Offensive Keys to the Season

There isn't an offensive position group that played up to expectations during the 2011 season. Injuries and lack of execution produced a miserable season for the Florida offense. There are areas of improvement needed all over the field and at every position. With a team that should be led by its defense, Florida needs its offense to improve in a few areas during the 2012 season.

1. Offensive Line Improvement- This might be a controversial top priority for the offense in 2012, but if this group plays better than it did in 2011, it should help every area of the Florida offense play better this fall. The starting quarterback will have more time to throw, the running backs will have more room to run and the pass catchers will have more time to get open.

Improved offensive line play is the key to the Florida offense this fall. The good news for the Gators is that all of the reports have been positive. Head coach Will Muschamp said at SEC Media Days that first-year offensive line coach Tim Davis has brought a "much-needed energy" to the position.

The Gators return experience on the line. Chaz Green, Xavier Nixon and Matt Patchan all return at offensive tackles, while right guard Jon Halapio and center Jonotthan Harrison are also back. The left guard spot could be open but sixth-year left guard James Wilson could get the nod.

2. Quarterback Starter Wins the Battle- It seems obvious that quarterback play is important for Florida, but Muschamp has hinted at the possibility of the Gators playing two quarterbacks during the 2012 season if neither of Jacoby Brissett of Jeff Driskel steps up and wins the job. That can't happen for this offense to be as good as it has the potential to be.

Every media member, Florida fan or college football fan has its own opinion about who should get the nod. The answer is simple. It has to be either of them. A two-quarterback system might be a way to keep both players happy, but it's not the way to get maximum production from the offense.

A clear front-runner has to come out of fall camp. Brissett or Driskel has to emerge by the end of two-a-days as the trusted starter. If not, the Florida offense could look like it did last year—indecisive and without a leader under center.

3. Playmakers Emerge Wide Receiver- The starting quarterback is going to need someone—anyone—to throw to this fall. No one emerged last season and the Florida passing offense didn't cause fear in any opponents. That has to change for the Florida offense to put up better numbers this season.

The potential is there. The consistency has been. Andre Debose has the elite speed to be a go-to receiver if his routes improve. Quinton Dunbar has the size but hasn't shown the downfield ability in games that his teammates rave about from practices. Frankie Hammond is solid but doesn't have the potential to be a dominant receiver.

Solomon Patton has the bursts of speed to contribute in a big way if given the chance. Freshman Latroy Pittman opened eyes in spring enough to make most agree he will play a factor this fall.

There are pieces, but the overall numbers and depth aren't where they need to be, as the Gators head into the fall with seven scholarship wide receivers. However, it only takes a few to emerge for the offense to improve.

4. Gillislee Stays Healthy- This is the chance Mike Gillislee has wanted since he committed to Florida. His talent has shown the senior is capable of producing in a big way at running back and could be Florida's first 1,000-yard running back since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.

In his first three years at Florida, Gillislee averages 6.3 yards per rush. He totaled 920 rushing yards in his first three years behind Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps as the two running backs that got most of the touches. The senior also mentioned at SEC Media Days that Brent Pease's offense could be a better fit for him since his understanding is that the running backs are more involved in the passing game.

The issue for Gillislee hasn't been production or even an opportunity as much as his injury history. He was slated to get more touches during the 2011 season. Will Muschamp was vocal about making that happen before the game at Auburn last season, but an ankle injury ended that chance before he could get involved. It isn't the big injuries that have plagued Gillislee from touching the ball more. It's the smaller, nagging injuries that can keep him off the field. Florida doesn't have the depth for that to happen this season.


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