Developing a fake identity

Muschamp showing he isn't afraid to take risks in special teams

Updated: October 15, 2012, 8:29 AM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It's a good bet that South Carolina special-teams coordinator Joe Robinson is going to spend some extra time in the film room this week as he prepares for Saturday's game at Florida.

In fact, it's likely that coaches who work with special teams at Georgia, Missouri and Florida State will be doing that in the week before their games against Florida. Gators coach Will Muschamp has certainly given them a lot to think about.

[+] EnlargeMuschamp
Jim Brown/US PresswireGators coach Will Muschamp is keeping opponents' special-teams units on their heels.
Muschamp has called a fake punt, fake field goal or fake point-after-touchdown in three of the Gators' six games this season, including two in Saturday's 31-17 victory over Vanderbilt. More importantly from the Gators' standpoint, all but one has worked.

But even the one that failed -- a fake punt against Tennessee -- is going to help Florida, because opponents now have to prepare for several variations of the fake punt. The Gators have used a sweep and a snap to one of the upbacks.

In using the different type of fake punts and field goals, the Gators (6-0, 5-0 SEC) are keeping opponents from becoming too aggressive on special teams. They're worrying about accounting for every person, which should result in them being less aggressive in rushing the kicker.

And if they don't account for every player, it's clear that Muschamp isn't afraid to call a fake. In fact, he's called more this season than LSU's Les Miles, who has a reputation for gambling with fakes on special teams.

The most successful call was the fake punt against the Commodores, which came on a direct snap to Trey Burton, who handed the ball off to wide receiver Solomon Patton on a jet sweep. It gained 54 yards and set up the Gators on the Vanderbilt 3. The Gators scored a touchdown on the next play to take an 18-7 lead in the third quarter.

"We've been planning to use it for like two weeks now," Patton said. "I've just been waiting for the coaches to call my number. They called it [Saturday] night and I took advantage of it."

Patton wasn't the only one who had been waiting.

"I felt good about it [the fake punt] all week and we've been running it in practice for a few weeks," Muschamp said. "I got tired of practicing it and wanted to run it."

UF also faked a PAT. The Gators use an unbalanced PAT formation, in which the kicker, holder and another player line up behind the center while the rest of the team is either split wide left or right. On Saturday, the center snapped the ball to Burton, who faked a handoff on a jet sweep and ran into the end zone for the two points.

Those two calls were just the latest in the list of fakes Muschamp has run. He called a fake field goal against Texas A&M and a fake punt against Tennessee.

Burton also was involved in the fake field goal. He caught a pass from holder John Crofoot for a 3-yard gain on fourth-and-1 at the Texas A&M 16. That drive ultimately ended in a touchdown.

The only fake that failed was the fake punt against Tennessee. Matt Elam took a snap and ran for 5 yards on fourth-and-9.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter