3/28: Gators experience offensive shake-ups

By Adam Silverstein
March 29, 2011

With the Florida Gators 2011 spring practice now in full swing, the school made a number of the team’s players available to the media as the third week of action began on Monday. There was a noticeable excitement in the air about the possibilities in Florida’s new offense under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, as evidenced by some of the notable news and quotes provided during the press sessions.

A NEW MAN IN THE MIDDLE

Known as one of the team’s most versatile lineman, redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison has a chance to prove that moniker is true after learning that he has been moved to center and will compete for the starting job with redshirt junior Sam Robey. “[I’m] playing center this year,” he said on Monday. “It’s going real good. It’s a big change from left guard, but I’m enjoying it so far and I’m just going to work at it all spring.”

Harrison, who has not manned the middle since his freshman year of high school, said coaches did not give him any specific reasoning for the move, noting that it was “for the betterment of the team” and that he was “shocked but…excited at the same time.”

With the ball now in his hands, Harrison understands that he has to shoulder additional responsibility from this point forward. “I have to learn the calls. Especially with this new offense and everything, I’m just adjusting to all these calls,” he said. “The center is actually required to make the IDs now and everything, so I’m getting used to that.”

[EXPAND Click to expand and read the rest of this post.]OFFENSIVE LINE STILL ADJUSTING

As with any unit that loses the majority of its starters to graduation and the NFL Draft, Florida’s offensive line is still trying to find its identity. Harrison thinks the unit will come together rather quickly. “Offense as a whole, we’re looking real good. We’re going to be amazing,” he said. “I feel like this is just all going to mesh together as soon as we’re used to playing with each other and everything, especially with the young O-line. […] We’re young, but we worked together as the second string, a lot of us. So now we’re just bringing all that together on the first string,” he said.

Redshirt sophomore right guard Jon Halapio said that the schemes the offensive linemen are being taught are completely different from a year ago, something that is taking some getting used to. “Everything from point A to point B – blocking and everything – everything is different from last year,” he said. “Our offensive line coach [Frank Verducci] is not only teaching us techniques, now we’re learning the whole entire football play. We got to know what the quarterback is thinking, running back is thinking, wide receiver is thinking. We’re not just thinking about ourselves and our blocking schemes; we’ve got to know what everyone else is doing on the field.”

RAVING FOR RAINEY

No matter who you ask about the Gators’ offense these days, you will hear one thing for certain: redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey is having an awesome spring. Head coach Will Muschamp has said so on numerous occasions, and the guys blocking for him are coming to the same conclusion.

“Our offense really fits [Rainey] because he’s got so much speed,” redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green said. “We got some things that can put him in some one-on-one match-ups, get him in some space. It will be good, with his speed, to use his athletic ability.”

Harrison and Halapio both agreed. “Chris Rainey’s doing real well in this offense,” the former said. “He’s so fast. He’s done real good from last year. His cuts are more sweet. His routes are precise. He’s just a good football player right now,” the latter added.

LEADERS EMERGING

With any change in regime and departure of a number of seniors comes a leadership void. Halapio noted how different the team is now “because we don’t have [Tim] Tebow, [Brandon] Spikes and the Pounceys.” He went out of his way to point out a few guys who are doing their best to lead the way. Offensively, Halapio said himself, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley and junior tackle Xavier Nixon are leading the way, while sophomores buck linebacker Ronald Powell and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd are carrying the load on defense.

SECONDARY COMING TOGETHER

Both of Florida’s starting safeties departed in 2010, leaving sophomore Matt Elam as the most experienced valve in the defensive backfield. As part of his new responsibilities, he is slowly learning how to step up and be someone his teammates can count on. “There’s a lot of things I need to work on just being a leader. I’m not used to being vocal and everything like that,” he said. “I might have to take on that role and start doing that, being more vocal and being more of a leader, because I’m not used to that.”

Elam also said that he feels comfortable with the new staff and is happy that Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are allowing him to blitz. “I love Muschamp. He’s a cool man. I’m learning a lot from him. I’m loving the coaching right now,” he said.

Redshirt senior cornerback Moses Jenkins, who OGGOA has been keeping tabs on since the website began, spoke about getting a new lease on his college career with a sixth year of eligibility. “I worked hard, came out the first game and injured myself,” he said of hurting his elbow in 2010 after missing most of 2009 due to a head injury. “It was kind of tough, but it’s football. Injuries happen and you’ve got to move forward.”[/EXPAND]

27 Comments

  1. npgator says:

    It sounds like the team is getting jacked up about the new regime and new schemes.

  2. Swampbabe says:

    Oh god… an inexperienced center. I’ve seen that movie… it didn’t end well. (joke) Seriously, very excited for this new regime change. Counting the days til the Orange and Blue game when I can smell the excitement for myself at my beloved Swamp!IGTBAFG!

    • Alex says:

      and it’s important to remember that Mike got his snapping down pretty well after the first three or so games. Add to that the fact that we’ll be under center for the majority of snaps now, and we should be ok. I’m sure we’ll see a few fumbles early in the season, though – bound to happen when a shotgun team moves under center.

  3. Ken (CA) says:

    Sounds like the new coaching staff has as much confidence in Robey as the previous staff did…little to none…

    • SC Gator says:

      Considering that Robey got no time at center even with the snap issues it seems likely.

      • Swift_Tech says:

        Agreed, this is coming up on his fourth year on campus, he should be head and shoulders above the rest

  4. cline says:

    The FSN show “changing of the guard” was a good insight into the program. It was the most detailed explanation I have heard as to why Urban resigned both the first and second time. Coach Mushchamp can really get you fired up. I am ready for summer to get going. Go Gators!

    • Really? I felt exactly the opposite way.

      • cline says:

        I wouldn’t mind talking to you about it offline if you think my comments or interpretations of what I got from the show would me misconstrued or not appropriate to post if incorrect?

      • C3 says:

        lol, exact opposite that it wasn’t good insight (probably agree), of Urban’s explanation (agree with you), or that Muschamp doesn’t get you fired up (disagree), or all of the above?

        • cline says:

          I thought it was, but maybe I am off base.

          I thought his explanation was after his SECCG episode which hospitalized him his first retirement was a family knee jerk reaction to the health issue. Upon further thought and “the practice” he realized what was riding on him coming back/stay retired. The jobs of the majority of his staff which got them to 22 wins straight. (The family man in him speaking, which he also expressed when he gave his priorities during the interview) Ultimately, most of his staff left for other positions at the end of 2010 or was not retained when Mushchamp was hired. I also thought he said that Foley knew that he was only coming back for 1 more year so that the coaches and staff could have time to make alternate plans instead of one day having a job and not the next.

          At the end of the interview I felt satisfied, so maybe it was just good enough for me.

          • OK, I get a better understanding of what you’re talking about now. Here’s why I thought otherwise (based on your comment). I felt the knee-jerk reaction thing was known, and the coming back for one more year thing was obvious based on the conclusion of last season. Was hoping he would open up and get into more detail on that but instead it was generalities of things I already knew. That’s probably the disconnect between our opinions on this.

          • SaraGator says:

            It was interesting that Muschamp said he received a phone call the night Urban announced his retirement.

          • cline says:

            I think that you are more in the know than most of us, so what is obvious to you might not be to others since we are not 100% immersed in the gator news pipeline. He has said the knee jerk reaction previously, but I thought it was more interesting that he stated Foley knew he was only back for the 2010 season. That is probably why Foley called Mushchamp so quickly.

            Hindsight is always best and we could all see his disconnect through the 2010 season, but during the 2010 campaign I think we all hoped he was back for good, and that his more mellow attitude was a positive sign, when in fact it was just him knowing he was done.

          • cline says:

            That is what I heard when I was watching it….. When it is replayed I will watch it again to verify.

  5. zurbo says:

    They are actually learning techniques on the O-line now, huh? probably a big change from last year

  6. npgator says:

    I believe that the coaching staff (espeically Weis) will instill the type of swagger that we need.

    • Gatorgrad79 says:

      Part of swagger is attitude, but some of it comes from CONFIDENCE that you are prepared and equipped for whatever comes at you – that is what was glaringly obvious last year – most of the team had no idea what was going on, on our own side of the ball, much less on the other, and what to do about it…

  7. Gio Showtime says:

    What happened to Nick Alalijijian, or however you spell it? Wasn’t he supposed to be the #1 Center coming out of High School? These last few classes have been poorly developed. Hope Muschamp can fix this mess. We need a Senior LB to be the leader of the Defense, not a True Sophomore DT and DE. What’s up with Bostic and Jenkins, too? I think the Spring is all about regaining the confidence / swagger. As a fan, I wouldn’t get excited at what the players are saying. I would chalk it up as the coaches doing the nice job at selling their game plan. Now it’s up to them to have it translate on the playing field.

  8. Conky 3000 says:

    Any thoughts as to the positions the true freshmen o-linemen, Thurman and Jordan will play (perhaps guard and center, respectively)? Also, I seem to remember a while back talk of Matt Patchan receiving a 6th year. Does anyone know if that is a possibility?

  9. Kincaide says:

    I too am concerned with lots comments about sophomores and redshirt freshman taking leadership roles.THIS IS FLORIDA!! After top 10 if not top 5 recruiting classes we should be deep with talent and leadership in our junior and senior classes! As far as last year I will always respect Urban but as time goes by I feel more and more that we lost a year in development,technique and recruiting.Addazio just plain F-ing sucked and was never qualified for such a role.Our wide receivers coach(Azzani)was from b- f Egypt and Loeffler produced nothing to cheer about with Brantleys horrible season.We looked a Florida high school at times, and more predictable!!Just Saying!! And always a Gator!!!

  10. Nick says:

    Adam, based on the comments about the lineman learning a completely new blocking scheme, are they referring to a zone based blocking scheme?

    • It is really tough to say without watching them for an extended period of time. It sounds to me like they are learning a multitude of alignments and sets for different formations. Weis wants them to be versatile – like pros.

  11. Gatorgrad79 says:

    Hey – “”everything is different from last year…”” CAN ONLY BE GOOD, RIGHT! Last year pretty much sucked all year, and I know the talent was better than the end product on the field, so the root cause had to be POOR COACHING!
    Lets go Gators!! A new beginning…

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