UF to open playbook for Mornhinweg


Florida Gators quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg (17) audibles at the line against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina Saturday, November 16, 2013.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 4:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 4:07 p.m.

With the No. 3 quarterback, a redshirt freshman, making his first career start behind a patchwork offensive line, the Florida offense slipped into an ultra-conservative mode at South Carolina last Saturday night. And the low-risk investment nearly yielded a big payoff.

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Florida Gators quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg (17) audibles at the line against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina Saturday, November 16, 2013.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun

Skyler Mornhinweg managed the game well, the Gators put together two nice touchdown drives (and Kelvin Taylor had two nice TD runs) and Florida had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, only to fall just short.

It's a performance Mornhinweg and the offense can build on, offensive coordinator Brent Pease said Tuesday.

And growing may be a lot easier now that the most imposing and disruptive defensive player in college football is no longer lining up across the line of scrimmage from Mornhinweg.

Pease said the reason the offense took the conservative route in the 19-14 loss had more to do with All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney than the fact the inexperienced Mornhinweg was not only making his first start, but also seeing his first collegiate playing time.

Now that Clowney is in Mornhinweg's rearview mirror (instead of in his grill), it's time to expose more of the playbook to the rookie quarterback, Pease said.

“I know (not opening up the offense) was probably one of the big things from last week,” Pease said. “Understand that last week was really based around No. 7 (Clowney) on their team, too. That guy's the best player in the nation. He can change the game, cause a fumble, pick the ball up and run.

“Going in, our plan was really designed to make sure that we were going to do things where he couldn't change the momentum of the game. We need to expect more of Skyler now. I think he can handle it. I've got confidence in him that he can. It's a little bit different situation. He has to be able to do that."

Mornhinweg said he's ready to take on as much of the playbook as the coaches can throw at him this week if he's called on to make his second start in place of injured starter Tyler Murphy, who remains day-to-day with a sprained shoulder.

“Coach Pease had a great game plan (for USC) and it worked,” Mornhinweg said. “I've just got to execute better at the end, and that's on me.

“We went in there with a great game plan and the offensive line did a heck of a job and the running backs did a great job running it. When it was my turn, I've just got to do a better job there at the end.

“I'm confident in my abilities and I'm confident in the coaches' game plan, so whatever they want to run, we'll execute it and we'll have a shot to win. I think I'm ready.”

UF coach Will Muschamp agrees.

“I think he can handle more (than what we gave him in the South Carolina game),” Muschamp said. “A lot of our plan was based on their front and Clowney and those guys (on the offensive line) being able to protect for his first start.

“When you move past that, he'll be able to do more.”

Although Mornhinweg did not have a chance to show what he can do in the passing game last Saturday (other than to throw a late interception), he did exhibit confidence and composure in managing the offense.

Pease said Mornhinweg's background has a lot to do with the uncommon calm and confidence he seems to have for a player so young. Mornhinweg's father, Marty, is the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets and a former NFL head coach (Detroit).

“Skyler has been around the game so he understands it, he understands ball and I think just the demeanor of being around professional athletes and knowing how to react to situations and stepping in a role, playing that position,” Pease said. “Just how you need to handle things in game time situations.

“There are things he needs to improve on too, some game management decisions. But he's probably got a little bit more of a comfort zone than a kid that hasn't grown up around it.”

Now, maybe it's time for Mornhinweg and the offense to start growing together. The performance against South Carolina seems like a good start.

“I believe so,” Pease said. “But we have to still believe that, hey, we haven't accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. We need to go out and still execute and perform, do what we need to do to win the game.”

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

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