Weis Happy With Debut of the Offense

Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis couldn't have been happier with the way John Brantley managed the team through the season opening win over FAU on Saturday. After spending the offseason picking up the new offense, Brantley executed it against the Owls. The execution of the plays called was important for the senior quarterback, but Weis was more impressed with his ability to manage the offense.

"I thought he managed the team as well for an opener as you could possibly do," Charlie Weis said after Tuesday's practice. "He had one error that I would question his mental on the whole evening, and that's a very good start. He showed very good accuracy and poise. There were a lot of things to be pleased about."

Brantley ended the game going 21-for-30 through to air for 229 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The yardage total was higher than every game in 2010 except for Kentucky and Appalachian State.

The only negative came on the two interceptions. Weis admitted that they weren't completely Brantley's fault.

"He turned it over twice, and that's not what we're looking for," Weis said. "There are a lot of things that go into it, but in the end, it comes down as the quarterback being the guy. I'm not going to pass it off on someone else. I'm just saying that having a -3 turnover ratio for the game, usually you're going to lose."

When Brantley wasn't in the game, it was freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel getting snaps in his first collegiate game. Driskel made his debut in the second quarter while Florida had a 24-0 lead. His third play of the game was an interception after he overthrew Jordan Reed in the middle of the field.

The coaching staff decided before the game that they wanted to get Driskel some snaps when the game was still somewhat close. If Brantley were to get injured, Weis didn't want to be in a position to throw a backup quarterback into the game in a pressure situation he wasn't remotely prepared for. So they decided to get Driskel time on the field in the first half.

"That's what we wanted to do," Weis said. "We wanted to get him in when we felt it was competitive. We weren't looking for 20 plays. We were looking to get his feet wet. You couldn't have choreographed it any better. He's nervous on his first time out with 90,000 people in The Swamp. It's exciting for a kid in that position."

The first two plays for Driskel were play action passes that had him rolling out to his right. He saw nothing open, so he tucked the ball and ran both times. Weis said both were the right moves, and it's an added dimension to Driskel's game.

"He's very, very athletic," Weis said. "With a young guy—and I don't encourage this from No. 12 by the way—but with a young guy who is athletic, you allow him to do that. You don't discourage him from pulling the ball down and going. A lot of times that's better than the alternative of them throwing something downfield and having something bad happening."

The interception by Driskel was disappointing for Florida, but Weis was more impressed with how he responded. When he came back into the game in the second half, Driskel was still confident. He ended the game going 4-for-6 for 42 yards.

"You saw how much more poised he looked that next time out there," Weis said. "He got it out of his system. Will's plan was to get some young guy an experience. You have to have the next guy ready to go. We didn't want the first snaps that the backup gets to be in a super pressure situation."

The running game tallied 197 yards, with Jeff Demps (111 yards) and Chris Rainey (84 yards) leading the way. Mike Gillislee added 19 yards on five carries, and the trio of running backs combined for 7.5 yards per carry.

"It's obvious we've got some dynamic guys with the ball in their hands," Weis said. "Sometimes (everyone) gets so enamored with whether the yards were on the inside or on the outside versus setting up the defense. I have no problem running inside and getting a couple yards a pop over and over again. It now constricts the defense and opens up outside runs."

For the rest of the season, Weis will be watching how many hits his two running backs take. Without a workhorse running back capable of carrying the ball 20-30 times a game, he has to be careful. Demps is listed at 191 pounds and Rainey is at 174 pounds, so they don't have the builds to sustain the hits of some of the bigger backs in the SEC.

"My job and our job is to utilize them enough, and not too much," Weis said. "That's important. If you're going to play a 14-game season, you have to worry about the stamina of guys who aren't 230 pounds."

The wide receiver weren't very involved in Saturday's win over Florida Atlantic, but that was more a product of what the Owls were doing on defense. Playing safeties deep took the vertical passing game out of the equation, and Brantley hurt them with swing passes to the running backs.

While the receivers didn't catch many passes, they still made an impact.

"I was exceptionally pleased with the downfield blocking by the wide receivers," Weis said. "We challenged them that we can't play with receivers who won't block downfield. I was pleased with that."

Outside of Brantley, the biggest question mark on the offensive side of the ball was the line. They held up well and didn't allow a sack.

"I like the fact that there looked to be very good cohesion.," Weis said. "The mental mistakes for the starting group were at a very low number. We didn't open up everything we have, but to keep mental mistakes low, especially on the offensive line, is difficult. That was attained."

Chaz Green emerged as a starter at right tackle last week in practice. He went into the spring without any game reps, but he didn't waste time making a jump up the depth chart.

"He really struggled in the spring, but he was a one-man gang," Weis said. "We had no (Xavier Nixon) or (Matt) Patchan. He was a man in his own country. Once he got into that rotation, competition got better. I think he's competitive and the competition made him better."

The mental mistakes were held to a minimum for the offense. It's the turnovers that were a problem Saturday. Brantley two interceptions and Driskel's one totaled three turnovers for the Gators, but it could've easily been more.

Demps fumbled the ball during the first half, but it was covered by a teammate. Center Jonotthan Harrison shot a snap over Brantley's head that could've been recovered by FAU. Frankie Hammond also lost the ball after being tackled, but he was ruled down before losing it.

Weis pointed to all three mistakes as things that could've complicated the game.

"Ball possession is a critical factor and one we're emphasizing this week," he said.

The red zone execution also wasn't where Weis wanted it to be. The Gators scored touchdowns on just 60% (3-5) of their trips into the red zone, adding a field goal on another time. The only time they didn't score was an interception Brantley threw in the end zone.

Weis wasn't happy with the field goal, though.

"I don't consider a field goal a conversion," Weis said. "It's a win for the defense. I think that 60% conversion is not what we're looking for."

Before the Florida Atlantic game, Weis started with a 12-play sequence and a six-play sequence already scripted for the game. He usually heads into a game with 12-24 plays scripted, but they don't always stick.

There are even times where he will get a few plays into it before throwing it out.

"Sometimes you run it just the way you (wrote) it," Weis said. "There are other games where it hasn't gone well. It might be after three series where you scrap it and go on to something else. There are times where we script 15 plays, and those are the 15 plays as we go down the field."

Weis did say that the team held some offensive plays back during the first game. However, they still used many different formations for the players to get comfortable in.

"We didn't throw out the kitchen sink, but we did enough things in there," Weis said. "We upped the tempo and went in and out of personnel groupings, so there was enough for our first game to let them get a feel for the different things we'd like to do."

When told that Chris Rainey said after the game that it felt like they only called six players during the game, Weis sarcastically disagreed.

"They don't know what I'm doing," Weis quipped. "I'm just calling plays. They're just running the plays. For Rainey to try and give you analysis of what we're doing, that's comical in its own right.

"There were six plays that had (Rainey's jersey) No. 1 on it. As far as he's concerned, those are the only six plays we ran. He forgot about all those others where one wasn't getting the ball."

This weekend, the Florida offense will see a new test in UAB. The Gators will take on a defense led by first-year defensive coordinator Tommy West, who spent 2001-2009 as the head coach at Memphis.

That adds difficult factors to Weis' preparation. He must compile information from the 2010 UAB team to see what their defensive players can do, but he also has to learn about the 2009 Memphis defense that West ran.

"The thing about UAB is that for the second week in a row, we have no evidence of what they're going to do on defense," Weis said. "We're playing a little bit of guesswork.

"Their guys up front are young linemen that haven't played before. The linebackers are returning, and a bunch of guys in the secondary, we've seen play. A number of the guys up front we've never even seen play before. There's some guesswork."


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