How will the pieces fit?


Now that Urban Meyer is gone, the Florida Gators are going to dismantle their spread-option attack and construct a more traditional pro-style offense this spring under new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. That will mean wholesale changes, and lots of questions about how some of UF’s best offensive players are going to fit into the new scheme.

Here’s a look at some of those players, and how they might be utilized by Weis:

Chris Rainey — Does he play tailback, wide receiver — or both? He’s probably not big enough to be an every-down back in a pro-style offense, but at the same time, he’s one of the Gators’ most gifted and elusive runners. He also has the ability to be a productive slot wide receiver. He has a skill set similar to a player who thrived in Weis’ offense this past season at Kansas City — former Ole Miss running back/wide receiver Dexter McCluster. Weis took advantage of the rookie’s versatility and had him effectively playing the role of runner/receiver in the Chiefs offense. Weis likely will have a similar plan for Rainey.

Jeff Demps — Like Rainey, Demps doesn’t fit the physical mold of an every-down back in a pro-style offense, but Weis had a running back at Kansas City with similar size and speed in Jamaal Charles, and Charles had a huge season in Weis’ offense sharing time with Thomas Jones at tailback. The speedy Charles, who is 5-foot-11 and a shade under 200 pounds (Demps is in the 190-pound range), rushed for 1,467 yards this season, averaging 91.7 yards a game. So, who knows, maybe Demps can be an every-down tailback in Weis’ UF offense. Even if he’s not, he’s going to get enough carries to make a lot of things happen with his speed — just like Charles did this past season.

John Brantley — I’m assuming he’s going to stay for his senior season after meeting with Weis. Really, where else would he go? Weis has a reputation for developing quarterbacks — and for fixing one that’s broken, which is what K.C.’s Matt Cassel was when Weis first got him this past summer. In 2009, Cassel had an awful season. He had the same number of interceptions (16) as touchdowns, and a dismal quarterback rating of 69.9. With Weis’ coaching him this past season, Cassel regained his confidence and rejuvenated his career, throwing for 3,116 yards and 27 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions. He had a quarterback rating of 93.0. Brantley is a very coachable guy, and under Weis he will have a chance to thrive in an offense that is more suited for his skill set. Given that, would it make any sense for Brantley to go somewhere else for his final season?

Jordan Reed — In the second half of the season, Reed became one of UF’s best offensive players when he made the move from tight end back to quarterback in the spread. But he does not fit the description of a pro-style quarterback, even though he does have a big arm. Chances are good that Reed will go back to tight end in Weis’ offense. If he does, he’ll have the chance to have a big season. At Kansas City this season, tight end Tony Moeaki was the Chiefs’ second-leading receiver with 47 catches for 556 yards and three touchdowns. So, the tight end is an important part of the passing game in a Weis offense. Reed has the speed, size and athletic ability to put up impressive numbers at tight end.

Deonte Thompson — Weis likely will be shocked when he finds out that UF’s go-to wide receiver last season, Thompson, caught only 23 passes for 363 yards and only one touchdown. If Thompson can establish himself as the go-to guy in Weis’ offense this spring, he’ll have a chance to be an All-SEC player in 2011. In Weis’ K.C. offense this past season, former LSU wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was the go-to guy and he had a great season, catching 72 passes for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns. Before Thompson gets the chance to be the guy in the new offense, he’s going to have to show Weis he has more reliable hands than he did under the old coaching staff. If he does, he could have a breakout season.