Weis Optimistic About Progression of Offense

For an offense in the first year of a transition from the spread to a pro-style, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is happy with the progress. Most of that is centered on the work ethic of players and coaches in putting in his offensive scheme. Now days away from Florida's first game under the new coaching regime, the offense is starting to click.

"They have a very good work ethic here," Charlie Weis said after Tuesday's practice. "I don't know if that was here before I got here, but they work hard. These players work hard. It's important to them."

The key to a renewed offense is John Brantley. After struggling through his junior season, the pro-style offense has been a welcomed change for both parties.

Weis knew about Brantley's struggles last season because of researching the roster before taking the Florida job. He has pounded into Brantley's mind the importance of forgetting things in the past, saying that a quarterback who keeps bad memories "never can be any good."

"It's not in any way derogatory of the system he came from," Weis said. "It's just a different system. Fortunately for him, this system fits his physical qualities better than the last one."

Weis clarified that it wasn't a knock on the spread option that Urban Meyer ran at Florida. It's just a different system that happens to fit Brantley better.

"I know he's not going to run the read option," Weis said. "He's not going to do that. A quarterback like John is better suited to be in a drop back passing game that centers around runs and play actions. He has the mental capabilities to do all the things I like to do. The more he shows me mentally, the more freedom I give him with getting out of bad plays at the line of scrimmage."

The offensive line must continue to progress to give Brantley time to throw. Weis was optimistic about their playing, saying that Notre Dame transfer Dan Wenger's addition to the team helped solidify the group.

There aren't any certainties until they prove it in a game.

"We haven't played yet," Weis said. "Anytime you're putting in a new system, you want to play as clean as you can in the first game. There aren't any preseason games in college. This is kick it off, let's go and it counts."

Jordan Reed won't be blocking much in this offense, but he will serve as a playmaker from the tight end position. When Weis came to Florida, he held introductory meetings with each offensive player to see where they wanted to play.

Reed was coming off a season where he produced as a wildcat quarterback, and Weis expected Reed to say he wanted to be the starting quarterback. Instead, Reed didn't waste time telling Weis that he saw himself as the starting tight end.

Knowing what an important role tight end is in his offense, Weis didn't put up a fight.

"Jordan has very good ball skills," Weis said. "He has transitioned very nicely. I don't think it'll be hard to find him on the field."

Another player that should be a perfect fit is Trey Burton, who will line up all over the field. He will add fullback to his many positions played for the Gators, and gives a receiving and running threat out of the backfield.

"I'm a formation/personnel guy as far as attacks go," Weis said. "Trey gives me a lot of versatility within one personnel group. Sometimes people don't understand the magnitude of what that means, but he lets you do a lot of things."

Burton will be blocking for a running back combination that is new to Weis. It's the speed that he hasn't seen anything like. Weis said that Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps are both faster than any running back he has ever coached, at the college or NFL level.

"Everyone who comes in, all my boys from that other level, I say the same thing to them," Weis said. "I say, "You've never seen anything like this now." I don't know if they can play dead, but I know they can run."

The other unique quality is the similarities between the two running backs. They are both undersized but can run with anyone in the country.

"The best part for me is they're very close to being the same guy," Weis said. "That allows you not to have eight different things for each guy. When we list them as co-starters, they'll both be out there a whole bunch. They'll be tired after games."

With two similar running backs, it can be good or bad. Weis likes it because he has two elite runners that he can line up on opposite sides of the field and make defenses account for. It's different from what he's done before.

In New England, Weis had a running back combination of Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk. Last year in Kansas City, he had a speedster in Jamaal Charles and a bruiser in Thomas Jones.

Rainey and Demps physically aren't the type of backs who can handle 25+ carries every week in the SEC, but Weis doesn't mind having two backs so similar.

"Most of my career, I haven't had the same guy," Weis said. "It's been two different guys. It's nice going into a game and say we've got this combo, because usually the question is, "what happens if something happens to this guy, then what do we do?" We don't have that issue at this point. We have a contingency plan without a drop off in production."

Weis deferred talking about the receivers much in depth, but he didn't rule out production from receivers outside the top three of Quinton Dunbar, Frankie Hammond and Deonte Thompson. Part of the reason for not counting out others is the way Dunbar made his move.

After Will Muschamp took the job at Florida, he told every player on the team that they would be given a fair chance to win a starting position. Dunbar was down near the bottom of the depth chart because he didn't play last season and hadn't proven anything.

"He was probably underneath this table (on the depth chart)," Weis said, putting his hand on top of the table in front of him. "You couldn't even find him."

He emerged as a consistent playmaker throughout the spring and is now a starting wide receiver as the Gators open Saturday.

Weis will be on the sideline Saturday instead of watching the game and calling plays from the box as he did in Kansas City. The main reason is this being the first year in his offense.

"This year, with a new system, I think this is the best way for us to go," Weis said. "I don't know if we'll keep it this way forever, but for right now, it makes the most sense."

It's not completely unfamiliar, though. Weis spent his early years as the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots in the box. However, when Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury and Tom Brady was forced into the game with no experience, Weis moved down to the sidelines to be a settling factor for an unproven quarterback.

"Then we won a bunch of championships and (Patriots head coach) Bill (Belichick) wasn't going to change anything at that point," Weis said.

There is some similarity between that situation in New England and the one he faces at Florida this season. Brantley has game experience but in a completely different offense. Being able to spend one-on-one time with the players learning the offense is something Weis couldn't pass up.

"There are pros and cons to both of them," Weis said. "Upstairs you can see the field so much better and you're away from all the distractions. Downstairs you get a pulse of the players and what has to be said when they get those far away eyes and have to snap them back to reality."

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