Rotating quarterback system adds wrinkle to Florida offense


Freshman Trey Burton thrived in the new up-tempo Florida offense, rushing for 110 yards and two scores in the Georgia game.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 10:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 10:42 p.m.

Three plays into the Georgia game and Florida's promised offensive changes were revealed.

But you had to look quickly to find it.

As soon as the Gators lined up, starting quarterback John Brantley checked in at the slot, while backup Trey Burton assumed the shotgun position. Seeing both quarterbacks on the field at the same time was nothing new, until Burton made the check. As soon as he saw the defense was showing a more run-focused defense, he switched with Brantley.

Mind, blown.

Georgia's defense flinched before Brantley grabbed the shotgun snap and threw over the middle to wide receiver Carl Moore. That pass fell out of Moore's hands and Florida's drive eventually ended with a missed field goal attempt, but it was a glimpse of the new two-quarterback rotation that helped generate 450 yards of offense, including 231 yards rushing against Georgia.

“It's crazy, isn't it?” Burton said of Florida's tricky new formation. “It's awesome. It's one of the coolest things ever been done on offense.”

Constructed in the mind of offensive coordinator Steve Addazio during the bye week to boost an injury-riddled running game, Florida's new quarterback formation plays off the no-huddle, up-tempo offense that was originally known as Florida's “Banzai” offense. Ineffective in 2009, Florida began reworking it in practice with the help of wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni after watching film of Oregon's no-huddle in preparation for the Tennessee game. Azzanni worked in a similar system as receivers coach at Central Michigan.

There are a few factors that go into Florida's new wrinkle.

Multiple plays can be chosen at the line. Whichever quarterback is originally lined up behind center scans the defense and makes the check at the line. If the defense is in man alignment and looks primed to defend the run, Brantley will either stay at quarterback or switch from his slot position with Burton. If the defense is looking for the pass, Burton will play quarterback, where he will work the read option. He can keep it, hand it off or throw.

Burton had no problem keeping it, rushing 17 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns, including a crucial 51-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, but he also threw twice for 26 yards. He even caught five passes for 35 yards.

For Brantley, who passed for 193 yards, having Burton line up at quarterback helps the passing game. It “cleans” up the defense, opening up passing lines and leaving defenders uncertain on the run or pass — exactly where the Gators want them.

“That's what we're trying to do,” Brantley said, “cause a little confusion.”

The formation is also fueled by the no-huddle. Defenses must fight fatigue, tougher substitutions and make faster reads. It's easy to get confused when you're calling a play and then wondering if you have to change depending on the quarterback who takes a snap that comes faster than expected.

“It's hard for defenses to get lined up, especially with our new up-tempo offense,” senior center Mike Pouncey said.

“That's the best thing about the up-tempo offense, you keep pushing at it, you keep pushing at it and eventually they'll break.”

After weeks of perfecting it in practice, Florida unleashed the no-huddle and its two-quarterback experiment against the guinea pigs from Georgia. With Florida using its new gimmick repeatedly in the first half, Georgia's defense eventually did break, surrendering 21 points and 247 yards.

To make things even trickier, Florida added a third quarterback to the rotation in tight end Jordan Reed. A quarterback in high school, Reed could be Florida's new bruiser in the backfield. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Reed was brought in during the second quarter, rushing on consecutive plays for 7 and 12 yards, respectively.

Monday, coach Urban Meyer said Reed will become a bigger part of Florida's offense, starting with Saturday's game at Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-4 SEC). And Meyer didn't just mean running the ball.

“He can throw,” Meyer said of Reed. “It's in. It's done. He'll throw the ball (Saturday), so make sure they defend it.”

Changing quarterbacks confuses defenses and hurrying tires them. Meyer said the more his new toy is run and executed, the better the offense will click, leaving defenses gassed and confused.

“That could be lethal,” he said.

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