UF Offense is "Far Ahead" of Expectations

Head coach Will Muschamp watched the Florida offense learn the new scheme under first-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease in the spring, but he didn't know what to expect when they started practice in fall camp. The retention was hard for anyone to miss. Muschamp knew the defense would be quick to learn after returning ten starters, but offense has also caught his eye early in fall camp.

"We are far ahead of, after three practices, where we thought we would be on both sides of the ball—not just on defense, but on offense, too," Will Muschamp said Monday afternoon. "It's a great credit to our players and the buy in they had this summer. It's just three practices, so let's don't get ahead of ourselves here, but we're farther ahead than I thought and Brent thought."

The implementation of Pease's offense started before the Gators hit the field for spring practice. Then it was just drawings on dry erase boards and film of the eye-popping numbers he put up at Boise State.

When Florida went to the practice field in the spring, Muschamp was able to see the scheme start to sink into his players' heads.

"On the board, a play or defense may look perfect," Muschamp said. "When you're able to see it in fast motion and they understand what they're seeing, that's when you start to see they have a good understanding of the concept. We teach everything by concept on both sides of the ball."

The concepts didn't take long for the Gators to learn in the spring. After spring practice ended, it was back to drawing on a board and film study. The almost four-month layoff didn't have the effect the Florida head coach thought it could have.

The Gators hit the practice field on August 3 for the first day of fall camp, but it had the feel of a late-April spring practice. Players were lined up right, running the correct players and showing knowledge of what they learned in the spring.

"What you draw on the board might look good and like what we've described, but all of a sudden the coverage rotates one way and you have to adjust the route based on the coverage," Muschamp said. "When you see those things happen, and the coaches aren't having to coach it after every single play, then you know we're starting to get a good grasp and understanding of what we're trying to do. That's what I see."

The offensive plays might not look much different than last year. It's what happens before the snap that has taken the most time for the Florida players to learn. It's the "motions and shifts… and variations of formations, from an imagination standpoint" that Muschamp sees as making the offense different this year.

The running game will also have a different look. It's a product of having power running backs on the roster instead of the speed and elusiveness of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. Florida tried to run downhill last year, but with the smaller running backs, it wasn't always possible.

It'll be the focus this fall. The 5-11, 209-pound Mike Gillislee will be depended on to carry the load of the running game.

The goal is to have the defense off balance before the ball is even snapped. Once the play starts, the Gators hope their pre-snap shifts will create an advantage in the area the play is directed to go.

"Right now in college football, it's a lot of no-huddle, which are stagnant formations," Muschamp said. "They want to get to the line of scrimmage, see what you're in and make a call based on your look. There's not a lot of motion.

"Now, you're worried about getting lined up, identifying the formation and playing the game."

A former defensive coordinator himself, Muschamp sees the value in it. It's a big reason why he made a hard run at Pease, who was also reportedly offered the same position at Alabama, in the offseason. It's a tough scheme to prepare for, especially in the limited time college coaches are allowed to keep their athletes.

"You play a team like us with a lot of motions, shifts and reloads, now the defense has to be able to change the side of the pressure and the rotation of the coverage," Muschamp said. "There's a lot of mental gymnastics, which gets their eyes off where their eyes are supposed to be. Their assignments blow their mind a little bit, they're not sure where they're supposed to be, or they get out-leveraged in a situation. Sometimes you make a defense declare a little quicker with motions and shifts than they would like to.

"You're talking about a four-day practice period and a walkthrough on Friday to get ready to play all of that. That's asking an awful lot, especially if you have a young defense or multiple defense."

And that's just the way the Gators want it.

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