Cornelius Could Be Force At H-Back Position

In the new offense that Coach Urban Meyer is installing this spring, the inside slot or H-back position has become a very important target for Florida quarterbacks. This is a position that requires stellar athletes with speed, strength and stamina. Jemalle Cornelius has the kind of physical skills that make him a natural in the slot. The rising junior from Fort Meade (5-11, 188) has seen a steady diet of footballs this spring, and in the fall he figures to be one of Leak's favorite targets.

The H-back is primarily used as a position to find mismatches on the field. The constant motion of the position before the snap of the ball allows the quarterback to get a better read on the defense during the pre-snap phase of a play. It also allows the H-back to build up some speed so at the snap of the ball he can be in full stride in one step. When the offense spreads the defense, motion becomes very difficult to defend. These are the kind of things that make this an important position in the Meyer offense and it's a requirement that the slot receivers know the offense inside and out.

Cornelius realizes the importance of the offense and the opportunity it presents.

"The inside guys are getting a lot of touches," Cornelius said. "So, we are just trying to learn the offense and get it down more, but I think we will get a lot of balls.

In the Meyer offense, the H-back reverse is a staple. This is a play that generally begins with motion before the snap. Cornelius has the speed to turn the corner and the elusiveness once he's in the secondary which makes him very dangerous when he gets the ball in his hands on the reverse.

"Every time we run it, it is usually open," said Cornelius. "And, every time we watched it on their (Utah's) film, it used to go for a big gain."

Having an offensive line that is mobile enough to hold a block then get downfield helps to make the reverse a potent weapon.

"Lance Butler and those guys, they make sure they hustle down the field, and it's just open land," Cornelius said.

Jemalle Cornelius gains over 12 yards on a reverse during the scrimmage above.

As part of the new offensive scheme, Cornelius and all of the receivers have to learn every position in the backfield. Because this is an offense that is based on creating matchup problems, the receivers are required to fill any spot on any play. At first, the learning is a slow, painstaking process, but once everyone becomes interchangeable, the offense can be flexible and creative.

"I'm playing that (slot) and a little bit of the outside (receiver)," he said, "We have so many different combinations and ways of doing stuff. Everbody has to know every position."

Meyer admits there are not a lot of plays in this offense, just a lot of formations that allow the same plays to be run with mismatches created. Still the difficult part for the skill players is learning every position on every play. For the H-back it means knowing how to line up in the slot and motion from there to the backfield or vice versa. Not only is it mentally taxing, it can be physically taxing. Play after play in practice the guys playing the H-back are in motion and then have to run routes or a reverse.

"There is so much running, all the motions and stuff," Cornelius said. "We run a lot more than we did last year."

No one is expecting the Gator offense to be perfect right now although there have been glimpses of explosiveness that become more regular with every practice. The full impact of this offense has yet to be seen, and probably won't until sometime well after the season begins.

"I think we are about 70-75% of where we need to be" Cornelius said. "We are doing a whole lot better when you look at it on film from the first week until now. We still have a lot more stuff to do here in the spring and we have to do a lot more on our own in the summer to make sure we get everything down."

The coaching staff has singled out Cornelius for being ahead of most of the receivers in picking up the mental aspects of the offense. Wide receivers Coach Billy Gonzalez has been a major influence on his progression so far this spring.

"The biggest thing with me is he helps me use my hands more and being physical," Cornelius said about his position coach. "He is a technician. He works on all the small things. Even if you get open but don't run the route right he will show you on film and tell you what you could have done to even be more open."

Although he's one of the smaller wide receivers, Cornelius has steadily added strength and mass to his body. He has added eight pounds of muscle from last season. He wants to add more muscle so he can fight off some of the more physically challenging defensive backs. He is noticeably larger than he was when he showed up at Florida three years ago but he knows he needs more strength.

"I'm trying, but I still have a long way to go," he said. I need to make sure I work on that this summer, by doing a lot of drills and stuff."

One thing that he isn't slight on is speed. There are certain timed speed events that Cornelius can beat anyone on the team. When you add the elusive qualities to the blazing speed, Jemalle Cornelius becomes a player who could have a major impact on Florida's offense in 2005. If he has a breakout year, it should mean that the Gators are winning big and winning often.

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