- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A couple of guys who played under Brent Pease have a message for Florida players about their new offensive coordinator:
Don't expect Pease to be a warm and fuzzy guy on the field. He cares deeply about his players, but he can be a bit prickly.
However, do expect him to come up with a good game plan each week and be an aggressive play-caller who seems to always pick the right play for the situation.
Considering the sad state of Florida's offense the past two seasons, the second part of their message is much more important than the first. What's a tirade or two if it means an offense that produces more yards and points than the last two seasons?
"He was not a quiet guy," said former Kentucky receiver and kick returner Derek Abney, who was in Lexington for Pease's two seasons as the Wildcats' offensive coordinator (2001-02). "Coaches, I guess if you had to put them in two camps as far as motivating you, there's players' coaches and others coach through discipline and aggressiveness, and Coach Pease was more of that. He definitely was more assertive. If there was a problem you were going to know about it.
"You look past that when you're winning, and we were winning. The best season we had [in his career] was under Coach Pease. It was something appreciated because it got results."
Kentucky went 7-5 in Pease's final year in Lexington in 2002, the program's only winning season from 2000-05. UK finished 23rd in the nation in scoring (32.1 ppg) behind quarterback Jared Lorenzen and running back Artose Pinner. Lorenzen threw for 2,267 yards and 24 touchdowns with five interceptions and Pinner led the SEC in rushing with 1,414 yards.
Pease's offense put up 30 points against an LSU defense that would go on to finish in the top 10 nationally in four categories. The Tigers were being led by a guy in his first season as a defensive coordinator on the FBS level: Will Muschamp.
"Really like what he did with that football team offensively, creating ways to get his playmakers the ball, creative in the play-calling, the tempos," Muschamp said.
That was perhaps Pease's biggest strength said Abney. The players weren't shoe-horned into his offense. He adjusted the offense to fit the personnel he had, which sounds like a no-brainer, but that's something that not every coach does (see Florida, 2010).
"He didn't make you fit into his scheme," Abney said. "He recognized your strengths and played to them and avoided weaknesses."
Pease did the same thing when he was the offensive coordinator at Montana from 1996-98. He had the Grizzlies running an early version of the spread offense -- four and five receivers spread across the field. That's what was best suited for his personnel -- an offensive line that wasn't particularly strong and smaller receivers -- and it worked pretty well because Montana was the Football Championship Subdivision runner-up in 1996 after leading the nation in passing (339.6 yards per game).
"He was always willing to try to fit plays and fit systems on what we had," said former Montana quarterback David Dickenson, who won the Walter Payton Award in 1995 and worked with Pease when he was an offensive assistant with the Grizzlies from 1991-95 before being promoted to offensive coordinator. "We had smaller, jitterbug-type receivers and our offensive line wasn't a powerful group. He found what I was good at and what I liked running and made it our base package."
Dickenson said Pease also had a knack for finding the right play at critical times, and remembered two that still stick out more than 15 years later. Montana held a two-point lead over Weber State with about five minutes remaining and already was in field goal range but Pease didn't get conservative. He called a rollout pass to the tight end on third down that ended up going for a touchdown.
"A conservative coach, in my opinion, would have called the play to get the field goal. He went with that play," said Dickenson, Montana's all-time passing leader (11,080 yards). "Worked perfectly. I remember coming off saying, 'That was a great call.' "
Dickenson said Pease also surprised him by calling a slant/flat combination route on fourth down that confused Marshall in the FCS championship game in 1996. The Grizzlies converted but would go on to lose the game.
Abney and Dickenson said Pease was an unpredictable play-caller who adjusted well during games to what the defense was doing. Lorenzen, however, doesn't feel the same way about his former coach. When reports first surfaced about Pease being hired at Florida, Lorenzen ripped Pease on Twitter.
The tweet: He's freaking crazy and was brutal at UK when I was there. Won't be able to handle it and will be run out!
He also tweeted: "The good thing about Pease at UF is now we can shut them down. #nohalftimeadjs."
Lorenzen declined an interview request for this story.
Abney said he didn't see Lorenzen's tweets but heard about them and added that he didn't have any trouble with Pease personally. Pease could be tough to deal with sometimes, but that was only because he was trying to get the best out of his players, Abney said. He wasn't that way all the time, either.
"He was a competitor," Abney said. "He'd be difficult to deal with. He'll joke around with you. He loved to go fishing. He had a personality outside of football where it wasn't just him yelling at you. There was times he was happy for you and you felt like he was a coach that had your best interest in mind."
Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.
18hPat McManamon and Jeremy Fowler