 6-3, 250-pound junior who's expected to play a bigger part of the offense after finishing third on the team with 34 catches for 381 yards and five scores turning into a key target down the stretch. Considered by almost everyone as the nation's top tight end recruit a few years ago, he hasn't disappointed with great hands and the speed to get past most linebackers. After a tremendous offseason, he should be the No. 1 target.

Sophomore Deonte Thompson is the team's leading returning wide receiver after finishing fourth on the team with 18 catches for 269 yards and three touchdowns averaging 14.9 yards per catch. The 6-0, 195-pounder has the home-run hitting 4.3 wheels to stretch the field and be the team's top vertical element. Now he needs to be consistent and he needs to get the ball on the move on a regular basis to get him involved early on.

6-3, 215-pound senior Riley Cooper caught 18 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns, highlighted by a scoring grab against Alabama, and while he's been known as a big, strong, reliable target, he can also make the deep play averaging 14.5 yards per catch. Steady but never fantastic, he never caught more than two passes in any game last season. He needs to shine this fall to get a starting job after spending the spring playing baseball.

Senior David Nelson wasn't used much last year, making just 12 catches, but he scored five times with four coming in the last six games including touchdown grabs against Alabama and Oklahoma. At 6-5 and 212 pounds he has good height and used it to become a matchup nightmare. While he's not a big-time speedster, he has good enough wheels and he's physical.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Carl Moore was one of the nation's top JUCO players two years ago catching 73 passes for 1,068 yards and 16 touchdowns for Sierra C.C. in California, and last year he made 14 grabs for 184 yards and a touchdown, averaging 13.1 yards per catch, for the Gators. The light didn't appear to turn on last season, but now he appears to know what he's doing and he should become a bigger factor in the passing attack.

The X factor could be Frankie Hammond, a 6-0, 175-pound redshirt freshman who lit it up in spring ball. While he's not big, he's a speedster who's great in the open field and can be used in a variety of ways. He likely won't be a star of the show for another year, with so many other options, but he should put up big numbers when he gets the chance.

True freshman Desmond Parks will be the No. 2 tight end in the rotation with 6-6, 215-pound size and great hands. He came to school early and was looking like a big-time target early on, but he suffered a kneecap injury that could be a problem early on this fall. He's a willing blocker who isn't afraid to fight for the ball when it's in the air.

Watch Out For ... Hammond. It'll be a year-long search to find another Percy Harvin, and while Hammond doesn't have the same speed, he's not a bad imitation-in-training. He's the one who could make a good receiving corps great.
Hernandez. For the most part, the pressure will be off the receiving corps if Hernandez is as good as expected. He's the one the team will go to on key third downs and he's the one who'll open up things for everyone else.
Louis Murphy. Not having Harvin stings, but Murphy was the steady, unsung running mate who averaged 17.2 yards per grab with seven scores. There's a ton of returning talent and plenty of upside, but they Gators don't have a sure-thing top wide receiver, much less a No. 2.
Outlook: The loss of Harvin and Murphy would be devastating for most teams, and it'll hurt the Gators. They'll make up for it with a corps full of speed, quickness, and good size. Having a tight end like Hernandez will help, but the passing game needs players like Cooper and Thompson to take over as the new stars.
Rating: 7.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: With Phil Trautwein gone after starting every game at left tackles, it'll be up to junior Carl Johnson to make the successful move over from guard to tackle. The 6-6, 330-pounder started eight of the final ten games of last year on the inside. The team's most versatile lineman, he can play center, too, if needed. Now he has to become a more consistent pass blocker to go along with his dominant run blocking skills.

With Johnson moving over, there are plenty of options to take over the left guard spot. The most likely scenario has junior Maurkice Pouncey, a guard by nature, to move over after starting every game last season at center. At 6-5 and 312 pounds he's a big blocker who started most of 2007 at right guard, was terrific in the middle, and is more than living up to his prep hype. He was banged up and out for most of the offseason, but he'll be a key part of the puzzle somewhere this fall.

With Pouncey out this spring, sophomore David Young turned into one of the team's bigger surprises at center. The 6-5, 303-pounder saw a little time in the season opener and didn't get back on the field the rest of the way, but he showed this offseason that he's ready to become a major part of the offense for the next three years. At the very least, if Pouncey is back at center, he'll be a key backup.

Right tackle is the other key opening with Marcus Gilbert appearing to be ready to star. The former defensive lineman hasn't always been perfect or consistent since moving sides, but he's better and should be ready to handle the job of protecting Tim Tebow's blindside. At 6-6 and 320 pounds he's a bit big, but he's experienced and tough having spent most of last year at left guard. He even lined up at tight end against Tennessee, used more like a third tackle.

While Maurkice Pouncey will move around, maybe, his twin brother, Mike Pouncey, will be a fixture at right guard again after starting every game last year. The 6-5, 320-pound junior was originally considered the better of the two brothers as an offensive prospect, but he moved to the defensive side early on to boost the depth. He was a rock last year at guard and should be an all-star.

Projected Top Reserves: Depending on what happens at center, if Maurkice Pouncey ends up starting there instead of moving to guard, James Wilson could end up started at left guard. At the very least, the 6-5, 329-pound sophomore will be a great backup in the rotation at both guard spots. A superstar recruit in 2007, he's freakishly strong and should grow into a great run blocker.

Very undersized and very feisty, Matt Patchen has gone from being a tremendous high school offensive lineman, to a top prospect for the defensive line, to a promising backup at left tackle behind Carl Johnson. The 6-6, 260-pound sophomore made seven tackles and was a key special teamer after recovering from a gunshot wound to the shoulder.

One of the team's top recruits, true freshman Nick Alajajian will push for time at the all-important right tackle spot. The 6-4, 280-pounder got to school early and worked his way up to the No. 2 spot with tremendous athleticism and quickness. While he's not going to be the mauler of a run blocker that Marcus Gilbert is, he has the potential to be better in pass protection.

Watch Out For ... Robey. Terrific this spring, if he can hold on to the center job and if he can be consistent, then Maurkice Pouncey can move to guard and the line should be even more of a rock. Everything will be fine if Pouncey is at center, but it'll be better if he's at guard.
Talent. There might be some big replacements needing to be made, and there's a little bit of uncertainty at center and left guard, but between the Pouncey brothers and Johnson, who should be fine at tackle, the line is full of very good, all-star caliber players.
Proven backups. There's a lot of talent on the second team, but there isn't much in the way of experience. Finding a steady rotation will be key early on and the backups will need to step in as soon as possible in blowouts.
Outlook: Unsung throughout last year, the Gator line was fantastic in all areas. Great in pass protection and able to pound away for the ground game, Florida was tenth in the nation, and first in the SEC, in rushing and was 13th in the country in sacks allowed. While there will be some shuffling, this should still be one of the SEC's best lines, led by the Pouncey brothers, and it should be terrific throughout the year.
Rating: 8