2010 Florida Preview – Offense
Florida C Mike Pouncey
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Florida Gator Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Maurkice Pouncey won the Rimington Award as the nation's top center, Aaron Hernandez won the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end, and Tim Tebow was, well, Tim Tebow. While it might be next to impossible to immediately replace three players of that caliber, especially Tebow, the nation's No. 6 offense should be even more explosive with John Brantley under center. The Gators won't scrap the spread, and will likely use tight end Jordan Reed from time to time to be Tebow-like, but Brantley is a next-level caliber passer who'll push the ball down the field more to a very fast, very promising group of targets. The line might lose Pouncey, but his brother, Mike, will move to center to anchor a veteran group with four starters returning, while Jeff Demps leads a fast group of backs who should shine when they get the chance. There will be a bit more I-formation and a bit less true spread, but it'll be a shock if the Gators aren't among the SEC leaders in several offensive categories once again.
Star of the offense: Junior QB John Brantley
Passing: John Brantley
36-48, 410 yds, 7 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Jeff Demps
99 carries, 745 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Deonte Thompson
24 catches, 343 yds, 4 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Redshirt freshman QB/TE Jordan Reed
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Xavier Nixon
Best pro prospect: Senior C Mike Pouncey
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Pouncey, 2) Brantley, 3) Nixon
Strength of the offense: Line, Speed
Weakness of the offense: Backup Quarterback, Backup Tackle
Projected Starter: Alright, hotshot, now it's time to see if you can actually play. Yes, junior John Brantley is a far, far better NFL quarterback prospect than Tim Tebow (no matter what Josh McDaniel might want to believe), and yes, he's going to push the ball down the field more and come up with more deep plays. But he's not a fit for what Urban Meyer wants to do with his offense, and because of it, others, like tight end/backup quarterback Jordan Reed, will have to come in to run the ball. Because of Brantley, Meyer might actually have to start using his running backs in a more traditional role, but the passing game has a Rolls Royce in his parking lot and now it's time to drive.
The 6-3, 218-pound star-in-waiting could've started almost anywhere else a few years ago, but he always dreamed of becoming a Gator, his dad and brother both went to UF, and former star quarterback Kerwin Bell was his high school coach. The NFL arm is there with a tight rotation, tremendous zip, and a pocket poise and presence that Tebow could only dream of owning. However, while Brantley can take off from time to time, he's never going to be Tebow when it comes to running for the key first down, and it's asking the world to take over for one of the most accomplished legends in college football history.
Projected Top Reserves: True freshman Trey Burton left high school and got to Florida early where he was stunningly good in practices. The 6-3, 214 pounder let it rip, and while he's nowhere near ready to lead a national title-caliber team to a national title-caliber season, he has the arm and the accuracy to be a solid passer while bringing the requisite running skills an Urban Meyer offense demands. While he's not an elite talent, he's a nice prospect who could be solid with time to develop.
Watch Out For … Jordan Reed (see the writeup about him in the Receivers section). The tight end has the size and the mobility to be a Tebow-like battering ram for the ground game. He was just good enough a passer in practices to think he might be able to handle the workload if he's put under center for more than just a few snaps here and there in the spread.
Strength: Brantley. The guy would've started almost anywhere else last year and he's an NFL talent who can do things with the passing game that Tebow couldn't even dream about. While the coaching staff appears bent on working around Brantley's talent rather than taking the offense and tailoring it more towards him, there's a big-time player under center who should keep the attack rolling.
Weakness: Tim Tebow. The guy completed 66% of his passes for 9,285 yards and 88 touchdowns with 16 interceptions. He also came up with 2,947 rushing yards, 57 scores, two national titles, and one promise. Brantley's good, but good luck following that.
Outlook: As good as Brantley might be, it's easy to forget that Tebow was one of the most efficient passers in the history of college football and it would be a dream if the Florida air attack could lead the nation in efficiency once again. The bigger question will be if Brantley can stay healthy with a shaky backup situation. No, Jordan Reed can't take Florida to the national championship, and at this point, that's Florida's yearly goal.
Unit Rating: 8
Projected Starters: It's not really a bad thing when your top running back misses time in the offseason because he's a star sprinter for the track team. 5-8, 184-pound junior Jeffrey Demps had his niche in the Gator offense over the last two years as a flash of lightning who occasionally changed games with the big play. While he has a career average of 7.6 yards per carry, he has never carried the ball more than 16 times in a game and he isn't any sort of a workhorse. There's a thought that he could grow into a Percy Harvin-like playmaker, being used more in a variety of ways, but he's not the same sort of receiver. Now, with Tim Tebow gone, it'll be up to Demps to add more production to the running game.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Emmanuel Moody is a bit of a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. The 5-11, 212-pound former USC Trojan was fine last year, rushing for 378 yards and three scores, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy and he has never quite been able to find a groove. He'd be far better in a pro-style offense, and he'd be a bigger part of the rotation if he could stay 100% after struggling through hand and ankle injuries. He'll still get the ball 7-to-9 times per game, but for a player with limitless potential when he first went to USC, he has been a disappointment.
If Mack Brown isn't the nation's top running back recruit, he's in the team photo. The 5-11, 190-pound speedster had his choice of all the big boys with Alabama, Oklahoma, and Georgia, among everyone else, begging for his services, but he could become a deadly playmaker for the Gator attack. While he isn't all that big, he can run with power, he can cut on a dime, and he should average well over six yards per carry in the spread.
There were times this offseason when sophomore Mike Gillislee was the team's only running back. The 5-11, 191-pound speedster was great when he got his turn at bat last year averaging 8.6 yards per carry with 267 yards and a score. A home run hitter whenever he has the ball in his hands, he could be used a bit as a receiver as well as a runner.
Watch Out For … more work for the running backs. Between Tim Tebow and John Brantley, Florida quarterbacks ran 44% of the time, but Brantley only had 13 carries and Tebow 217. Because Brantley is a passer more than a runner, the offense will use more I-formation and will get the ball in the hands of the backs more.
Strength: Speed. Demps is one of the SEC's fastest players, Gillislee can fly whenever he gets into the open field, and Brown can tear off chunks of yards whenever he has the ball in his hands. The Gators averaged 5.6 yards per carry last year, and that's not likely to change.
Weakness: The offense. Why would a star running back prospect want to play for Urban Meyer? Yeah, there might be a little bit of tweaking, but Meyer wants to shoehorn the spread into this year's group of players even though the ground game would be dominant if it went Ohio State and powered away behind a mammoth offensive front. No running back had more than 100 carries last year.
Outlook: Moody can't stay healthy, Demps is more of a specialist than a No. 1 back, and Gillislee and Brown each need to see time. There's talent, speed, and upside to crank out huge yards in chunks, and there will be times this year when the offense relies on the ground attack and the backfield to carry the team.
Unit Rating: 8
Projected Starters: Known mostly for his comments about having a "real quarterback" throwing to him, now that Tim Tebow is gone and the pro-style passing John Brantley is in, and part of the Urban Meyer firestorm that followed, Deonte Thompson has to step up and become the No. 1 target. At 5-11 and 203 pounds, the junior is strong, has 4.3 speed, and is right … he does have a real passing quarterback throwing to him, and he should flourish. He didn't do much last year catching 24 passes for 343 yards and four touchdowns, with two of the scores coming against Troy, but he should flourish now.
Junior Chris Rainey has been a key part of the ground game over the last few seasons, running for 652 yards and four touchdowns in 2008 and adding 575 yards and five scores last year, and now he'll bring his warp speed to the receiving corps. The 5-9, 176-pounder has 4.24 speed and has just enough toughness to see the ball in his hands at least ten times a game as both a runner and a receiver. He looks like a natural in the slot and he should blossom in his final year.
Senior Carl Moore missed all of last season with a back injury, but now he's healthy and ready to try to take over at the Z position in place of Riley Cooper. The 6-3, 222-pounder was one of the nation's top JUCO player catching 73 passes for 1,068 yards and 16 touchdowns for Sierra CC in California, but the light hasn't quite gone on yet catching 14 passes for 184 yards and a score in 2008 and with the problems of last year. He's big, he knows what he's doing, and he practices like he's out to prove to the world that he can become special.
Former quarterback Jordan Reed will be one of the team's most interesting offensive players. At 6-3 and 240 pounds, the redshirt freshman is very big, very strong, and he'll try to do his best Tebow impersonation as a runner in place of John Brantley from time to time. Mostly, though, his job will be to take over for Aaron Hernandez as a go-to, playmaking tight end. While he might not be the speedster Hernandez was, he's bigger with an NFL body and the potential to make money at the next level if he progresses into the job over the next few years. It's a bit of a stretch to call him a natural after the change, but he looks the part.
Projected Top Reserves: About to blossom into a star is sophomore Frankie Hammond , a 5-11, 178-pound playmaker who blew up at times this offseason. Working behind Carl Moore and Deonte Thompson, and in a starting spot at times, he showed the deep speed needed to make things happen down the field. He caught just four passes last year, but he averaged 14.2 yards per grab and came up with a 31-yard score against FIU.
Redshirt freshman Andre Debose was supposed to be a part of the receiver rotation right away, but he suffered a torn hamstring and missed the entire 2009 season. Healthy again, he's back to work somewhere as a key backup, likely starting out in a rotation with Chris Rainey. The 5-11, 183-pounder is an elite athlete with high school track star speed and leaping ability. He got away from Florida State and should be a key deep threat now that he's healthy.
The Gators signed several good receivers last February, and the best prospect of the bunch is Chris Dunkley , a tall, thin, 6-3, 170-pound speedster who only didn't get much work thrown his way in high school, but he produced every time he got the chance. From Miami, he slipped away from the Canes' grip and should eventually be a dangerous deep threat for the Gators.
Desmond Parks will likely work as the No. 2 tight end and could see time as the main man if and when Jordan Reed plays quarterback. The 6-4, 238-pound redshirt freshman was close to burning his redshirt season, but he never got in the game. He tore up his wrist this offseason and never got to show what he could do, but he's expected to be healthy to start the season and he should show off the deep speed to make him a threat. However, he's not a blocker.
Watch Out For … Hammond. The receivers should do more down the field and the passing game should shine with John Brantley under center, and Hammond could be one of the biggest breakout stars from the pack. He might not be a starter right away, but he could be a devastating fourth receiver who changes games with home runs.
Strength: Speed. Florida has no shortage of playmakers who can average 12+ yards per catch and strike from deep. Adding Rainey to the equation only makes a speedy bunch at warp level.
Weakness: Tight end and veterans. Reed is a nice prospect, but will playing quarterback at times take his focus away? It's asking a lot to replace Aaron Hernandez, the team's leading receiver who caught 68 passes for 850 yards with five touchdowns. With the loss of top receivers Riley Cooper and David Nelson, to go along with Hernandez, those three accounted for 58% of the passing production last year with most of the top returning targets operating in the backfield.
Outlook: It's not like Florida forgot about the forward pass with Tim Tebow under center. The Gators averaged an impressive 13.3 yards per completion with 28 touchdowns, but the attack was its brightest with John Brantley under center. Now that he's the full-time guy, Thompson, Rainey, and Moore should blow up with plenty of home runs and lots and lots of highlights.
Unit Rating: 8
Projected Starters: Senior Mike Pouncey looks like his brother both on and off the field, Pittsburgh Steeler and first round draft pick, Maurkice, but he's not quite the same talent. That's not a slap; he's still really, really good and could end up earning All-America honors moving from guard to center. The 6-4, 310-pounder is a pounding blocker who blasts away for the ground game and he's among the SEC's most physical blockers. He's still not a finished product in the middle in place of his brother, and he has to be more consistent with his shotgun snaps, but he'll be more than fine and should be on the short list of Rimington Award candidates if he stays at center. There's a chance he could move back to his right guard spot where he helped protect Tim Tebow's blind side (and moved to the left side when Tebow got hurt and the right handed John Brantley was in), and he's talented enough to play tackle if desperately needed.
With Pouncey moving over, 6-3, 315-pound junior James Wilson will get a long look at the starting right guard job after starting four times over the first half of last year on the left side. More than solid when he was on the field, the superstar recruit of 2007 is a destructive force of a blocker who'd be a bit more dominant at around 300 pounds, but is more than fine as is.
6-5, 360-pound senior Carl Johnson is the type of massive blocker who buries defensive linemen. He started out last year at left tackle, starting there for the first eight games, but he was stronger when moving over to left guard where his bulk made him a more natural fit for the running game. One of the team's most versatile linemen, he's the backup left tackles and could play center too if needed. Surprisingly quick for his size, he carries the weight relatively well.
The emergence of 6-5, 300-pound sophomore Xavier Nixon over the last five games at left tackle will carry over into this year where he was locked in this offseason. Potentially the best lineman on the Gator front, he dominated in spring ball as he was far quicker at a much lighter, much more agile weight. He has to be used to playing without the added girth, but the All-SEC talent is there to be a key part of the starting five for the next three years.
Along with Maurkice Pouncey at center, senior Marcus Gilbert was one of two Gators who started every game at the same spot on the line. At 6-5 and 322 pounds he's very big, very strong, and very tough after starting out his career on the defensive line. Strong in pass protection handling Tim Tebow's blind side, he was a mauler for the ground game and was tough go get around for most pass rushers. A guard early on in his career, he's still emerging as a tackle and still has room to get better to finish with a whale of a senior year.
Projected Top Reserves: If senior Maurice Hurt is healthy, he's a legitimate threat to start at right guard. Banged up this offseason while battling with James Wilson for the vacant job, he'll have to resume the fight this fall after looking great at times. At 6-3 and 320 pounds he has the size to go along with the motor that punishes defenders in the ground game.
The Gators need as much help at tackle as they can get, and the hope is for undersized sophomore Matt Patchen to be ready. While he's only 6-6 and 273 pounds, he's a feisty athlete who always finishes his blocks well. However, he suffered a bad knee injury last season, and suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder, and is just now getting back on track. The former star defensive lineman prospect will be counted on to be a major factor in the rotation.
Sophomore Sam Young saw time in every game as a key backup tackle and a special teamer, and now he'll be the main backup at right tackle working behind Marcus Gilbert. At 6-4 and 304 pounds he's a bit lighter than Gilbert and has good quickness for his size, but he needs more time in key situations. Very smart, he was on the SEC honor roll and he's ready whenever he has to step in.
Will Nick Alajajian ever be able to live up to his potential? The superstar recruit of last year hasn't been able to find a spot quite yet, and while he's a natural tackle, he was tried out at center just to see if he could handle the work. Extremely athletic, the 6-4, 290-pounder moves well enough to play either outside spot while he could someday be a strong center, but he hasn't shown off the skills that made him such a highly ranked prospect.
Watch Out For … the right guard situation. Pouncey is great at center, but he'd also be great at left guard. Because the Gators have several good center prospects, including banged up sophomore Sam Robey, there's a chance someone else steps in, Pouncey moves over, and Carl Johnson goes to right guard. However, Wilson and Hurt are strong enough to battle for the spot all season long.
Strength: Experience and size. This is a MASSIVE line that averages over 320 pounds per man. Run blocking isn't a problem when this group wants to get physical, and there's shocking athleticism considering all the girth. With four starters returning, the production should keep on rolling even without Mike Pouncey.
Weakness: Backup tackle. Because of injuries the depth on the outside is a bit thin. The expectation is for players like Patchan to be ready to roll in a rotation with Nixon and Gilbert, but if someone gets hurt and Johnson has to move from guard to tackle, there could be a major shakeup up front.
Outlook: With four returning starters, promising depth (even if several backups are banged up), and excellent talent from a line that was great for the ground game, the potential is there for a big year. However, this isn't exactly a front five geared toward pass protection, and it showed last year by allowing way too many sacks (28) and it could be a bit of an issue this year with John Brantley under center. This should be one of the SEC's best lines if it can keep Brantley from getting earholed.
Unit Rating: 8.5
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