The Florida offense in the first three years under Will Muschamp had two different coordinators in Charlie Weis and Brent Pease. Both ran pro-style attacks with the quarterback under center and relied a great deal on the play action pass. The emphasis was on outnumbering the defenders in the box to power their way over teams and the staff recruited to that.
The Gators were aiming for bigger receivers who were able to power their way through defenders in one-on-one matchups and were also good blockers. They wanted in-line tight ends that could block 270 pound defensive ends on the edge. Size became more important than speed in the recruiting.
But a seven win season in his first year and a 4-8 season in year three forced Muschamp and company to rethink things. The style was tossed alone with Pease and a wide open attack from Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was brought in to change things dramatically.
On the spring Gator Club tour that Muschamp is on he has gotten a hand full of tough questions asked about the lack of success of the program during the three year span. According to the head Gator, the top question people want answered is, "Are we going to score any points?"
"I am excited about that," he continued. "We just need to improve offensively as much as anything. All of the questions have been very good. Some of them tough and difficult and when you go 4-8 that is part of the deal and very fair."
The recruiting pitch has changed. He would sell recruits that the staff at Florida was coaching to the style that the pros were running on the field. The prospects would have an advantage in being drafted because they would be ready made for the pros when they got there. It was a little different sell than he has to show up with now.
"Yeah, because we ran pro-style," he quipped when asked if he used to say the other.
The change was drastic on the February signing day when they really pushed for speed and spread type players that would suit Roper's offense. And now Muschamp feels a little more validated in the move after a second big year in the draft of teams really looking at spread offense players.
"I think you evolve as a coach," he said. "I think you evolve with what your players can do. I was honestly watching the draft and started thinking to myself and in my mind from last year's draft and this year's draft and Fisher was an offensive tackle from Michigan, Luke was an offensive tackle from A&M. Out of the offensive players taken in the last two drafts, there have been 12 offensive players taken in the top 10 and 10 come from spread offenses. It isn't bothering the guys investing millions of dollars as to what kind of offense they come from."
The NFL is still looking for that strong armed quarterback that relies on his arm much more than his feet, but there has been a shift even in that area of the game.
"The biggest difference to me is the quarterback position," knowing that the teams want the golden arms. "I will agree with that. But, in the NFL, last year through every snap, 59.6% of the snaps came from the shotgun. Most NFL teams have upwards of 70% of their snaps in the shotgun."
Muschamp spits out the NFL numbers off of his head so there is no doubt he spends time still watching what they are doing at the highest level of football. This is prime recruiting season and the information is something that he can now sell from another direction to the quarterback prospects.
In the 2014 class Florida signed two quarterbacks. While Will Grier would be considered a drop back quarterback, he also ran for 600-700 yards a season on the ground and is plenty athletic to play in the spread style Florida will be running. Treon Harris will arrive from Miami next month and he was made for the offense as a dual threat. Every prospect they are recruiting this season at the position has the ability to run and pass at a high level. It is the new way of thinking.
"The art of the quarterback coming from under center is a little bit of a lost art," Muschamp admitted. "The game evolves and changes from the bottom, in high school, up. They have to adapt and change their schemes based on the talent they have each year, much like I did with our situation at Florida."
Validation from the highest level of football has allowed Muschamp to continue to sell the style of play at Florida as one that will get the prospects to the NFL, even if it's a new style he is employing. And maybe even a little more peace of mind about making the change.