All Eyes On Zaunbrecher

As the start of the season nears, all eyes around the nation are turned in the direction of Ron Zook, as he attempts to maintain the legacy of the program the Ballcoach built. On Saturday however, the eyes of Gator Nation will be squarely on the offense of the man really replacing the legend, offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher.

The former Marshall offensive coordinator will assume the role no one else not named Spurrier has managed in 12 years. One would think that fact would make a coach lose sleep and/or hair, but Zaunbrecher brushes off any such speculation.

"As a coach you always put pressure on yourself," Zaunbrecher said, "but it's nothing more than usual here."

After 12 years of the Fun N' Gun, Gator fans have come to expect a few small things: 20-point quarters, 500-yard games, and at least 35 to 40 points per game. But with the Visored One off in the N.F.L., what can fans expect now?

If the new guy's record is any indication, they can expect about the same thing they did from the old guy.

Zaunbrecher, who was Ron Zook's first addition to his coaching staff, brings with him a wide-open Marshall offense that featured another All-American quarterback, Byron Leftwich.

The offense was so prolific that it ranked Marshall third in the nation in 2001 in both total offense (505.0 ypg) and passing offense (350.8 ypg). Marshall also ranked eighth in the nation in scoring (37.3 ppg), second in passing efficiency (165.62 rating) and fourth in touchdown passes (40). Any further evidence of Marshall's explosiveness in 2001 can be found in their bowl game against East Carolina when the Herd erased a 38-8 halftime deficit to win 64-61.

Those are the type of offensive outbursts Gator fans have grown accustomed to seeing. According to Zaunbrecher, the offense people will see Saturday won't look much different than the one they're used to seeing in Gainesville.

"The tempo is a little faster in this offense," Zaunbrecher said, "but we'll throw curls, corners and have the same type of routes and concepts."

Zaunbrecher will speed up the tempo by employing a hurry-up offense much of the time, keeping the defense on its heels and limiting defensive substitutions. Zaunbrecher says the players have picked up the offense very well and will have the "capability of doing (hurry-up) all the time" as they continue to learn the system.

Zaunbrecher says the man at the helm of the new offense, Rex Grossman, is very similar to the man that orchestrated his offense last year, Byron Leftwich, with one single difference: "about four inches."

"They're both very smart players and tough guys," Zaunbrecher said. "It's fun coaching guys like that."

Quarterbacks could say the same about playing for a coach like Zaunbrecher, as the coach has a tremendous record with coaching quarterbacks in his 27-year career. Seven quarterbacks he has coached have set new passing records at their schools in their time under Zaunbrecher, including New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, Leftwich, Tommy Hodson (LSU), Jeff Wickersham (LSU), Raymond Philyaw (ULM), Mark Hermann (Purdue) and Jim Miller (Michigan State).

In his three years at Marshall (one as quarterbacks coach and two as offensive coordinator), Herd quarterbacks led the MAC in passing all three seasons. In his two years of running the offense, Marshall averaged 458.6 yards per game and 32.9 points per game with many fewer offensive weapons than what he'll have at Florida.

That's not to say Zaunbrecher doesn't have experience coaching talented players. Besides coaching current Heisman Trophy candidate Leftwich, he has coached 31 players who have been drafted in the NFL, including four first round picks (LSU wide receiver Wendell Davis, Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington, LSU running back Harvey Williams and Michigan State linebacker Rob Frederickson).

Zaunbrecher says he is looking forward to coaching the greatest offensive talent he has had at his disposal this year.

"We've got some people here who are proven guys that have shown what they can do," Zaunbrecher said.

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