The fast and the curious


Florida head coach Urban Meyer gives instructions to quarterback Tim Tebow.

Rob C. Witzel /Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 3:23 p.m.

In the middle of the fourth quarter of an offensive shootout against Northwestern in 2001, Urban Meyer's exasperated defensive coordinator looked over at him and simply shook his head.

He had no answer for what Northwestern was throwing at his Bowling Green defense.

"Both teams had probably 650 yards of offense," said Meyer, who was in his first year as a head coach at the time. "My coordinator said, 'We can't stop them because of the tempo of the game.' I've never had a defense feel completely paralyzed like that."

Bowling Green managed to outscore Northwestern 43-42. It is a game that stuck in Meyer's mind because of what Northwestern was doing on offense that day. The Wildcats were in a fast-break attack that overwhelmed a Bowling Green defense that was hopelessly scrambling to get lined up correctly.

The Northwestern offensive coordinator was Kevin Wilson, the same Kevin Wilson whose 2008 up-tempo Oklahoma offense was considered one of the greatest (and most productive) in the history of college football.

Meyer's Florida defense managed to slow it down in the BCS Championship Game win, limiting the Sooners to 14 points, but the Gators had weeks to prepare.

The scoring potential (and the defensive nightmare) created by Wilson's fast-break offense has so intrigued Meyer that the Gators are going to experiment with a similar hurry-up offense this spring.

This plan has been in the works for more than a year, Meyer said.

"We've been intrigued by the no-huddle and up-tempo," he said. "We actually went to Missouri (which runs the hurry-up) for the first week of spring ball last year. We sent (offensive coordinator) Dan Mullen to study the mechanics of it."

Mullen is gone, but new offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and new quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler are prepared to add the fast-break to UF's offensive repertoire this spring. If the experiment goes well, the Gators will be hopping on to what could be the wave of the future in college football.

"The thing is, the tempo of the game is a pain in the butt (for opposing defenses)," Meyer said. "If you have only two or three days to prepare for it, it's almost impossible to stop. Now that we have the opportunity (this spring), we're going to take a look at it."

Not only does a fast-break offense keep defenses off balance and often times out of position, it creates more offensive plays, and therefore more opportunities.

Meyer has complained in the past that the new clock rules have shortened games and seriously cut into the number of offensive plays.

OU's fast-break approach eliminated that problem in 2008. The Sooners averaged more than 80 plays a game last season. In two games, OU ran more than 90 plays (the Sooners had a whopping 97 against Kansas).

If the Gators can master the up-tempo style in the spring, it could give Tim Tebow and the UF playmakers considerably more opportunities to make things happen in 2009. Florida scored 43.6 points a game last season despite averaging only 62 plays a game. If the Gators can pick up 18 to 20 more plays a game, it could lead to a considerable spike in total yards and points.

The fast-break offense is one of several important story lines to follow this spring.

Two others are at offensive tackle, where both starters must be replaced, and at defensive tackle, where the numbers are low with the recent departures of Torrey Davis and John Brown.

The Gators are pretty much set in every other area. There are 11 starters returning on defense and eight on offense.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 374-5022 or at andreur@gvillesun.com.

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