Gators go large and in charge

Jumbo formation wears down foes


Florida's Mike Gillislee (23) celebrates after scoring the Gators’ first touchdown of the game during the second half against LSU at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday. The Gators won 14-6 over the Tigers.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 4:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 4:23 p.m.

Back in the days of Herschel, Bo and Emmitt, having a tailback line up in the I-formation and rush for 140 yards against an elite SEC defense was doable. It was done quite often, as a matter of fact.

But it’s a different league and a different game now.

To do what Florida tailback Mike Gillislee did against LSU last Saturday — rush for 146 yards and two touchdowns against one of the nation’s elite defenses — takes, well, some creativity.

“It’s very difficult in our league to run in conventional sets and consistently — I’m not saying you can’t do it — but consistently, against good people, run the ball,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “It’s really, really hard against good people.

“You’ve got to find creative ways to do it. Again, that’s a credit to (offensive coordinator) Brent (Pease) and (running backs coach) Brian (White) and (offensive line coach) Tim (Davis) and our entire offensive staff of finding different and creative ways to run the ball and still maintain your core beliefs offensively.”

The Tigers, who usually are stout against the run, were worn down by the Gators’ ground game in UF’s 14-6 victory.

The Gators attacked the LSU front with a variety of different looks and schemes. The one that seemed to be the most effective was the jumbo set, where UF had seven offensive linemen in the game in an unbalanced look.

Both of Gillislee’s 12-yard touchdown runs came out of the jumbo formation. In the formation, the Gators line up with two tight ends. But those tight ends were offensive linemen — tackle D.J. Humphries and guard Ian Silberman.

The jumbo formation caved in the LSU defense. Gillislee was untouched on both scores.

“Some of the (defensive) ends are used to having tight ends on them and all of a sudden you have D.J. Humphries or Ian Silberman — you’ve got a guy that’s 300 pounds,” Pease said. “When you look at that one time, there’s seven guys there that are probably 300-plus.

“What’s your math on that. Seven times 300 is what, 2,100 pounds coming at you. I don’t know that I would want that falling on me.”

Pease said Davis, the offensive line coach, is the idea man behind the jumbo formation (the coaches have a specific name for it, but Pease would not reveal it).

“A lot of that is Coach Davis,” Pease said. “He just likes getting big guys out there, you know. You know what they say, “Mass kicks ass.’ So, that’s our theory.”

It’s more than just a theory. The Gators’ mass kicked LSU’s butt in the second half of Saturday’s game, and played a huge role in UF’s ability to wear out the LSU defense.

The jumbo formation had to be something the Tigers were expecting, because the Gators had run it in previous games and it was on tape. LSU knew it was coming at some point, but could not handle it.

Perhaps one reason is the Gators have gone with the formation in a variety of different situations, so there was no tendency to give the Tigers an idea when they’d be encountering the 2,100-pound offensive wall.

“Defensive coordinators have got calls to down and distance,” Pease said. “Some have personnel packages. We’ve shown that we’re willing to use it in a lot of different areas at a lot of different times.

“We’ve just got to make sure we’re flexible enough with what we’re doing with it that we have some balance.”

With UF’s jumbo formation getting lots of play on national television in one of the biggest games of the college football season, Pease and the offensive coaches know that opposing defensive staffs are going to be scheming to find ways to defend it.

“They’ll understand things (about it). That’s why you’ve got to be creative,” Pease said. “You’ve got to have the ability to have change. Just the creativity of it all and being so off-balance with things.”

But, of course, drawing up creative schemes and formations like the jumbo package is only part of it. The big guys also have to block — something they seem to be becoming more efficient at with each game.

“The first thing is getting a hat on a hat in the run game,” Muschamp said. “It’s difficult, especially against teams that move around a lot and do a good job up front. I think the second thing was finishing blocks.

“That’s something that we really put an emphasis on as we continue to move forward against some of the people we’re going to play against. You’ve got to finish blocks. Most of the teams we play from here on out, they don’t stay blocked long.

“You’ve got to finish people, and that’s something that jumped out at me on the (LSU) tape.”

As the Gators showed Saturday, to be successful on the ground in the SEC, an offense has to be physical — and creative.

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

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