Fans ready for Muschamp's debut


Gator fans pose for photos with an alligator statue outside the stadium during Fan Fest outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium before the Orange and Blue Spring Game on Saturday, April 9, 2011 in Gainesville Fl.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, April 8, 2011 at 11:50 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 8, 2011 at 11:50 a.m.

Football fans frustrated with the lockout - the one at Florida, not the one in the NFL - have at least found comfort in the consolation that they will be able to see what they wanted to see in the spring game.

Well, that might not exactly happen either.

Locked out of practice, Gator fans were hoping Saturday's spring game would finally be a chance to check out Charlie Weis' offense and Dan Quinn's defense — and Will Muschamp's first Florida team.




They will get a chance to see a little bit of all that Saturday, but maybe not as much as they were hoping for and expecting.

“It's not going to be real flashy,” Muschamp warned earlier this week.

With the Gators depleted by injuries, especially on the offensive line, the Orange and Blue Debut will be more like Sneak Peek Saturday.

Saturday's action on Floirda Field will be more like a scrimmage — at least in format — than a traditional spring game. The Gators don't have enough players to divide into two teams — and the coaching staff still apparently isn't ready to reveal too much about the offensive and defensive schemes to the fans (or teams on UF's schedule).

“I think more than anything, what we want to do is go out and have a very functional scrimmage,” Muschamp said. “We want to execute on both sides of the ball. We need to see guys playing in front of people. I think it's important to see how they respond.

“It's important for us to play fast, play physical, play with toughness. We're not looking to scheme anybody. Because of depth issues, it's tough to carry a lot. Some players can handle more than others.

“Let's get to a common ground about what we want to get out of the scrimmage. What I want to do is play physical, play with toughness, get in two backs and run the ball, stop the run defensively.”

To some extent, the much-anticipated debut of Weis' pro-style offense may have to wait until the Sept. 3 opener.

With the Gators down to only seven healthy offensive linemen and only one healthy tailback (Chris Rainey), the offense is expected to be limited in what it will show Saturday.

Here are some things we do know about the offense:

* Senior John Brantley has clearly been the No. 1 quarterback throughout the spring and appears much more comfortable and confident in an offense that better fits his skill set. “He's done very well,” Muschamp said. “He's managing our football team very well. He's got a lot on his plate. It's a quarterback system. We're very pleased with where he is at this point.”

* Rainey has had an outstanding spring and seems a natural fit lining up in the I-formation, with the quarterback under center.

* The Gators have a lot of play-action passes and screen passes in the playbook, aspects of the offense we should see in Saturday's game.

* Former quarterback Trey Burton is the Gators' most versatile offensive player and figures to be a major part of the offense in the fall. He's lining up at fullback, H-back and slot receiver. “He's a football player. He has natural instincts,” Muschamp said. “He does an awful lot of things and Charlie is putting him in position to make plays.”

* The most consistent wide receivers, according to Muschamp, have been Frankie Hammond Jr., Omarius Hines, Quinton Dunbar and Deonte Thompson. Jordan Reed has had a big spring at tight end. “Jordan has a really good spring, and he's a match-up issue,” Muschamp said.

* The injury situation on the offensive line has led to some shuffling and cross-training a number of players. Jonotthan Harrison was moved from guard to center, where he appears to be the No. 1 guy now. Ian Silberman has moved from tackle to guard. Redshirt freshman Chaz Green is training at both tackle positions. “At times, we've done some really nice things (on the offensive line). But there is some inconsistency because of the injuries up front. It's hard,” Muschamp said.

Defensively, the Gators might show a little more Saturday than the offense. Quinn will be basically running Muschamp's defense. Based Muschamp's track record, the Gators will play fast and aggressively and bring a lot of pressure with a variety of blitz packages.

Speaking at Muschamp's high school coaches' clinic last month, Weis said if felt like Muschamp and Quinn had thrown about a thousand blitzes at his offense this spring.

Like the offense, the defense also is dealing with injury and depth issues, especially along the line.

“We've got what we've got. We'll be fine,” Muschamp said. “The kids will work through it and we'll manage it. That's what we've got. We're going to do the best we can do with what we have, but we'll be fine.”

Despite the injuries and the concern about depth (which will carry over into the fall), Muschamp seems pleased with what the Gators have accomplished thus far.

“We've done some really nice things at all positions at times,” he said. “But the consistency is not what it needs to be. We've made a lot of improvement, but we still have tremendous strides to make.

“With the depth issue on both sides of the line of scrimmage and at running back, it can look poor at times. I would just say inconsistency is the frustrating thing. But there are bright spots at a lot of positions in what we're trying to do.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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