Finesse? Yeah, with a kick

You would think that the Florida offense takes the field weekly with tutus and leg warmers on or leotards and Dolphin shorts on like FSU graduate Richard Simmons. While the Gators are getting respect as a high powered team, the offense has been labeled with the dreaded finesse tag. Some of the Gators resent it as they approach the SEC Championship match with physical Alabama.

The highlights on the national networks show all the long runs and deep passes that this offense has every week. No doubt, it is a big play striking offense that can explode at any time. However, this offense is not your run of the mill skill laden team that relies on just speed. These guys know how to hit someone, too.

The finesse label has been something that has been bandied about all week in Gainesville and that is simply because the Gators are going against a team that is old school in football and likes to run the ball between the tackles behind a huge and powerful offensive line. While the Gators do like to use the entire field, and spread it around they will also try to run it right down your throat and have done so on many occasions this year to teams considered too tough to do so.

"I don't know what film they are watching," sophomore offensive guard Mike Pouncey said Wednesday when asked why the Gators are considered a finesse offense. "I see us as a physical team, we go out and show it week in and week out, so I don't know where they get that from. It does (get under our skin) a little bit."

Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer thinks that this offensive line is probably the toughest he has been around. He certainly likes their aggressive play up front.

"I think they are the most physical offensive line I've had and the best bunch of guys," Meyer said Wednesday. "They are tremendous."

The physical play carries over to the quarterback as well. Anyone that says the quarterback play at Florida is finesse and no brawn hasn't seen Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow play very much. Saturday against Florida State, Tebow scrambled for 20 yards and at the end of the run lowered his shoulder to bulldoze safety Jamie Robinson for an extra four yards. Pouncey got a kick out of that.

"I was right behind him," Mike Pouncey said. "That safety got up shaking his head, he knew it was going to be a long game for him. I did (laugh), a little bit inside. I was just excited for (Tebow) though."

Tebow also doesn't understand the moniker given to the Gators' offense.

"I think they're a powerful team," he said of Alabama. "But, I think we've got a little bit of power, too. And I'm looking forward to it. I think people always will (think finesse) because of the spread, but we're not too bad in the short yardage times either."

Senior offensive tackle Jason Watkins was also a little irked about the label given him and his teammates. He explained his point pretty candidly Wednesday evening.

"Just tell them to watch the film," Watkins said of anyone that thinks the Gators aren't physical. "You can see a finesse team and they don't finish blocks. We finish blocks and get down and dirty. We are tough on our team and one of our goals is toughness and we are tough by finishing our blocks, so I wouldn't call us finesse."

Florida Running Backs Coach Kenny Carter just shrugs off the label. He has two freshman running backs in Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps that do not tip the scales at over 185 pounds yet. They have speed galore and can take the ball to the end zone at any time. But he also believes those two along with 210-pound junior Emmanuel Moody and 215-pound senior Kestahn Moore are as tough as nails when they need to be.

"We take a lot of pride in being tough," Carter said earlier this week. "We lead the SEC in rushing (237 yards/game) and you don't do that with just being finesse. There are a lot of people that can run in this league and a lot of physical defenses in this league. You don't lead any league in rushing without being a physical team. That is a big deal to our line, to our backs, to anyone that carries the ball. You have to play physical and that's a big deal to us."

With the Gators spreading their formations out, the thought is that they are not a "down-hill" running team. Typically a down-hill team is a fullback led offensive attack with the running back following a lead blocker through the hole in the offensive line and the quarterback taking the snap from underneath center. Carter believes they achieve the same power using different formations and personnel.

"We feel like we are a down-hill offense," carter said. "We're about as downhill as you can get. Perception is what it is. Our whole thing is to play physical and do the best we can."

The physical play even makes its way to the wide receivers. Florida fans can tell you that this is the best down field blocking wide receiver group maybe in the history of the program. This group takes pride in freeing their teammates for long runs or runs after catches. They do it by getting on the defender and out-muscling them down field.

Junior wide receiver David Nelson thinks his position mates have a bit of every asset needed to make a high powered offense work.

"We are a finesse team and have some speed on us," Nelson agreed when asked about the perceived contrast in styles between physical and finesse teams. "We are also tough guys, we take a lot of pride in the off-season work outs we do. Coach Meyer and Coach Mickey Marotti do a great job with us. That's all we work on in the off-season and it is to make us a tough team. We are just looking forward to playing the number one team in the country and playing for an SEC Championship.

Alabama comes into the game in Atlanta as the "tough" team. The Gators would like to change that thinking by the time the final buzzer sounds Saturday evening.


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