Playmakers showing up for UF
Published: Friday, April 4, 2014 at 2:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 4, 2014 at 9:39 p.m.
What has seemed like an endless search may now finally be drawing to a close.
Could it be? Is it possible?
Have the Florida Gators finally found some playmakers on offense to go along with all the ones they’ve had on defense in Will Muschamp’s three seasons in Gainesville?
Muschamp thinks so. And there have been some positive signs (and moves) on the practice field this spring to back him up.
“Absolutely,” Muschamp said Friday. “Just from a standpoint of the receivers. They may had their best day Wednesday. Latroy Pittman made a big catch in one minute. Really made a nice play there. Chris Thompson made two really nice plays on deep balls. Demarcus Robinson made a nice play on a deep ball. Valdez Showers made a nice play on a seven cut down there in an overtime situation.
“I think a lot of those guys have stepped up and really have come on. Ahmad Fulwood continues to come on. I feel much more comfortable (with the number of playmakers), and then you get Andre (Debose) back. There are some things we'll do with him when he gets back as far as some speed sweep things that we've done in the past that I think can create some misdirection for our offense."
The wide receivers and the quarterbacks, especially starter Jeff Driskel, have consistently produced a downfield passing game this spring, something that has been missing in the offense the past three seasons.
Even UF’s tight ends — Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook — have made catches down the field and appear more involved in the passing game.
Another encouraging sign has been what’s going on at tailback, where the top four players — Kelvin Taylor, Mack Brown, Mark Herndon and Adam Lane — have all flashed playmaking ability. The former starting fullback in the traditional two-back set the Gators had been in also has become involved. Hunter Joyer has been productive as a runner and receiver.
“We've been very pleased with that position,” Muschamp said. “The running back in this offense is a little different than what we’ve been doing previously. I’ve been very pleased with Kelvin and Mack and Mark and how those guys have picked it up. Hunter plays back there some, and Adam Lane keeps coming on.
“Adam’s done a nice job. Adam’s a hard guy to tackle. He’s got a low center of gravity. He can really push the pile in some situations. So, we feel good there.”
Taylor said new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s spread, uptempo offense is putting the skill players in a position to make plays.
"I like it,” Taylor said. “It's a great offense. We get to play a little bit more in space. It's fast. It's very explosive.
“We are going to have a good offense this year. We are going to be very explosive and just have a great time doing it."
The tailback position could become more potent in the fall with the return of former starter Matt Jones (out with an injured knee) and the addition of true freshman Brandon Powell (out with a foot injury).
The play at tailback has been so encouraging this spring that Jones will see some time at the B position (combination H-back/running back) during preseason camp in August.
“He will learn the B, because we think one of our best personnel groupings will be three wides and two backs,” Muschamp said. “So he will learn both the A and B positions as far as the running back slot and the B position.
“That was something we told him before spring, that we felt like that fit well. Matt's got great hands. He's a guy that can do some of those things. Our primary run will be an inside zone team, and he runs the inside zone extremely well. Matt is extremely bright, so he will be able to play both positions.”
Overall, of course, making plays in the spring doesn’t necessarily translate to making them in the fall, when the competition counts. So, the Gators won’t know where the search really is at until September and October.
But they do seem to have more options than in the past few seasons.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.