Or should I say watch how few times they actually line up. What they do is pretty hard to describe. Meyer says it's straight out of John Thompson's irrational mind. Maybe you remember those pre-Gator days when Thompson was coaching at Arkansas and Southern Miss. In those days he was known for defenses that looked like a flock of drunken cockatiels wandering aimlessly before the snap. It looked chaotic.
That was exactly what it was supposed to look like. For an opponent that had never seen such an animal as one of Thompson's unconventional defenses, it was downright confusing. Offensive linemen spent their time thinking and trying to figure out who to block instead of paying attention to such minor little details as the snap count. Quarterbacks who came to the line of scrimmage needing to read the defense thought they were back in first grade all over again, trying to figure out that first two-syllable word. While it looked chaotic to the offense, the Arkansas and Southern Miss players knew exactly what they were doing.
Well, that's what it was supposed to do anyway. It worked a lot of the time. It worked so well against Tennessee a couple of times that Phil Fulmer even adapted a version of it in 2001 when the Vols upset the Gators in The Swamp in the final game of the season. Had the Gators won that game they would have gone to the SEC title game and possibly from there on to the Rose Bowl to face Miami for the National Championship.
Instead of winning, as they were favored to do, the Gators stumbled far too many times while Tennessee often ran its defense with only one lineman down in a stance and the others wandering around like it was a tryout for "Dawn of the Dead." The only thing that died that night was Florida's championship hopes.
Thompson, if you also remember, was Florida's defensive coordinator in 2002 in Ron Zook's first year. He came to Florida from Arkansas where he had enjoyed a successful run at making so-so talent play above its heads with unconventional looks. Zooker never let JT do his thing, however. Zooker proved to be the kind of coach who would go to Baskin Robbins, take a sample of all 31 flavors, then order vanilla. Zook played it safe always and JT never got a chance to show the weird and wild side of him to Gator fans.
So what does all this have to do with Florida and the Louisiana Tech game?
Well, it turns out that Tech is going to do all sorts of JT-like things Saturday night against the Gators. Meyer says that it's not uncommon to see nine or ten players standing or several of the Tech defenders wandering around pre-snap. It's all part of a grand design to confuse Chris Leak and any other opponents the Bulldogs will face this year.
It's actually very good news for Florida. Yes, it could cause the Gators more than a few confusing moments. If the schemes work you might not see the polished offensive line that you were hoping to see after last week when Florida netted just 91 rushing yards against Wyoming. You might not see DeShawn Wynn roll up a bundle of yards, either.
There might be a few moments when the Florida offense looks pretty bad but pretty bad is sometimes not so bad, especially when you've got Tennessee looming a week later.
The plot thickens here.
Meyer showed pure vanilla last week against Wyoming in the season opener. The Gators didn't run much on offense that wasn't seen in the spring game and Meyer admitted after the spring game that the Gators really hadn't cut loose with their offensive package. So basically, what you saw last week was an Orange and Blue re-run.
Enter Louisiana Tech with its wild and crazy defensive looks. Meyer's seen this kind of defense before.
"You don't see it so much in the south or in the SEC, but there are quite a few teams out west that do things like that," Meyer said on Wednesday.
He saw this at Utah so that's a plus. Don't forget that he had offensive line Coach John Hevesy, wide receivers Coach Billy Gonzalez and Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen with him at Utah, too, which means the offensive staff has a pretty good idea how to attack an unconventional defense.
Florida may have some ridiculous looking moments --- Meyer has even admitted that he expects a few --- but the Gators will have some moments when they look pretty spectacular, too. What makes this exercise good for the Gators, particularly with Tennessee looming in a week, is the fact that Louisiana Tech's scheme will not require the Gators to show anything extra from the offense. They can operate pretty much the same way they did in the spring game or last week against Wyoming and save the good stuff for the Vols. While watching the films, the Tennessee staff won't be able to get a real handle on what the Gators will do against their set of defensive schemes.
Now it is possible --- based on what we saw Tennessee Defensive Coordinator John Chavis do back in 2001 --- that the Vols could choose to adapt a Thompson-like concept for next week's game and if that's the case, then the Gators got a head start working against it with the Louisiana Tech game. That is possible, but it's really not likely considering the personnel problems and matchups the Vols have to deal with. Tennessee has issues in its secondary, which isn't particularly good news when you know you'll be facing a quarterback like Chris Leak and a wide receiver corps like Florida's Fab Four. If the Vols decide to go zone against the Gators, then Florida will simply stretch the wide receivers out a bit more which in effect flattens out the zone. That opens lanes to run the ball on the option. If the Vols decide to go man to man, then they have to pull their safeties and insert corners which means they will be sacrificing tackling and protection for the middle of the field. And did we mention secondary problems? Translate that to cover problems. In other words, the Vols don't have four solid cover guys.
Big dilemma here: take your chances with the running game and hope that it's pathetic or try to handle the running game and try to play the Florida receivers straight up in coverage.
The dilemma is intensified by Florida's game with Louisiana Tech. If the Vols go unconventional, then Florida will have a real live game under its belt in preparation for it. Remember, because they have an open date this week all the Vols can do is simulate it in practice against their own people and we know how that works --- everybody looks good against the scout team. If the Vols choose to play it straight up, then they still will not have seen the Gators in all their sets and they will have to spend a good bit of next Saturday's game trying to match personnel against Florida's scheme. The Vols can watch all the film of Utah they want but they still won't have a clue how Florida will line up its personnel in the Utah-style plays.
It's unlikely that Louisiana Tech will give the Gators a tough game for more than a half Saturday night, but the Bulldogs will more than earn their big paycheck in this one. By showing up and doing things unconventionally, it plays right into the hands and the devious mind of a coach that doesn't require a whole lot of prompting to dig into his psychological bag of tricks.
Urban Meyer didn't script this one out, but it's the kind of thing he could have and would have done if only someone had given him the chance. No matter who designed it, however, it plays right into his hands.