UF's home run threats
Published: Monday, October 20, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 1:00 a.m.
When someone wants to talk about his offense, Florida coach Urban Meyer is quick to point out that there is no offense. It varies from year to year, from season to season, and it is based on personnel, and not a set scheme.
"We don't fit personnel to scheme," Meyer said Monday. "We fit scheme to personnel."
In Meyer's three-plus seasons at Florida, the offense has been noticeably different each year.
This season's offense is unique for one main reason: the Gators have the home-run threat at tailback.
Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey have given the offense a feature that was missing in Meyer's first three seasons, the speed and ability at tailback to turn a standard running play into a long, game-changing touchdown.
Demps and Rainey both did it in the win over Arkansas three weeks ago.
Demps did it again two weeks ago in the win over LSU.
It's probably no coincidence the UF offense has taken off since Demps and Rainey became more involved starting with the Arkansas game.
Their presence has changed the offense.
"I think it changes the whole thing," Meyer said. "We did a little study in the bye week about our scoring drives. Every time we have a big play of over 15 yards we've scored, except twice. Having the ability to get the big play in the middle of a drive is phenomenal. Your percentage of scoring goes way up.
"Those two guys are special players."
Over the past two games, Demps and Rainey have combined to rush for 401 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 10.5 yards a carry. Demps' four touchdown runs have been for an average of 47 yards. He had a 42-yard TD run against LSU. The week before, he had TD bursts of 30 and 48 yards against Arkansas. Rainey had a 75-yard touchdown run against the Razorbacks.
For the season, Demps is averaging 13.3 yards a carry, while Rainey is gaining 6.8 yards per rush.
The two have brought a new dynamic to the offense.
"They give you the opportunity to have some short three- and four-yard runs that in the future you're going to get that 50-yard breakout run," quarterback Tim Tebow said. "You can keep calling it and going to the inside zone plays because there's an opportunity for big plays now."
Despite their lack of size (Demps is 5-foot-8, 176 pounds; Rainey is 5-9, 178), both broke long scoring runs between the tackles against Arkansas. In the LSU game, Demps' 42-yard TD came after taking the pitch on the option play. So, Demps and Rainey are a threat inside and out.
It's a big-play dimension that had been missing at tailback in Meyer's first three seasons.
"We're trying to get them to the edge with their speed," Tebow said. "We're trying to get them in space and maybe get them one-on-one with a safety, a few more plays out wide because they're so fast and athletic. It probably has opened up some things as far as trying to stretch the field horizontally."
Meyer said the speed of Rainey and Demps has brought another dimension to the option.
"I would say it opens it up," Meyer said. "When they catch the ball ... you better make sure you account for the pitch.
"When you think about explosive plays and yards per carry from the last two games, it's about as good as it gets. It's because guys are taking short ones and going the distance."
It's pretty much been a two-game thing, but Tebow said Demps and Rainey have been hitting home runs dating all the way back to two-a-days in August.
"You could tell in some of our scrimmages," Tebow said. "They just made people miss when they really shouldn't and they'd take it to the end zone. You could see how special those guys are.
"They've shown they can handle the pressure really well. Even starting in two-a-days, they turned nothing into some pretty big plays. It's the main reason those guys are so special."
And the main reason this Meyer offense is different than his previous three at UF.
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