Spring fever: Florida

With Florida coming off of two national titles in the past three years, you'd figure head coach Urban Meyer's motto would be "If it ain't broke don't fix it."

You'd be wrong, though. The Gator boss has been experimenting with significant changes to both his offensive scheme and his defensive scheme.

Offensively, Florida branched out a bit during spring practice, implementing the I-formation as a complementary package to its ultra-successful spread option. The new alignment has quarterback Tim Tebow under center, instead of in shotgun formation, and has the fullback joining the lineup as lead blocker.

Tebow has been Florida's leading rusher each of the past two seasons, which has subjected him to a lot of hits. Utilizing the I-formation should help shift a little more of the ground-game emphasis onto the running backs and remove some of the load from the QB's shoulders.

The Gators aren't standing pat on defense, either, even with all 11 starters and 21 of the top 22 players back from last January's BCS Championship Game. Florida spent a significant portion of spring practice trying out a new 3-3-5 alignment in hopes of better exploiting the glut of talent the Gators have in their linebacker corps and their secondary.

Perhaps the biggest news out of Gainesville this spring, though, was the development of John Brantley. Whereas most SEC programs are struggling to find one quality quarterback, the Gators appear to have two. Brantley completed 14 of 23 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns in the spring game. He also ran for two TDs in leading the Orange to a 31-21 defeat of Tebow's Blue squad.

Steve Addazio, who assumed the offensive coordinator role when Dan Mullen left to become head man at Mississippi State last winter, said Brantley "had a great spring," adding: "He's a legitimate player, and we have a lot of confidence in him."

Minus Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy from last year's receiving corps, Gator coaches were a little concerned about the wideout position heading into spring ball. They came out of it feeling a lot better, though, thanks to the emergence of Frankie Hammond, Jr., who caught four passes for 131 yards in the Orange & Blue Game, including 47- and 50-yard strikes from Brantley.

Another boost for the Gator passing game is the return of tight end Aaron Hernandez, who filled in admirably last fall after Cornelius Ingram suffered a torn ACL.

Bottom line: With Tebow back on offense and all 11 starters back on defense, Florida has a great opportunity to win its third national title in the past four years.


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