As the 2012 schedule was released, bringing a range of emotions from excitement to confusion for many Gators fans, it was business as usual for the team on Wednesday morning as they continued to prepare for the upcoming Gator Bowl against Ohio State.
Stepping into the role of interim offensive coordinator, Brian White was more eager to speak about the players’ performance than his own. For him, calling plays is not as big a deal as people make it out to be.
“What people don’t realize is a game plan is a really collaborative effort,” White said. “They are very structured, and your calls are very defined based on situation football and down and distance.”
The interim offensive coordinator has been called a genius by his players, but he hasn’t let the praise get to his head.
“Not to diminish the role of play caller, but it‘s not as difficult as one would seem,” he said. “Now there is a knack to making the right call at the right time, but for the most part he could have picked anyone else on our staff; they are very qualified to do it.”
Of course, the “he” White was referring to was coach Will Muschamp. Yesterday, Muschamp said the play-calling philosophy of White would be much the same as under Charlie Weis.
White took a similar stance, stating that much of the offense would be similar to the one fans had seen all season. While there may be a wrinkle or two given the amount of time since the team’s last game, there is a fine line between being creative and putting too much on the plate of the players.
“You have to be very judicious about it and smart, you don’t want to overload your team,” he said. “Understand that they can only handle so many new things; it would be no different than any other game for that matter. You always want to provide a couple wrinkles and different things they haven’t prepared for, but you can’t just recreate a new offense every week.”
Despite an otherwise quiet interview, White did crack a smile when asked if calling plays was similar to riding a bicycle.
“If they work, it’s like riding a bicycle, if it isn’t it is like learning how to ride a bicycle,” he quipped. “I enjoy it, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
One thing the team spoke about during the season was the importance of making a bowl game and having an opportunity to compete and win.
But more importantly, it is an opportunity to give the young players the chance to practice as team for another month. White feels that has been the most valuable part of the past week.
“I have seen a lot of progress with a lot of our young players, Chaz Green being one of those players,” he said. “Andre Debose being another one of those players. Hunter Joyer, invaluable time and reps for a player like Hunter; Mike Gillislee. So there are a lot of players that have improved dramatically, and hopefully they can put the performance on the field and really use it as a springboard for 2012.”
Jelani Jenkins also spoke about using the practice time to fix mistakes the defense had made this season. Despite being ranked ninth in total defense on the year, there were still many things Jenkins felt were being worked on well this week.
“We could have done a lot better in a lot of other games, but that’s why we have a couple more weeks of practice to work on fundamentals first,” Jenkins said. “We’ve just got to keep working on the fundamentals.”
As for the game plan heading into the matchup against Ohio State, Jenkins spoke about the need to stop the run first. Making quarterback Braxton Miller beat the team with his arm is one of the Gators’ keys to success.
“Basically the same game plan we go against any running team,” he said. “Make sure we stay in our gaps, make sure we tackle well, wrap up and just play football the way it is supposed to be played.”
One change for the team heading into the game will be Shariff Floyd shifting inside to replace the injured Dominique Easley. Floyd is someone Jenkins and the rest of the defense have total trust in.
“I really think Shariff was good where he was before, and I think he’s good where he is now,” Jenkins said. “That’s kind of the way he played in the spring. He was a dominant defensive lineman in both situations.”
Neither Jenkins nor fellow defender Omar Hunter had much to say about the 2012 schedule.
Hunter did admit he had never been to the state of Texas and would be excited to make the trip to play Texas A&M in the second weekend of the season.
However, the team is not looking that far ahead. Its attention is centered on this game, one that has the potential to build momentum moving forward.
“It’s like a building block for this offseason,” Hunter said. “We want to win this and start this offseason off the right way, and we consider this the offseason. Win this game and have strong workouts in the winter and get ready for the season.”
Gator Country writer Phillip Heilman will be covering the team leading up to the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2. You can follow him on Twitter at phillip_heilman.