With Urban Meyer’s retirement, the Gators are no longer the high chieftains of the spread. Will Muschamp has promised to be “pro style on offense and defense,” which is fine and dandy, but what exactly does “pro style” mean? I’ve never really liked calling offenses by names, especially today considering every offense borrows something from other offenses. So I was trying to think of a good description that didn’t have me spitting nails when a familiar voice called out to me from beyond the darkness.
The one prevailing guideline is Muschamp’s requirement that the coordinator have both NFL and college experience, and run something like pro-style. We assume pro-style here means the grab-bag of multi-formation, non-option based systems that fall outside of the realm of the Five Families of College-Only offenses: Air Raid, Spread Option, I-Form Triple-Option, Run ‘N Shoot, and the Flexbone.
So, that’s our baseline.
But before we get into what Florida’s going to go through, lets think about Florida’s personnel and the transition they’re going to have to deal with. I did some research on the origins of Urban’s offense, and what I found was actually kind of surprising. I’ve been a big time hater of Urban’s spread when it comes to preparing kids for the NFL (which, in hindsight, was kind of dumb considering I really don’t care about that), but I did like it’s creativity and emphasis on power (especially this play, which Tressel stole and ran during the Michigan game), and in reading more about it, I really appreciated its roots.
Urban and his crew at Bowling Green went to each of the underrated hotbeds in the early 2000’s when it comes to college football offense. I had no idea that he had this type of conference with guys like Scott Linehan at Louisville, Joe Tiller, Randy Walker, Kevin Wilson (then at Northwestern, went to Oklahoma as OC and is now the head coach at Indiana), Paul Johnson and Rich Rod when he was at WVU. That’s a fucking all star lineup of some of the best offensive minds we have in the country, and frankly, that’s fucking awesome.
An aside…here’s a direct quote from Smart Football. “This is the same spread playbook high school teams are running; indeed, there’s little that Meyer runs now that Northwestern and West Virginia weren’t running back then. Most differences are simply cosmetic.” So…HAH! Oh, and fuck Oregon.
But, petty bitching aside, Meyer’s scheme was brutally simple and it’s impossible to argue with the results. With two safeties back, they had the advantage in numbers in the box (with 4 wide and presumably each covered, two safeties back would leave five defenders in the box with five lineman). With one safety up in the box (single-high), they could pass because they had a hat on a hat in terms of protection and they could find the single coverage knowing that one of the two targets (on the side the deep safety isn’t cheating towards) was preposterously more talented than the defender covering him. In zero, they burnt you for big plays.
This is a very simple to learn, almost autopilot offense that is unstoppable when you have a roster like they’ve had recently. However, they won’t be able to lean on the scheme as heavily without relying on the zone-read and multiple receiver sets. This should make the OL’s job easier as there will be some consistency with what’s going on behind them (plus, it’s easier to snap with a QB under center) but the passing game will have to work harder as those easy reads for the QB won’t be there and it’ll be a lot less dangerous to play with two safeties deep.
But fortunately for Florida fans, a transition to an offense like the one described above won’t be that hard of a transition because they’re Florida and they have their pick of the litter when it comes to talent. While it’d be great to sit here and all hoist drinks and congratulate ourselves on Florida going the way of Bill Callahan’s Nebraska teams, a switch to a more sophisticated offensive identity is probably something they’ll be able to pull off rather seemlessly. First off, they have Will Muschamp and Kirby Smart on the payroll, two of the best defensive gurus in college football, so it’s not like teams will actually score on the Gators. Plus, if anything, John Brantley is suited for this type of offense, and the backs and WR’s can make an easy enough transition to create at least the semblance of a balanced attack.
If this was any school making this kind of adjustment other than one of the big four of five superprograms, I’d be extremely negative about making such drastic a change. I don’t think it’s in Michigan’s best interests to go after Jim Harbaugh and create another two years of roster hand-wringing hoping the name’s still big enough to draw recruits to a losing program. But this is Florida and Florida has recruited at a level seen by very few programs ever in the sport and talent usually wins out.
I wouldn’t be surprised by some growing pains, but this is hardly a controversial move. Florida has their pick of quality offensive assistants and could probably get Paul Petrino away from Illinois if they wanted so even though I expect a few speedbumps, I couldn’t imagine Florida being an abject disaster on offense like they were this year.
Then again…Texas couldn’t make the transition, so maybe I shouldn’t be so quick with the praise.