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Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease talks with quarterback Jeff Driskel before a game this season.

Tuesday December 18, 2012Pease Focused on Getting Job Done with Gators

Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease talks with quarterback Jeff Driskel before a game this season.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – More than a year has passed since news broke that Charlie Weis, after only one season as Florida’s offensive coordinator, was leaving to become head coach at Kansas.

The news surprised even those who follow the coaching carousel closely. Weis was a big name but after relocating his family to Florida only months before, he made it sound like he had no plans to move any time soon.

And then, poof, he was gone.

The day Weis left for Kansas, Gators coach Will Muschamp was in Jacksonville at a news conference to promote Florida’s Gator Bowl matchup against Ohio State.

Muschamp didn’t blink when asked about Weis’ sudden departure.

What a compliment to the job you did hiring people, that other people want your coaches,’’ he said. “Next year we're going to win, and they're going to want to get our coaches again. So it's a great problem to have.”

Muschamp’s bold statement came true. The Gators did win in 2012, finishing 11-1 and No. 3 in the BCS rankings. Florida faces Louisville in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 in New Orleans.

Not long after Weis departed Muschamp hired Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease. Pease came in and installed his version of a pro-style offense, one that centered on a downhill running game that Muschamp coveted.

With a first-year starting quarterback in Jeff Driskel, the Gators relied heavily on senior running back Mike Gillislee. Gillislee ran for 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns in the regular season. Meanwhile, Pease moved slowly with Driskel to help him adjust to a more expanded role, asking the sophomore to mostly manage the offense and limit mistakes.

Driskel passed the test, throwing only three interceptions in 216 attempts and 11 touchdowns.

After Florida beat Florida State 37-26 in Tallahassee last month – the Gators rushed for 244 yards against the Seminoles’ No. 1-ranked defense -- Pease’s name surfaced as a potential head-coach candidate at other schools, most notably at Kentucky.

Pease said Tuesday that there was never anything serious to the rumors. The Wildcats hired Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, while former Wildcats head coach Joker Phillips joined Muschamp’s staff as receivers coach/recruiting coordinator.

There was just a minimal conversation,’’ Pease said. “It probably never materialized as much as maybe everyone thought. They went after other guys.”

Even if the talks had progressed with Kentucky or another school, it would have taken an offer Pease couldn’t refuse.

“I’ve been here one year. I think Florida gives you a stage to do a lot of great things. I’m not one to really leave after one year anyway,’’ Pease said. “Will made a commitment to me, [athletic director] Jeremy [Foley] made a commitment to me, the university made a commitment to me.

“There is still some work to be done. The future is bright. There is always opportunity down the road. When I was young I was ready to make a move quick on some things.”

The 47-year-old Pease has a greater understanding of the business and life at this stage of his career. He also has two teenage children in high school and a wife.

He often tells young coaches that if they like where they are not to rush into a move because “the grass is not always greener.”

Muschamp said Monday that he expects his coaching staff to return intact. That means Pease has the offseason to further implement his system that produced up-and-down results in his first year.

The Gators finished the regular season ranked 102nd in total offense among FBS schools, averaging 338.4 yards per game. The Gators ran the ball (35th, 194.5 ypg) well and limited mistakes (12 turnovers, tied for sixth-fewest). The biggest area for improvement is the passing game, where the Gators ranked 114th at 143.9 ypg.

With extra time to practice before the Sugar Bowl, the Gators are focused on making strides to improve their passing attack.

“We’ve been working on what we need to improve,’’ Driskel said Tuesday. “We have all worked on our skills to get better. We’ve been working on the little things and getting back to basics.”

Driskel said the receivers have shown perhaps more improvement than any other position, which could be a good sign heading to New Orleans.

“They’ve run clean routes, they’ve made plays, they’ve made touch catches,’’ Driskel said.

The most important factor for Pease is that the players understand their roles and how they fit into what he is trying to do.

That takes time.

“We found out what we’re good at,’’ he said. “The good thing about bowl practices right now is that you get to work with young kids and you get to tinker with a lot of stuff in moving guys around or throwing different things out there to see if certain plays will start to work. All the kids have done a good job of grasping concepts we haven’t hit for a while and getting better on the ones that are consistent for us.”

That means Gillislee moving the chains in the running game, Driskel limiting his mistakes in the passing game, the receivers making a big play occasionally, and the offense allowing the defense and special teams help out as much as possible.

That philosophy is a long way from the Fun N’ Gun of yesteryear, but it worked for this team, which has a chance to become only the sixth team in school history to win 12 games in a season.

“We’ve been pushing hard all year long,’’ Driskel said. “You don’t go 11-1 without having a good mindset or pushing hard. I do think a lot of the young guys have stepped up and improved a lot.”

Senior receiver Frankie Hammond agreed. He sees improvement and a deeper understanding of Pease’s offense. He won’t be around next season but is confident that Pease has the offense headed in the right direction.

“I think we’ll grow,’’ Hammond said. “The second year under Muschamp it was a big turnaround. Guys have to just grow into the offense and take it to the next level.”

Pease has the same goal in mind. That’s one reason he came to UF and plans to stay here to finish the job.

“There’s still a goal I want to accomplish in winning a national championship and winning an SEC title and all that,’’ he said. “I like the people that I work with and I really like the kids. You’ve got to know your role. If that situation [another job offer] is right and I’m doing a good job, maybe some day my opportunity will come. If not, I know I’ve worked to be in a very good spot with very good people.”

 

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