Monday, April 4, 2011
Muschamp pleased with offense's progress
By Edward Aschoff
For Will Muschamp, this spring has been about using every shred of his time wisely, especially with his offense.
With Florida’s spring game just days away, the new guy in charge has watched as a pro-style offense has been installed, replacing the spread brought in by former coach Urban Meyer.
Fortunately for Muschamp, taking most of the offensive construction responsibility is former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator and Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis. Weis has the task of rebuilding a unit that suffered in 2010, ranking 10th in the SEC in yards per game (350.8) and eighth in scoring offense (29.8).
With only 15 practices, efficiency has been the key.
Chris Rainey has been forced to carry a heavier workload this spring.
“We’ve been very careful with what we’ve asked our players to do,” Muschamp said. “That’s something as a staff that we’ve been very conscious of. Not spoon feeding them, but making sure we’re putting them in the right situations where they can be successful on both sides of the ball and evolve a little bit to what we want to be.”
There’s a whirlwind of information swirling around Florida’s practice fields, meaning Muschamp and his staff have had to ease players in. They want to play to their players’ strengths and find out who can adjust quickly and who’s left spinning.
Muschamp has run his team through a slew of situational drills, such as working in the red zone and near the goal line, and third down and end-of-game situations.
Florida converted just 37.6 percent of its third downs last fall and was last in the conference in red zone efficiency, scoring on 41 of 58 chances (70.7 percent).
It’s been less than a month, but players are starting to feel more comfortable. Other than new terminology and route designs, Frankie Hammond Jr. said the offense isn’t that different. Even with more tight end sets, there is still motion and the blocking scheme is similar.
“Everybody can benefit from this offense,” Hammond said. “They’re throwing it deep, throwing it short.”
And the guy doing the throwing is excited, too. Struggling in the spread, quarterback John Brantley has found a home in Weis’ offense. He’s under center more and running isn’t a requirement.
Brantley said he and his teammates are more in sync, which is a pleasant change.
“It’s coming along good,” he said. “We’re moving up the ladder. That’s what we want to see out of the team right now.”
However, recent nagging injuries have slowed the process. Running backs Mack Brown (broken fibula) and Mike Gillislee (stress fracture) are out. With Jeff Demps participating in outdoor track season, Florida is left with Chris Rainey as its only scholarship running back for the spring game.
Backup center Nick Alajajian suffered a knee injury that will require three months of recovery, and starting right tackle Xavier Nixon sprained his ankle, but could return this week.
“We're working about seven [offensive linemen], and that's total bodies,” Muschamp said. “That's all we've got. Injuries are part of the game. There's nobody feeling sorry for the Gators right now, I can tell you that.
“Injuries are part of it. You have to have other guys step up. One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. You build depth on your football team through these times and you find out a lot more about your football team in these situations.”
With limited offensive numbers, Muschamp said Saturday’s Orange and Blue Game will have an offense that scores for the Orange and one that scores for the Blue.
The past week has been a chore with the injury list, but Muschamp is happy with the headway made by his team and he’s confident he’ll see good results this weekend.
“I’ve been pleased with the progress,” he said. “I look forward to getting out in front of the Gator Nation and in our stadium. Our guys really take a lot of pride when they run out there and play and we appreciate the support we have.”