Florida's dynamic offense

Florida offensive lineman James Wilson blocks as running back Trey Burton runs for a 75-yard touchdown off the wildcat package against the Tennessee during the second half at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 2:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 2:43 p.m.

Under Urban Meyer, the Gators ran a spread option offense.

Under Charlie Weis, it was a basic pro-style attack with a drop-back quarterback.

Under Brent Pease, well, it’s something a little different. Maybe even a combination of the two, in some sense.

Call it the pro-style/spread.

This is what a running quarterback can add to a pro-style, downhill offense. Not necessarily the option, but more options.

That’s what the Gators revealed Saturday night in Knoxville. With Jeff Driskel at quarterback (and Trey Burton lining up in the wildcat formation at times), Florida occasionally spread the field and ran some of those running plays that seemed right out of the Meyer playbook — Driskel in the shotgun, reading the defense, and either handing off to the tailback or keeping the ball and darting around end. Or Burton doing it. Or Solomon Patton coming in motion and taking a handoff on a speed sweep.

The pro-style spread combination stressed the UT defense until it finally broke in the second half in the Gators’ 37-20 win.

“A one-back set is a two-back set now. A two-back set is a three-back set,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “You create a lot of issues for a defense when a guy has legs at the quarterback position and all of the zone-read opportunities and the different things that you’re doing in the misdirection off the run game, which is very difficult (to defend).

“You’re dealing with a guy like Solomon Patton or Andre Debose coming on a speed sweep, and you’ve got to handle the edges and you’ve also got to be able to handle the inside running game with Mike Gillislee. Then you’ve got the issue of the quarterback pulling the ball.”

All these options on top of what the Gators are capable of doing in the passing game when they are in their pro-style mode.

“You simplify things in the passing game because from that standpoint, as a defensive coordinator, you’ve got to make sure all areas are covered as far as the edges are concerned,” Muschamp said. “Mostly, you’re getting a lot of middle-field coverage, but now you single things outside for our receivers.

“All that simplifies things defensively.”

Not only did the varied UF attack knock the Vols off balance, it produced some huge plays, including a game-changing 80-yard touchdown run by Burton out of the wildcat formation late in the third quarter and a 75-yard TD pass from Driskel to Frankie Hammond Jr. in the fourth quarter.

It all starts with what Muschamp calls “a quarterback with legs.”

Legs that can run. Driskel has shown that he has them.

“We have some spread plays, some pro-style. It’s a sprinkle of both,” Hammond said. “But the fact that (Driskel) can get outside the pocket and make moves with his feet definitely makes it easier to get bigger plays down the field.”

Last season under Weis, the Gators did not have a running/passing threat at quarterback. John Brantley could throw it; Burton could run it out of the wildcat. But neither showed the ability to do both.

Now, the Gators have Driskel, who can, and Burton, who lines up in so many different positions that defenses have no idea he’s going to go under center until he does.

“You add one more dimension where you can get outside, you can get inside (with a running quarterback),” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “Now they’ve got to account for another runner with the ball rather than just the tailback back there.

“We have two-way options with what he can do with (the spread plays).”

Coming out of high school Driskel committed to Meyer to play in the spread at Florida. When Meyer resigned, Driskel signed with the Gators to play in a pro-style offense.

Now, he’s playing in a little bit of both.

“That’s definitely a big part of my game, being able to run the ball,” Driskel said. “When we’re in the spread, it really spreads out the defense and there are minimal people in the box, so if they’re willing to spread them out like that and the (receivers) are all covered and they’re man-to-man, they can’t hang one for me, so I can make a big play.”

Driskel made plays with his arm and his feet in Knoxville.

Burton ran for two touchdowns lining up at quarterback in the wildcat formation.

“Wherever we’ve been, we always had that little (wildcat) package,” Pease said. “Having Trey, especially when he hit an 80-yarder like that, it forces the defense to play a different hand, make different calls.

“But, you know, there are ways of defending it, but you’ve got to have some answers to it and somewhere along the line they’ll probably have some things that we’re not prepared for that they can defend with.

“So we’ve just got to have our checks and balances back on it.”

It all goes back to having a quarterback with legs. It gives the UF offense more options, opposing defenses more to prepare for.

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

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