Offense Has a Long Way To Go

If the spring game taught us anything about the Florida Gators football team, it's that the offensive struggles of 2010 are not yet behind this unit. Florida often looked like 11 guys who had just met in the parking lot on Saturday, managing just two TD in the entire Orange and Blue Game and one of those came in the final minute on a long pass from a walk-on.

Now I'll be the first to acknowledge that spring performance and fall productivity often have nothing in common. Gator Nation better hope that's the case this season. Florida's transition from the spread option to Charlie Weis' pro-style attack certainly didn't look smooth in front of the fans in The Swamp or the TV cameras. Each Gator unit enters the off-season program with more questions than answers.

Unless otherwise specified the stats I use are career numbers.

Offensive Line ---- We knew the Gators would have to rebuild up front after losing four starters from the 2010 team, and that process is basically starting from scratch. Matt Patchan, James Wilson and Nick Alajajian might be key players, but then again they could be on the sidelines. Jonatthon Harrison was perhaps the best guy up front this spring with Jon Halapio and Chaz Green seemingly in good shape to claim jobs. Xavier Nixon has to get bigger and stronger and Ian Silberman needs to come a long way in a hurry.

Tight End ---- It's pretty clear that Jordan Reed and A.C. Leonard have the skills to be factors in the passing game, but does Florida have that all around player who can also drive block when needed? That's a very important element in a pro-style offense, but it's not clear who can fill this role. Reed is such an interesting athlete, but the fact is he has more of a track record running (77-328, 5 TD) and passing (26-46 252, 3 TD) than he has as a pass receiver (6-79, 1 TD).

Wide Receiver ---- Ignore the apparent confusion in route-running. That should be ironed out with increased familiarity. This is a unit that could be a pretty good one for the Gators. Deonte Thompson (80-1,182, 8 TD) has been productive for the Gators, but his last chance to be the front-line WR most of us have been expecting him to be. Frankie Hammond (26-333, 3 TD) and Omarius Hines (34-453, 2 TD) are proven talents and I liked what we saw from Quinton Dunbar and Stephen Alli. Getting Andre Debose healthy would be a big plus as well.

Running Back ---- Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey give Florida the fastest one-two punch at tailback they've ever had. The two have combined for 3,504 rushing yards with 28 TD in their careers. Both are capable of taking a play to the house at any time. The Gators hope to get effective inside running from Mack Brown and/or Mike Gillislee. Brown has yet to make his debut, while Gillislee has pretty impressive numbers (89-592, 8 TD) in limited playing time the past two years.

Trey Burton ---- A mild ankle sprain kept him off the field Saturday, but there's no question the 2011 offense needs him to be productive. Burton really doesn't have a true position, so we'll just call him Trey Burton. Last season he ran for 11 TD and was Florida's second leading receiver with 32 catches. Burton has to get 10-12 touches a game.

Quarterback ---- The bottom line is that the first and last categories on my list will be the key to determining what kind of offense the Gators will have this fall. John Brantley is a much better fit for this scheme than the spread option, but that's hardly a news bulletin. The bigger factor is whether or not Weis can rebuild his confidence in time for a successful senior year. Brantley certainly didn't look any better during the spring game and seemed jumpy in the pocket for a guy who knew he wasn't going to get hit. Last year he threw just nine TD passes while getting 10 passes intercepted. His senior year has to much better to justify him keeping the job. Tyler Murphy and Jeff Driskel showed physical tools, but didn't must a great deal of offense while out there.

Last year, Florida averaged 29.8 points, which isn't bad, but also isn't really representative. The Gators managed just six offensive points against Alabama and seven in losses to South Carolina, Mississippi State and Florida State.

Even the two high scoring games against quality competition were deceptive. Florida scored 29 in its loss to LSU, but that was done largely thanks to a kickoff return for a TD and two scoring drives of less than 20 yards. Florida gained just 243 yards in that game. The Gators ended the season with a 37-24 win over Penn State, but the Florida offense managed just 279 total yards in the Outback Bowl. In fact the Gators did not have a scoring drive of more than 40 yards all day and benefited from a blocked punt for one TD and an Ahmad Black interception return for another.

It's obvious the bar is set pretty low if the goal is to improve on last year's productivity. However if the goal is to have an offense that can play championship caliber football; the Gators have a long way to go.

Next, we'll go through the Gator defense position-by-position. The outlook is definitely brighter on that side of the ball.

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