On the offensive — what makes the Gators go?


Tim Tebow tosses the ball to Percy Harvin for the first touchdown run during the first quarter of Florida's win against Georgia at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on Nov. 1, 2008.

Brian W. Kratzer/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at 5:43 p.m.

FORT LAUDERDALE Ask the Florida coaches and players what makes the Gators' offense go, and you'll get a variety of opinions and theories.

Wide receiver Louis Murphy says it's the speed.

Offensive coordinator-in-waiting Steve Addazio says it's the toughness.

Outgoing offensive coordinator Dan Mullen points to the playmakers.

Offensive tackle Phil Trautwein credits the coaches and the scheme.

Urban Meyer says it's the big, physical, experienced offensive line.

Everyone agrees that a lot of it has to do with the quarterback, 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.

Actually, of course, it is all of the above. The Gators have a wide-ranging combination of components that gives their spread offense some unique qualities and makes it one of the most difficult attacks in the nation to defend.

"I think there are two things you see," Addazio said. "No. 1, we're a very physical, tough football team on the offensive unit. Not just up front. How do you evaluate that? You watch the receivers block on the perimeter. They are tough, vicious blockers out there. The running backs run with a low pad level, and we have a quarterback who gives us a power running attack. We're a tough, physical component out of the spread.

"Another thing we do very well is get the ball in the hands of our best football players. We make the defense defend the whole field, vertically and horizontally by putting the ball in the hands of these great players. The ability to do these things in the spread, with toughness, makes us kind of unique."

There are many different facets to Florida's version of the spread. The Gators can be a power-and-speed running team. They also are an option team and a drop-back passing team. The approach all depends on the situation.

The Gators have a lot of speed, a lot of weapons, and use both in many different ways. The result is a near-perfect balance between the pass and the run and 45.2 points and 442.4 yards a game this season.

"There is a lot of skill on the field," Mullen said. "You take a tough, physical offensive line full of leadership, a quarterback with tremendous ability and leadership skills, then you put five guys on the field (at the skill positions) with the ability to makes plays, and it gives you so much flexibility.

"A lot of teams out there try to feature one player or try to get one player the ball. We'll put five guys out there and whichever one gets it, we expect them to make a play. That's really what makes it go. We make teams defend the whole field, from sideline to sideline. That's the whole deal."

UF running backs coach Kenny Carter said one of the reasons the offense is so effective is because the system has been molded to fit the skills of the players.

"The system allows the playmakers to do their thing," Carter said. "It's player friendly. We have some multi-talented players, and where you put them is a big deal. We make you defend the whole field. That's the beauty of it."

Perhaps the most multi-talented player on the field is Tebow, the guy who triggers the offense and knows it so well now he's like a coach on the field, Murphy said.

"He always seems to make the right reads and gets us in the right plays," Murphy said.

Tebow's ability to distribute the ball to the playmakers and make plays himself with his legs and his arm puts great stress on the defense.

"When you have one of the most dominating players in college football at quarterback, you have to account for him and that creates opportunities for the other playmakers," wide receiver Percy Harvin said. "That's what makes our offense so dangerous."

The Gators were a very productive offense last year with Tebow, Harvin and the other wide receivers. It's a much more lethal attack now that the Gators have home-run hitters at tailback in speedsters Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.

"I think it completes (the puzzle)," Carter said. "That was the thing they didn't initially have here (in Meyer's first three seasons). When you add that in, it really takes things to another level."

Demps and Rainey became major players in the offense after the loss to Ole Miss. Since then, the Gators have been on a roll, averaging almost 50 points a game.

It's not just the speed, Trautwein said. It's also the coaching.

"After the Ole Miss loss, our coaches have out-schemed the other teams," Trautwein said. "They've put us in a position to have success."

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