Weis' offense gets SEC test

Florida's John Brantley controls the line during the first half against University of Alabama Birmingham on Sept. 10.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, September 16, 2011 at 6:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 16, 2011 at 6:07 p.m.

After spending six seasons in a college spread-option offense, the Florida Gators have gone pro. The early results have been encouraging.

“So far, so good,” UF offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said.

It has actually been a fairly smooth transition, especially considering the players have had to learn a whole new scheme, whole new terminology and a whole new offensive philosophy — and do it in only a matter of months.

“First of all, let's not slight all the good things that happened here offensively in the past (under Urban Meyer),” Weis said. “It wasn't like they had a bunch of garbage that they had done here. The last I checked, they won a couple of national championships.

“I just think that all these guys want an opportunity to play on Sunday. They see this offense as an offense that once you learn it … it's not that easy when you're first learning it, but once you learn it, it becomes pretty simple.”

The players know it so well now that they recognized everything the New England Patriots, Weis' former team, were running in their big victory over the Miami Dolphins on Monday night, a game in which Tom Brady threw for more than 500 yards.

“They sat there and watched the game (Monday night) and heard the same calls,” Weis said. “To sit there, the quarterbacks sitting there watching the game and listening to Tommy say the same things they're saying, they kind of like that.”

Florida wide receiver Deonte Thompson also liked (and recognized) what he saw Monday night — a 99-yard TD pass from Brady to Wes Welker in the fourth quarter.

“We've got that same play,” Thompson said.

Dating back to the spring, the offensive players have been pretty unanimous in expressing their delight at having the opportunity to learn and play in Weis' pro-style offense — from quarterback John Brantley, to the receivers and running backs, right on down to the big uglies on the line.

“I think (the players) just see a change is always when everyone gets a new chance to go ahead and make their mark,” Weis said. “I think this is what a lot of them are doing. For a lot of them, it's working.”

The offense has been an early success. The Gators, who struggled to make first downs in the first two games last season, have been going up and down the field, averaging almost 500 yards of total offense a game.

But it is early — and Weis has been around long enough to know that UF's impressive offensive numbers don't mean much as this stage. The offense's first real test will come today against SEC rival Tennessee.

“Stats sometimes are misleading,” he said. “We matched up against two teams (FAU and UAB) that we should have had good numbers against.

“When you start off with games like that, what you want to do is make sure you're very critical of the areas that would get you beat against a team that's on the same level or a little better than you. It's really important in those critical areas that you don't falter.”

Weis gave an example from last week's game against UAB.

“When the first guys were in, there were five third-down situations, and we ended up going three for five,” Weis said. “The two times they didn't convert were both (because of) communication errors, not really mental errors.

“That set up the potential for being five for five, but we ended up going three for five. In big games, those are the type of things that could be the difference between winning and losing.”

Today is one of those games. It should be a tough test for the Gators' new offense — and an opportunity to grow.

“They really play multiple fronts and multiple coverages. They don't just line up and play,” Weis said. “They'll throw a slew of different blitzes and coverages at you. They try to confuse you.

“We're going to have to be not only physically at the top of our game, but mentally at the top of our game or we'll have some problems.”

The same could be said of UF's new pro-style defense, which will be facing a quarterback (Tyler Bray) and a passing attack that have strong NFL traits. Bray threw for more than 400 yards last week against Cincinnati and may be the hottest passer in college football.

This will be the first real test for Dan Quinn's defense.

“This week's matchup is about affecting the quarterback with our whole defense,” Quinn said. “It might be a linebacker that's blitzing or a safety who's showing one coverage and playing something different to affect the QB.

“At the end of the day, you want to make it hard on the quarterback. Sometimes that's with a four-man rush where you can get hits on the guy and he can really feel it. Sometimes it's mental pressure where it's looking like pressure and then it's really coverage.

“Those are some of the games you play as a defensive coach when you're going against a talented offense like these guys.”

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

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