What Identity Will the Gator Offense Take in the Post-Tebow Era?

Joe at CollegeFootballGeek.comCorrespondent IMay 8, 2010

For the last three seasons, quarterback Tim Tebow has been the heart and soul of the Florida Gator offense. With Tebow off to the NFL, head coach Urban Meyer must find a new direction for the offense in 2010.

Cast of Characters

HC – Urban Meyer
QB – John Brantley (R-Jr)
QB – Trey Burton (T-Fr)
RB – Jeffery Demps (Jr)
RB – Emanuel Moody (R-Sr)
RB – Mike Gillislee (So)
WR – Deonte Thompson (R-Jr)
WR – Chris Rainey (R-Jr)
WR – Andre Debose (R-Fr)
WR – Carl Moore (R-Sr)
WR – Stephen Alli (R-Fr)
TE – Desmond Parks (R-Fr)
TE – Jordan Reed (R-Fr)
TE – Gerald Christian (T-Fr)

What’s the Scoop?

Florida spent the last three seasons with quarterback Tim Tebow at the helm of the offense. The focus during that time period was a power running game based out of the shotgun, along with an efficient passing attack. Tim Tebow is now playing for the Denver Broncos, and the Gators’ offense is going through a transition.

Heading into the spring, it was understood that the offense could not continue to lean on a running game that utilized the quarterback in the same way that Tim Tebow was used. The coaches started looking at how to install more traditional spread concepts into the offense, and build off the strengths of their returning personnel.

Who’s Gone?

Quarterback Tim Tebow is the most notable loss for 2010. Despite the physical skills he brought to the offense, what might be the biggest loss is Tebow’s leadership ability. There will be several big moments during the course of the SEC season that will test the determination of the offense. New leaders will have to emerge for the Gators to find a way to navigate the rough waters that await them in 2010.

There were several key losses in the passing game. Wide receivers Riley Cooper and David Nelson , as well as tight end Aaron Hernandez have all left. Those three players accounted for 144 receptions, 2,102 yards, and 16 touchdowns. Only one starter was lost on the offensive line in center Marcus Pouncey .

Who’s Back?

Head coach Urban Meyer suffered from health issues at the end of the 2009 season. It was the advice of his doctors to take time away from the job. Meyer said he would take a leave of absence, but that didn’t last very long. He was back in time for signing day, then took another very short break before returning in time to coach spring practice.

Meyer will be coaching the Gators during the fall, but the issue at hand is for how long? He was instructed to take serious time off from his doctors, and he did not follow through on that advice. With a young team there will be more stress for Meyer to deal with, and it’s not unheard of that Meyer’s health could take another turn. Although this issue isn’t getting much attention over the summer, it will be something to keep an eye on over the second half of the season.

Four of the five offensive line starters return in 2010. The depth on the line will help open holes for the returning running backs. Jeffrey Demps and Emanuel Moody return to the backfield and they will be joined by sophomore Mike Gillislee in the running back rotation.

Top back-up quarterback John Brantley returns to take over for Tim Tebow . Brantley is a traditional pocket passer and the coaches will look to utilize his arm with more drop back passing schemes. Brantley’s role in the offense for 2010 will resemble what Chris Leak was asked to do for the Gators four years ago.

True freshman Trey Burton came into spring camp and made a big impression on the coaching staff with his running ability. The coaches have been so impressed that they are looking to utilize Burton in the same role Tim Tebow was used in as a true freshman while playing behind Chris Leak.

In order to help provide more depth in the receiver core, former running back Chris Rainey was moved to slot receiver full-time. His dual threat ability will give the Gators a weapon for the fly sweep and screen game that defenses will have to account for. Deonte Thompson is the only starting receiver from 2009 that returns. Andre Debose looks to recover from injury issues and make an impact as the third receiver. Redshirt senior Carl Moore and redshirt freshman Stephen Alli had good springs and will battle Debose for the final starting position.

The tight end position will be a highly contended position. Redshirt freshmen Desmond Parks and Jordan Reed , along with true freshman Gerald Christian were the top performers during spring camp. This position battle should last into fall camp.

If Your Fantasy Draft Was Today (05/08/10)

The first Gator that should be taken in this fall’s fantasy drafts is quarterback John Brantley . Brantley should produce nice yardage, but his touchdown total is the biggest area of question. True freshman Trey Newton will be at the helm of the Wild-Gator offense, and that package should be used extensively in the redzone. If the running game and Newton hoard most of the scoring opportunities, then Brantley’s fantasy value might be held in check.

The running back and receiver positions are the hardest to gauge. The running backs should split carries enough to keep one single back from becoming a draftable fantasy option. The question for the receiver position is figuring out who will command the rushing opportunities? Chris Rainey is the top candidate to take over the Percy Harvin role, but it’s still unseen if one specific receiver will command the bulk of carries. Andre Debose is capable of running the fly sweep, and both guys could be used in order to keep defenses honest.

With the uncertainty surrounding the running backs and receivers having a feature player, it’s very difficult to draft one of these guys. Chris Rainey would still be your best bet for a late round sleeper pick. If one of the tight end candidates can emerge in fall camp, they would command another late round selection.

Joe Arpasi is the co-owner of CollegeFootballGeek.com , your premier resource for college fantasy football information. Check us out.


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