GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators were in the midst of a full-blown transition phase a year ago during spring practice.
The program was moving into the Will Muschamp era following six seasons under the direction of Urban Meyer.
This spring, a sense of stability reverberated in the words of coaches and players as they talked about the difference from last season.
Of course, there was one prominent part of the team undergoing a transformation: the offense.
First-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease took over for Charlie Weis in January and immediately began the process of implementing his version of a pro-style attack that made Boise State one of the country's most explosive teams last season.
Q: As you watched film from the spring game, what stood out about the offense?
A: One, we established an identity in being physical up front and being able to run the ball. I think our core kids there are very good. They are quick learners and they are very good athletes. I think we built some depth that if we get some injuries during the season, we can rotate guys and put them in positions. We should be good there because there are good players there and there's experience.
Q: What area will be a point of emphasis when fall camp starts?
A: The one thing that I think we still need to get better at is to be able to throw the ball downfield more vertically, over the top. I think that's got to show up in the timing and rhythm of our play-action and our receivers getting to those situations. I think the quarterback play got better. I don't think it's really where it needs to be yet, but I think those guys competed. I saw them get better every day. Now they've just got to put consistency together. They were learning so much. They've learned a lot, so now it should become repetitive to them and they understand the language and what we expect. The next go-around will be a lot quicker and faster and more consistent. I was happy with everybody on how they took care of the football. They didn't turn it over. I think the kids opened up their hearts. They were very coachable and starting to put some trust in us because they understand we are putting trust in them. We're building some unity from this.
Q: You had a prolific offense at Boise State last season with a lot of talent to run your scheme. Is the talent in place here to run what you want right away?
A: Oh yeah, we've got as much talent. No doubt about that. You can't take what we did at Boise and bring it all here because that's a 10- or 11-year cycle of information. That's hard if you can think you can bring it all. But we did throw probably more than I expected to at these guys. And now combined with their abilities, if we can just get them to use their abilities to play faster and make things more instinctual, then we're going to be pretty good. I think early on the guys have to understand that because there are some positions that are not as experienced as others, those positions have got to be more consistent to show up right away and let the other guys mold around them.
Q: The quarterbacks were the public's focus in the spring game, but what about the makeover at running back?
A: I was very impressed with Gills [Mike Gillislee] this whole spring. The kid works hard. He's an eager learner and I think he's very talented, to the point of where we tried to protect him a little bit so he wouldn't get dinged up. I thought Mack [Brown] came along. He's a hard, tough runner. He brings a little different mentality than Gills. And I was impressed in the amount of learning and what Chris Johnson provides as well as Omarius Hines. You've still got guys back there like Hunter [Joyer] doing some good things for us, and Trey [Burton], so I think that position is pretty versatile.
Q: Speaking of Burton, he has been used everywhere since he has been here. Is that a plus for your approach?
A: That's excellent for me because I don't know what people are going to count him as. He can play a lot of different positions for us. Sometimes you have to be careful you don't water a kid down and just have him out there doing all these spots as a great depth guy. But he's a guy who is productive and we need to put the ball in his hands at times.
Q: The offense goes against a defense in practice that teaches a lot of NFL-type concepts. Did that help in the transition this spring?
A: What they are teaching is probably more intricate than some college systems. We probably saw a little of that at Boise State, just not as much, maybe more in fronts. It's good for us. It's a good challenge because I know our defense has good players and I know what they did last year. Sometimes their scheme doesn't match what we're going to face, but yet it still provides good competition for us and makes our kids competitive. We had our days and they had their days.
Q: Between now and August when camp opens, what would be a step forward for the offense?
A: I told the kids to take some time off. They need to get away from it. They have their classes to focus on and when they get back here, they basically have to start all over with what we did in the spring. They aren't going to have any coaches out there over the summer, so they are going to have to do it themselves. They have to learn to detail it themselves; they have to have leaders step up and correct it if it's wrong. You want to see them take more ownership in this whole deal. I'm encouraged what the kids did. They got a lot better.