Post-Spring Perspective: Going Big

Lost in the aftermath of a sub-par performance by the offense were some clues as to how the personnel will be used in the 2011 and beyond Florida offense. We will be bringing you some perspectives of the personnel use on both sides of the ball as we move along this off-season. The first we will touch on is the use of the big receiver. The Gators were in a zone Saturday, finding the big receivers.

There were some names missing from the stat sheet on Saturday that most Gator fans expected to see at least a little bit of. Most notable of the missing stat guys were the team's top returning receivers from 2010. Senior Deonte Thompson and juniors Frankie Hammond and Omarius Hines didn't have a catch on the day among them.

The reasons may say something about the way they have played this spring, or it may say something about the plan of this offense. In my opinion, the staff is looking to go big on offense, especially at the different receiver positions (including tight end), and that may be for various reasons.

On Saturday, Florida threw the ball 38 times between the Orange and Blue teams. Of the 38 times there were 15 completions and 12 of them to receivers and tight ends, three to the running backs.

That is nothing out of the ordinary really, but what really struck me was the use of the big receiver or tight end in the passing game in this short scrimmage.

Without going back and identifying every formation I feel fairly safe in saying that the Gators always had at least one tight end on the field. A step further and the Gators employed a two tight end set a lot of times in the scrimmage. The tight ends used in the scrimmage on Saturday as pass receivers were A.C. Leonard (6-3), Jordan Reed (6-4), and walk-on Josh Postell (6-4). All of them had balls thrown their way in the scrimmage and all had at least one catch.

The quarterbacks threw the ball 17 times to players listed as wide receivers on the roster. Those receivers that were thrown to were Stephen Alli who stands (6-5), Quinton Dunbar (6-1), Frankie Hammond (6-1), Deonte Thompson (6-0), Robert Clark (5-9), and walk-on Solomon Schoonover (6-3).

The quarterbacks threw five passes to running backs as swing passes or options late in the play as well. That will always be an option in the play, but we will discard those five passes for what I am trying to say here.

Of the receivers listed above, I question Dunbar's height and think he is taller, but nevertheless, he plays the game like a big receiver (6-3 or taller), so I will group him with the bigger receivers.

In the game the quarterbacks threw the ball 28 times to bigger receivers or tight ends. In that group I include Reed (1 catch, 7 total passes thrown to), Leonard (3, 3), Postell (2, 2), Alli (2, 2), Dunbar (2, 6), and Schoonover (0, 1). The other receivers with balls thrown their way were Hammond (0,4), Thompson (0,1), and Clark (2,3).

What does it tell me? The staff is trying to go big at receiver. Will Muschamp has definitely preached up and down this year that both the offense and defense were going to utilize mismatches when they can and they seem to lean to size more as pass receivers than maybe speed. The big receivers above were thrown to 21 times compared to eight for the other group.

Even that may not be too shocking if we didn't know that Thompson and Hammond were two of the top three pass catchers returning to the squad from 2010.

There is more to digest from these numbers as well. You could say that Reed and Dunbar had 13 opportunities between them to make a play. That is nearly half of the total by the entire receiver group. Yet, the two only came down with three balls on the 13 tries. We saw glimpses of greatness from both Reed and Dunbar, on the day, but consistency will get them on the field faster. Dunbar could have changed the whole complexion of the scrimmage if he came down with the catch on that first play.

Another good sign in my opinion was the play of A.C. Leonard who caught all three balls thrown his way, but in my opinion also looked very good blocking down field and lining up at the line of scrimmage as a pure tight end.

Stephen Alli also made sure to take what was given to him and do something with it. Going 2-2 with his catches, Alli showed that he was willing to catch the ball over the middle and showed athleticism and awareness to get some extra yardage after the catch.

Robert Clark getting three passes thrown his way and doing damage with two of them could also be a sign that despite his lack of size. It appears the staff sees him as one of the big play makers on offense. We saw some of that from Clark a year ago and he showed well on Saturday.

Deonte Thompson only had one ball throw his way and that was in the first quarter. He was in traffic, and didn't come down with the ball. Not all his fault, still he wasn't able to make a play. He also muffed a reverse and that won't sit well in the eyes of the staff.

Frankie Hammond was thrown the ball four times and never was able to get one. Again, not all his fault and three of the passes came late in the third quarter.

It wouldn't be fair to just dismiss the absence of two play maker type receivers that missed the scrimmage due to injury or suspension. Andre Debose (6-0), and Chris Dunkley (6-0) both figure in the mix somewhere and didn't get a chance to do anything on Saturday.

Also conspicuously fighting my theory on the big receiver was the lack of play calls or at least the ball thrown to Omarius Hines (6-2, 220). Hines is a big receiver that will definitely be a part of it all, but was not on Saturday.

In the end, I think we saw what the staff wants to do. They see tremendous ability in big receiver types like Dunbar, Reed, and Alli and they are trying to get the ball in their hands. Dunbar and Reed will have to perform more consistently in order for that to happen. Throw in a Leonard and a Hines to that mix and the Gators could throw a five man receiving unit that would be extremely tough physically to match up with.

This also allows for a physical blocking team. I believe when the running backs return to health and Jeff Demps gets back into practice, this will be a heavy run team in 2011. A big and physical receiver corps will help with the blocking for that running game and other guys like Thompson, who is the strongest receiver on the team, will help in that manner as well.

In the end, this all points to a bigger and more physical receiver corps than we have seen around here and probably what they will be recruiting to moving forward.

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