Will UF's offense provide New Year's Day surprise?
Published: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 7:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 7:43 p.m.
TAMPA - For almost a month now, Urban Meyer and the Florida offensive coaches have been analyzing and strategizing and trying to come up with some way to awaken the Gators' slumbering offense.
They've come up with a plan for Saturday's Outback Bowl. They just aren't ready to reveal it yet.
"That's to be determined," Meyer said Tuesday.
All Meyer would say about the offense is that all three quarterbacks - John Brantley, Trey Burton and Jordan Reed - will have a chance to run the show against Penn State.
"They're all three healthy now," Meyer said. "Jordan Reed is 100 percent and ready to go. He had a great practice yesterday. We'll have all three available. Decisions will be made (in the next two days of practice). All three will play."
Alternating the three quarterbacks is a strategy the Gators have deployed since the Georgia game, when the offensive coaches used the bye week to come up with a plan to rotate the three QBs in a new no-huddle, hurry-up attack designed to keep the tiring Bulldogs guessing and scrambling to get lined up for each play.
The strategy worked big time in the Gators' overtime win in Jacksonville. Results were mixed over the final four games of the regular season.
The offense rolled up and down the field against outmanned Vanderbilt and Appalachian State. But it hit a wall and blew up against the physical defenses of South Carolina and Florida State.
By the end of the season, the Gators didn't seem to know what they wanted to be on offense.
Did they want to throw the ball with Brantley? Run the option with Burton? Do a little of both with Reed, who was a tight end the first half of the season?
Did they want to hurry up, slow down, huddle, not huddle?
Play three quarterbacks, or settle on one?
By process of elimination, it appeared the Gators were close to coming up with some answers in the second half of the 31-7 loss to the Seminoles. Brantley had been ineffective and thrown a critical interception in the closing minutes of the first half. Burton had struggled to get anything out of the option game in the first half.
The Gators started Reed at quarterback in the third quarter, he moved the offense, and it appeared he was close to possibly taking over the offense for the remainder of the game. But just when it looked like UF knew what it wanted to do, Reed left the game in the third quarter with a concussion.
It kind of put the Gators back to square one when they began early preparation for the Outback Bowl back in Gainesville.
In a teleconference the day after UF received the Outback bid, Meyer said the coaching staff would have time to re-evaluate the offense and make changes that would give the Gators the best chance to win the game.
If there have been changes, the Gators aren't ready to reveal them.
UF fans who are expecting a noticeable difference might end up being disappointed Saturday.
Based on interviews with several offensive players, the offense will pretty much stay the same that it was over the final five games of the season. The three quarterbacks will be sharing time and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio will be calling the plays.
"We're still working Jordan Reed and Trey Burton in there (at quarterback)," Brantley said. "I think that's what we're going to stick with. Who knows what the defense is going to give us. We're going to stick with that and keep practicing and keep trying to execute it."
One potential change might be going back to the no-huddle, fast-break approach that the Gators seemed to abandon in the losses to South Carolina and FSU.
"(The offense) is basically the same," junior tailback Jeff Demps said. "We haven't changed anything up. We're going to go out there with our normal offense, our fast-pace and no-huddle."
The only offensive player who said there will be some new things in the offense quickly retracted his statement.
"We've got some new things," offensive guard Jon Halapio said.
But when he was asked what would be different, Halapio said, "Nothing is different. We're just practicing hard, running the ball, ball security and execution. Everything is the same."
We'll have to wait until Saturday to find out.