Now that the spring has concluded and Gator fans have been able to sneak a peak of the new Charlie Weis offense. We have finally been able to identify some potential playmakers. Of course, every team in college football is loaded with potential playmakers, but it’s April, so we have to start somewhere, right?
Chris Rainey seems to be gathering the most praise of anyone on offense this spring. It appears the deep set is playing to his strengths and allowing him to use his agility to excel through the line with quick moves and cutbacks. With every other running back out for the spring, Rainey has made the most of his time in the backfield, which could parlay into a terrific fall.
I still look for Jeff Demps and Mack Brown to make some noise in this position. After the last six years, no one really wants to hear the phrase "running back by committee" ever again, but the reality is you need two solid running backs to survive the duration of an SEC schedule. Look at what Alabama has had to do the last couple of years with Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram. If the Gators could stay healthy, there is enough speed and talent in the backfield to have a very strong rushing attack, even if it is "by committee".
Of course a running game is only as good as its offensive line and the Gators were depleted of a line throughout the spring. There is definitely some talent on the line with Jon Halapio, Xavier Nixon and James Wilson anchoring the front. Jon Harrison was recently moved to center and impressed the coaches all spring with his aggressive play. And then there is Matt Patchan, which has shown plenty of potential when healthy. In fact, if he doesn’t hurt himself running on the field, he should be a starter come this fall.
The key to the line’s success will be injury. With no top linemen in the 2011 class and an average 2010 class that has already seen transfers. The line will have very little depth. Look for the 2012 class to be loaded with offensive lineman, until then, hold your breath.
The Gator receivers are pretty equivalent to the running back situation. Deonte Thompson, Frankie Hammonds and Omaris Hines have all seen action. However, none of them send fear to opposing defensive backs.
Andre Debose has shown flashes of being a great receiver. He is just a sophomore this fall and could begin to play a major role in the slot. In the end, Debose might be the most feared receiver the Gators have on the roster. With his speed and ability to make plays (as he has shown in the kicking game), he poses a threat to break any play open at any time.
Probably the biggest playmakers on offense this year might be the players that line up at the tight end and fullback positions. Yes, I’m talking about Jordan Reed and Trey Burton. Reed and Burton showed they were gamers last fall by playing multiple roles in the offense. They both filled in at the quarterback position in an effort to run Steve Addazio’s belly offense. But before the offense went completely south last fall, Reed and Burton showed plenty of potential catching passes out of the backfield, which is where they will create major mismatches this fall.
At the tight end position, Reed will have a big year in Weis’s offense. Once this option becomes a real threat to opposing defenses, Deonte Thompson and Andre Debose should have a lot of success down field.
The quarterback position is still much in the air. John Brantley may look like Tom Brady in practice, but when it’s game time, he has yet to prove he can be the leader this team needs. The success of the Gators depends largely on Johnny Brantley. The backup quarterbacks are much too green to carry this team and the Gators will only go as far as John Brantley can take them.
In the end, the offense will be better than we think. The defense should be strong enough to allow the offense to gain some confidence in the beginning and as the season progresses, as will the Gator offense.