The biggest question mark coming into the spring, the thing that had fans griping, and justifiably so, to no end all season was Florida’s offense.
Its ineptitude in 2013 got Brent Pease fired, and in came Duke’s Kurt Roper, called upon to fix what at points last season seemed irreparably broken, and maybe even save head coach Will Muschamp’s job while he’s at it. While implementing this offense it’s of course predicated on tempo, the buzzword that’s usually attached to descriptions of it. That new tempo is what quarterback Jeff Driskel said was the hardest to get adjusted to.
“We weren’t used to it. We were used to huddling, so that was different, Driskel said. “But I think that as camp rolled on, the guys on offense and defense got more conditioned and were used to the tempo and that’s something that we’re going to have to continue to build over the summer and into fall.”
He thought it was especially taxing on the linemen at the beginning of camp, and said there’s still a lot of conditioning work left to do to get the team where they want to go. But it’s not just the big guys. Wide receiver Amhad Fulwood said there was “no conditioning” that the team could do to get them adjusted to Roper’s tempo before the new offensive coordinator arrived in Gainesville. They’re much further along than they were at the beginning of spring to be certain, but there’s a lot of conditioning work left to be done, and that’s where strength coach Jeff Dillman comes into play as Muschamp turns his team over to him and the offseason work truly begins.
When the Gators get back in pads in the fall, they’ll have to work on timing as well. This is another thing very important to Roper’s system.
“One yard deeper, one step longer one step shorter it throws off everything,” Fulwood said. “So I mean you gotta be at the right place at the right time when you’re supposed to be there. It just works fluidly when it’s working like that.”
At this point, however, Florida’s offense is incomplete. Head coach Will Muschamp mentioned that there are many designed quarterback runs that weren’t implemented that will be seen in the fall, but the one thing that is there is a concerted effort to pick up the pace. While Florida started out with a bad first drive with its first team offense in Saturday’s spring game, they were able to get and most importantly stay in rhythm for most of the rest of the afternoon.
At its best, it did look fluid, Florida marched down the field with a pep in its step against a first team defense that was missing tackles in space, unable to bring down quick Gators on the edge. That’s also a testament to an effort by Driskel and all the quarterbacks on Florida’s roster to place the ball to receivers in a way in which they can maximize yards after the catch, because the ball is leaving their hands so quickly the receivers often aren’t that far down the field when they’re catching the ball.
“We’ve got plays where we’re gonna take a shot where it’s not gonna be as high-level or high completion percentage but the majority of our passing offense is based on getting the ball out and getting it into receivers’ hands and making them make a play after they catch the ball,” Driskel said. “And I think we had a lot of YAC today, when we got the ball into receivers’ hands they made plays for me so that’s a big part of our offense.”
Receivers Latroy Pittman, Chris Thompson and Ahmad Fulwood — to name a few — seemed to benefit most in the Orange and Blue Debut from Florida’s quick game through the air.
At the end of the day, this offense can be efficient, up-tempo, precise all those technical terms. But the interesting thing and what really sets it apart from last year’s offense is that the players are enjoying playing in it.
“Great fun, great fun. With the [defensive backs] getting tired,” Pittman said. “The offense is just fast-paced. We’re trying to snap the ball every time we line it up. The DBs they’re tired, they’re huffing and puffing. You get the ball and make a move and one miss and it could be a touchdown.”
More touchdowns typically lead to more wins, and after only four of those in 2013, the team hopes this offense leads to a whole lot of fun with more tallies in the win column in 2014.