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TO CALL THE SCHEMES THAT FIRST-YEAR FLORIDA COACH Will Muschamp revealed in the Gators' spring game vanilla would be an insult to the bean. Florida was bland by design.
With the Gators coming off a five-loss season Muschamp prefers to keep the team shrouded in mystery. He closed spring practice, and he has dodged specific schematic questions as well as speedy back Jeff Demps dodges tacklers. That may be because Florida needs to get creative.
As the offensive boss of the NFL's Patriots and Chiefs and the head coach at Notre Dame, new Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis relied on a strong-armed drop-back quarterback and a vertical passing game. That might be good news for QB John Brantley, a fifth-year senior. Brantley looked out of place in the spread offense Urban Meyer ran in Gainesville, but his skill set seems ideal for the Weis pro-style offense. The question: Did a brutal 2010 sap Brantley's bravado?
"A guy coming off a year where his interceptions were way too high and his touchdown passes were way too low, the first thing is to work on his confidence," Weis says. "Nothing else really matters. If you can't get the quarterback to be confident in his own abilities, you have no chance."
Coaches seemed pleased with Brantley's progress through the spring, but what of the offensive teammates recruited to run a spread offense? Demps and tailback-receiver Chris Rainey still need to get the ball in space. They haven't grown into 220-pound I formation backs, which means Weis will have to tweak his approach.
On the other side of the ball, Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn won't have to change their style to fit their personnel. As defensive coordinator at Texas, Muschamp ran a defense that could look like a 4--3 or a 3--4 depending on the play. With the Seahawks, Quinn produced multiple looks against sophisticated NFL offenses. At Florida a group of raw-speedy defenders should allow the Gators to be chameleons.
Sophomore tackle Sharrif Floyd can line up over a guard in a four-man front or over center as a nosetackle in a three-man front. Sophomore Ronald Powell can be a defensive end or a linebacker, as needed. "The challenge is finding the right balance and the right mix," Quinn says. "That's our job." In other words, expect more than just vanilla.
COACH Will Muschamp (1st Year)