What We Have Gleaned From Preseason: Offense

The Florida Gators are less than a week from trying to defend their national championship. It's a year when the Gators don't have a lot of change but there has been a little bit of action on offense to report. Here is your preseason quantified look at position battles and how the two deep stacks up heading into the season's first game week.

In this article we will discuss the offense at the University of Florida and at least this man's efforts to portray what is going on behind closed practice gates. Here is a position by position look at the offense.

Quarterback

With Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow back you wouldn't expect much to change at quarterback, but it looks like the staff has a few things up their sleeve for this season. Despite some work in the offseason, I don't expect there to be too much stuff under center for Tebow. I think they will let him do what he is comfortable with.

Look for them to make an even more concerted effort to lessen the running load of Tim Tebow. I think defenses are really going to close the middle with the emphasis on stopping the running game and this should allow Tebow to throw deep more often. Good for Tebow in my opinion as he will get to show off his accuracy on deep passes which I think is underrated.

The staff has decided that they will play John Brantley a great deal and he will likely get meaningful downs and series in the first half of games. The staff has shown the utmost confidence in Brantley this preseason and I would expect him in the first quarter throughout the season as a change up to what Tebow offers.

Another change up that we will likely see is a little bit of cornerback Joe Haden at quarterback with the option to run or throw the ball. This staff is always looking for a new wrinkle and Haden gives them an option of a real speed merchant at quarterback that also is the Maryland High School leader for career passing yards. Haden talked last week a little about what he is doing in practice.

"I work at quarterback every other day," He said last week. "I throw a couple of routes and a couple of running plays."

His buddies on defense are frothing at the mouth to get a shot at him.

"Major Wright told me as soon as they let me do it at practice he is going to hit me," Haden said. "Coach Bedford told the DB's to hit me when they get a chance."

Right now , the plan is to redshirt true freshman Jordan Reed.

Running back

The starter is Jeff Demps and it should remain that way. Demps offers that explosive first step and of course the home run threat that no one can catch in the open field. There will be times when Demps is asked to play the slot receiver position role vacated by Percy Harvin, but I think he is third on that list right now, so most of his time will be spent at tailback.

Emmanuel Moody is healthy and really practicing well. I truly think they would like to make Moody the lead guy, but he hasn't stayed healthy enough to do that. He won't be asked to be part of the receiver role on offense.

Chris Rainey has a slight shoulder injury, but should be 100% by early this week. Rainey has also been asked to pick up a little bit of the slot position, but he would be fourth at best and behind Demps in that role. They just love Rainey's dynamic play on the field.

True freshman Mike Gillislee will play and most likely in game one. His offensive play list will be limited as he learns, and I would expect him in big time situations until further down the line. Gillislee will be a big time player down the road, but he isn't the quickest of learners,. In the meantime he will get a lot of work on special teams.

I think this unit can pass 2500 yards this year and I expect them to get closer to 3,000 yards. If I were the staff I would make it a goal to have two 1,000 rushers in this group. I think that is very possible.

Slot Receiver

I am giving this one it's own section because it is one of the positions that has to be solidified one way or another going in. We know that Brandon James is the starter here and I believe he possesses many of the skills necessary to do the job well. I think James can stay healthy and can come close to some of Percy Harvin's numbers but I expect there to be a little more substitution involved.

"It is a real good fit for me," James said last week. "Getting the ball in space and in mismatch situations against linebackers I can really help the team. We call it the 'H' position but they move us all around so it could be a lot of things."

"I've known the offense since my freshman year, I have just kind of been in the back waiting ion my chance. I have been involved, but not as big as I am going to be this year, I just have to get used to getting reps."

Some may be surprised, but the second option in the slot right now is David Nelson. James missed practice on Saturday and Nelson filled in for him. Nelson is versatile enough to play all four receiver positions and actually scored the last touchdown in the BCS game last year from this position.

Third in line at the moment will be Jeff Demps. Demps has that explosion again that they are looking for at the position. He won't get a lot of reps but him in this position allows the offense to confuse defenses with having him and another running back on the field at the same time.

Fourth and fifth options here include Chris Rainey and T.J. Lawrence. Rainey will be used in the role as a short pass receiver that can do something with the ball after the catch while Lawrence will be utilized in the slot to run deep pases and get open down field.

Receivers

Deonte Thompson and Riley Cooper have established themselves as the outright starters on the outside. They bring lots of speed, toughness, and now a great deal of maturity to the outside receiver spots. I think with the defenses stacking it inside to stop Tebow's running,. These guys will get deep early and often this season and could be in for huge years.

Meyer finally told us that freshman Frankie Hammond is playing well and he will be the next in line at an outside receiver spot. Hammond is a play maker and has the penchant for the great catch as well.

David Nelson of course will be used outside as well as Lawrence. Right now those are the five guys that should see significant playing time on the outside.

Tight End / Fullback

Aaron Hernandez is basically it in the passing game and he needs to stay healthy. Hernandez should lead all the receivers in pass catches this year. Stacking the middle of the defense may make that a little tougher, but he is the Gators' best mismatch on offense and a favorite target of the quarterbacks.

They have already stated their desire to redshirt freshman tight end Desmond parks who just needs to put on some muscle mass in order to be effective in the SEC.

Behind Parks they will use fullbacks T.J. Pridemore, rick burgess, and Christopher Scott at tight end and at fullback. Burgess and Pridemore are in a dead heat at fullback right now. Burgess is a better pass catcher, but I don't think that will be something that gets him on the field that much more often.

Offensive Line

Right now, for opening day, it seems the only sure spot that will be filled is at right tackle. Marcus Gilbert has emerged as the starter at right tackle and no injuries will cause that to change. Gilbert has really earned the trust of the staff since the start of two-a-days.

At right guard, the normal starter will be mike Pouncey, but we found out through James Wilson that he has been starting there for most of camp due to the injury of Maurkice Pouncey. Mike has been covering for Maurkice at center all this time.

At center, the starter is of course Maurkice Pouncey. Mike Pouncey looks to be the first back up. Sam Robey can be trusted, but probably is not as experienced and maybe quite as talented as Mike and James Wilson at the moment.

Carl Johnson is likely the starter at left guard. His back up would be James Wilson. Johnson has played well since the middle of the season last year.

The left tackle spot looks to be Matt Patchan's for the taking. He is probably about 15 pounds undersized, but makes up for it in quicks and tenacity. His back up would be Carl Johnson.

For the first game I see the line that plays the most as...

LT Matt Patchan
LG Carl Johnson
C Mike Pouncey
RG James Wilson
RT Marcus Gilbert

My guess is that Maurkice starts and plays a series or less just to earn the start. Then they rest him for the remainder of the game and we see the line up above for most of it.

Depth chart if everyone is healthy (an educated guess)

LT: Matt Patchan, Carl Johnson, David Young
LG: Carl Johnson, James Wilson, Maurice Hurt
C: Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey, Sam Robey
RG: Mike Pouncey, James Wilson, Jon Halapio
RT: Marcus Gilbert, Xavier Nixon

Meyer has made it known that they want to play two of the incoming freshmen offensive linemen. The three most popular names were Xavier Nixon, Jon Halapio,and Jonotthan Harrison. Nixon is a guy I think will push for a starting spot before the end of the season. I gave the nod to Halapio because he was the last one Meyer mentioned along with Nixon.

Scheme

Scheme wise they aren't looking to change much. Outside of playing Brantley in a passing role more often and a few shots of Haden at quarterback, we aren't going to see a lot of different plays. It's the old, don't fix what isn't broke theory.

New offensive coordinator Steve Addazio is a very bright man. I believe he is going to be a great coordinator. He will strive to achieve balance, because balance creates issues for the defense in that they won't know what is coming next. Outside of taking some running load off of Tebow and relying on running backs that have a great deal more experience than last year, look for them to run the same stuff and try and make the play calling close and closer to a 50/50 ratio.

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