Florida Gators Football Spring Review—Offense
Spring football is officially over. Following the Blue's 27—24 victory in Saturday's scrimmage, the football machine will shutdown for the summer.
This Spring can only be described as "successful" on the offensive side of the ball. The Gators had to replace almost all of their playmakers on offense, and the Spring game was the first look at the post–Tebow era in a game situation.
I'll break down the offensive positions below, including what we needed to learn heading into Spring and what we know following the Orange and Blue game.
Heading into Spring, this position was stable in the sense that we knew who was starting. However, Brantley had not taken a snap at UF as the first team quarterback, so we didn't know exactly what we were getting.
Rest assured, Brantley is as good as you remember him being in mop up duty. The better news is now he'll get to mop up with the first string offense. The less exciting news is that the defense he "mopped up" against was a defense that was "first team" in name only.
Obviously, the first test of who John Brantley really is won't come until Florida travels to Neyland in Sept., but the Spring performance that he capped off on Saturday showed a lot of promise.
Brantley showed poise in his debut "game" going 15–19 for 201 yards and 2 TDs. He showcased his greatest weakness when compared to Tebow, rushing five times for –22 yards, but also his greatest strength with nine different Blue receivers tallying catches.
Every time Brantley gets sacked, we'll remember how great we had it with Tebow, but the way he spreads the ball around is more akin to Drew Brees than a traditional Urban Meyer quarterback.
If Brantley looked like the NFL prototype, then Trey Burton is a Tebowback cyborg set to "run". Make no mistake, just because Urban's got a "real" quarterback taking over, the position is still going to get its carries.
The spread option existed before Tebow and it will exist after him. Burton had a decent day with the second team offense through the air, going 12–18 for 120 yards and an interception.
However, his inconsistency through the air was overshadowed by what he showed off on the ground. Burton rushed 10 times for 123 yards and 2 TDs and was not sacked all day.
The play of the day came in the second quarter when Burton broke free for a 76 yard run, the longest rush by a quarterback in Florida Gators' history.
While the second team offense always looks a little bit better than it should in the Spring game, thanks to the second team defense, Burton showed serious potential as a prospect and as an immediate heir to 2006 Tebow.
He was not the only one jockeying for the position though. Jordan Reed, the 2009 QB recruit turned TE, took snaps for the first team in the Wildcat (or whatever the Gators decide to call the formation).
He was 3–5 for 80 yards and a TD through the air and picked up 19 yards on three carries on the ground.
There is a chance that we'll see all three taking snaps on Saturdays this fall, so fire up your hate–processors and go ahead and write that three quarterbacks is two too many.
Just know that Meyer was criticized for using Tebow in 2006, a decision that pretty much took the Wildcat mainstream, and three worked on Saturday.
UF went into the Spring with a three headed, hydra running attack of Demps–Rainey–Moody. Meyer did his best Kratos impersonation and immediately lopped off one of the hydra's heads by moving Rainey to slot receiver.
No worries though; the head grew right back into a burlier head that calls itself Mike Gillislee. Unfortunately, the Gillislee head also goes by the name "Highlander" and had cut the hydra down to a solo effort by the Spring game because "there can be only one!"
Gillislee had 10 carries for 47 yards and a TD on Saturday. He was the leading rusher outside of Burton, and received carries in short yardage situations as well.
While he played feature back for the Orange and Blue game, the hydra is not dead, it's merely sleeping until Fall.
When Sept. rolls around, Demps will be back in his role as "Percy Harvin, the running back." He didn't participate in Spring at all, as he's currently setting yearly bests in track.
Moody started Spring as the clearcut favorite to replace Rainey's carries, but injuries again hampered his progress. It looks like he'll stay in his three–spot, having been leapfrogged by Gillislee.
Other candidates for rushing attempts include Rainey, Debose, and Frankie Hammond Jr. However, none were used in the backfield on Sat.
With the exception of the loss of Tebow, who single–handedly filled the position of quarterback, runningback, chaplain, leader, and good guy, no loss was more important than the loss of almost every receiver from 2009.
Deonte Thompson is the only returning receiver with significant experience.
Carl Moore may be the breakout guy of the Spring though.
At the start of Spring, Moore was a candidate for the "Tate Casey: Wait, this guy's still on the team?!" Award. He worked his way up the depth chart all Spring, then literally disappeared for three practices.
Fortunately, he came back, and ended the Spring game, and the Spring, as the most productive receiver on the roster. On Sat., Moore had five catches for 102 yards and a TD for the Blue and three catches for 28 yards for the Orange.
Moore easily had the most catches on the day and may go into the Fall as the Gators' top possession receiver.
2009 star recruit, turned agonizingly long injury recoverer, Andre Debose, was held out for much of the Spring work. He suited up for the final practice, and played in the Spring game though.
He is just as fast and shifty as advertised and is the closest thing to a Percy clone in college football.
Deonte also had a pretty good spring and made a long catch on the opening play of the Orange and Blue game. I don't think he's ever going to be the go–to receiver, but he's fast enough to be a Robert Meachum, constant deep threat, type receiver.
Omarius Hines, Brantley's favorite target last year, also had a pretty good Spring and will likely be in the rotation next Fall.
Spring saw a lot of receivers step up only to be held out late due to nagging injuries. Solomon Patton, Stephen Alli, and Chris Rainey all missed the Spring game. Each will be ready to go well before the season starts, but the lack of consistent depth is a downer.
Jordan Reed and Gerald Christian have battled all Spring for the starting position, and Reed finally won it, starting for the Blue on Sat. Christian's propensity to break face masks and concuss teammates may have played a role in the decision.
Reed's quarterback background gives the Gators a lot of versatility at Tight End, but his blocking is not up to par for the position.
It is very likely that both players will be used next season, and the Gators may be using some converted tackles and defensive linemen in short yardage situations. Still, Reed will probably be the guy who sees the field the most.
The O–Line that was thrown together for the Orange and Blue game will not be the starting O–Line on Sept. 4th. Many of the starters were held out, and it showed, with the first team defense tallying seven tackles for loss including four sacks on Brantley.
The inconsistencies shown on Saturday were in the name of experience. Addazio won't force the growing pains on the unit once the season starts, so there was little learned this Spring as far as the true first team unit goes.
Overall, the Gators' offense answered some questions, like who will step up at receiver (Moore/Thompson), will Brantley lead (yes), and can the offense work without Tebow (looks like it).
It will be a new look in 2010, but the offense may be more explosive because of it. Whether that means it will be better will be decided retroactively later this Fall.
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