Spring Look: Offensive Backfield

Spring football starts Wednesday and for the Gator offensive backfield it is a mixed bag of experience. On one hand, the Gators will have plenty of experience at running back, but all eyes will be on new starting quarterback John Brantley. The Gators have two solid fullbacks that should be a little more ingrained in a slightly different looking offense. Here is a look at the group.

There will be no other player on the Gators' football roster that will be scrutinized more this spring than quarterback John Brantley (JR, 6-3, 220). Brantley has the unenviable task of replacing a legend at his position. Tim Tebow is gone and so is the bruising runner at quarterback that was a mainstay of the short yardage running game for the offense.

Although Brantley won't be asked to be s short yardage runner in the Gator offense, don't scoff at his athletic ability and think he won't be running a little bit of the spread option that the Urban Meyer and company incorporate. Still, it is Brantley's throwing ability that earned him the Gatorade national Player of the year out of high school and has Gator fans hoping for a different kind of player at the position, but one that can be close to as productive as Tim Tebow was.

Brantley has already gotten plenty of press as one of the top quarterbacks in the country for the 2010 season, so the heat is already building on his college career. He will definitely bring a more polished throwing game to the Gators and time will tell how that will flourish.

Any eyes not watching Brantley may be on his backup. Trey Burton (FR, 6-3, 220) brings more of a Tebow-esque game to Florida as a quarterback that can really run with the ball. Burton doesn't come to Florida with all the accolades of a Brantley or a Tebow, but that doesn't matter, he has to get ready to play. The true freshman arrived early from high school enrolling in January and is the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster for the spring as red-shirt freshman Jordan Reed has been moved to tight end.

Burton has to prepare himself to play in the fall and will likely pose a complimentary threat to Brantley's skills. He is raw when it comes to throwing the ball, but he has the ability to make the throws.

The Gators will add another quarterback in the fall when Tyler Murphy (FR, 6-2, 200) shows up on campus after graduating high school in May. Murphy will of course be way behind making it that much more important that Burton really prepares himself as much as possible this spring.

The Gators return a great deal of experience at running back in 2010. At the top of that list is Jeff Demps (JR. 5-9, 183) who will likely miss some practice as he runs track this spring. Demps is coming off a great sophomore season where he rushed 99 times for 765 yards and a 7.5 yards per carry average. Look for that yardage number to go up as Tebow's run totals will have to be split up among ball carriers, meaning Demps very well could push for a 1,000 yard season in 2010.

One back that is probably chomping at the bit to get on the field this spring is Emmanuel Moody (SR, 6-0, 210). Moody has labored the last couple of years due to both injury and unhappiness. It is no secret that Moody was distressed when running back coach Stan Drayton moved on to Tennessee before moody ever saw a practice as a Gator. Drayton was maybe the most influential person in Moody's recruitment to Florida after he transferred out of USC.

Moody only ran the ball 38 times last year for 390 yards, but a healthy 6.5 yard average. His numbers look to go way up this season especially since Chris Rainey (JR, 5-10, 180) will be moved to the slot receiver position in the spring to see his effectiveness.

Mike Gillislee (SO, 6-0, 200) is the last scholarship back at practice giving the gators three real quality ball carriers. Gillislee has all the size and blazing speed you want at the position and he seems a real good fit for how the Gators run the ball. He has a year of learning the system under his belt now and his whopping 8.6 yards per carry from last season will be looked at hard this spring and he will likely exceed the 31 carries for 267 yards from his freshman campaign.

The Gators added a real big time threat with Mack Brown (FR, 5-11, 204) on signing day and Brown will show up in the summer and be ready to compete. Again with Tebow gone, there appears to be enough carries to get Brown involved along with the other three backs.

The fullback position at Florida hasn't been very useful under Meyer so far, but you have to wonder with the offense going to take a more under-center approach, will Steven Wilks (JR, 6-1, 230) and T.J. Pridemore (SO, 6-1, 241) be able to make an impact on the field. It definitely seems like they will; have a chance to prove themselves.

Surprisingly Wilks was ahead of Pridemore before he went down with a knee injury, but Pridemore has gotten a lot of work since that time. This should be a nice contested battle and one that will make both players better.


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