Gator Offense Adjusting to Personnel

The offensive coaches for the Gators spent the offseason planning and scheming. The offense will see an overhaul with a new quarterback at the helm, and one that presents a different skill set. The spread offense has seen plenty of tweaks since Urban Meyer brought it to Gainesville, and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio will have plenty of choices with his play calling this fall.

"We are who we are," Steve Addazio said. "Sometimes we tweak things to match our personnel, and we've had a lot of discussion about that. We messed around in the spring. In preseason camp, there's a real sense of urgency to be exact in what we do. I think we have a real good plan."

What exactly that plan is starts the debate. Addazio does admit the number of quarterback runs will decrease, and they will find new ways to get the ball into the hands of playmakers.

The diminishing quarterback runs has more to do with protecting Brantley than anything. The depth behind him consists of two freshmen, Trey Burton and Tyler Murphy. Keeping Brantley healthy will be a huge part of the team's success.

"John (Brantley) runs really well, really athletic," Addazio said. "It's just how many hits do we want to expose him to in a power scenario? But that sucker is athletic."

Brantley won't lower his head and take a shotgun snap through the middle of the offensive line on short-yard situations. That's where the Gators will lean on their running backs this season.

Addazio isn't sure which running back will get those carries, but he does know they will try to keep Brantley out of harm's way as much as possible.

"There's a great opportunity to see more tailback runs," Addazio said. "You still rely heavily on what the defense is giving you. You want to be balanced, but the better question would be, it's 3rd and 1, what are you going to do? That was a really flat, Tebow run scenario. You'll see more opportunities for tailback runs in those scenarios. You saw more I-formation last year, but not as much as you thought we would've done. You probably will see more this year, a more traditional two-back offense."

The two-back offense could come in the form of two true running backs in the backfield. The Gators torched Kentucky for 362 rushing yards last season while having two running backs in the backfield for most plays. The depth of playmakers at running back gives Addazio confidence that they can use the formation again, as well as using some of the slot receivers who will play a hybrid role.

"A healthy Moody is a dynamic player," Addazio said. "Jeff Demps is a war daddy. He is a fast, accountable guy. Mike Gillislee is a really, really talented tailback. He's got a great combination of speed, size and power. Mack Brown looks extremely athletic. Chris Rainey brings that whole extra dimension, as does Andre Debose. We have those hybrid guys, which is an interesting dynamic to really cause some stress."

The trust Florida has in the short-yard running game comes thanks to a veteran offensive line. Addazio calls them an "athletic front," despite every projected starter weighing at least 300 pounds. They also have depth across the offensive line and will spend camp finding the best mix of starters.

"It allows us to be really multiple and feel confident about all those tailbacks in short yard situations," Addazio said. "You've got a strong offensive line and one that can handle multiplicity and different looks. When you've got a young offensive line on top of everything else, that can be really taxing to you. We've got a really strong one. The beautiful thing about it is we've got a bunch of young guys behind them that have been here a year and are very talented. They're good players. They're ready to rock out and roll here."

The offensive line is anchored by center Michael Pouncey. Whenever asked, each offensive player spouts his name without hesitation when asked of the vocal leaders on the team.

Addazio has seen a transition in Pouncey over the offseason. Last year, his twin brother, Maurkice, was also on campus and the two led as a pair. Mike Pouncey is now the only one left after his brother was a first round selection of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the senior is becoming the sole leader of the team. Addazio even went as far as to call him the best offensive lineman in America.

"There's no question in my mind that he is," Addazio said. "He's the best lineman in the toughest defense conference in college football. He has a chance to be sensational. He's physical, tough, skilled, smart, multi-positional, I don't know what is left. When you judge an offensive lineman, judge him in this conference. Certainly places you can push people around, but here you can't.

"I've been there and coached in those conferences. Come in this conference and moves these fronts. It's a whole different ball of wax."

Besides Pouncey, Addazio also listed Carl Johnson at left guard and Marcus Gilbert at right tackle as starters for the team. Maurice Hurt and James Wilson were the names he mentioned as the starters for right guard, while Xavier Nixon and Matt Patchan are battling to start at left tackle.

Patchan tore his ACL last season during practice, but he is now going full speed and weighing 290 pounds.

"Great mentally and emotionally," Addazio said. "Physically, he's really doing well. Every day he really takes care of his body and works real hard at it. So far, everything has been terrific."
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