Meyer Offers More Insight To Offensive Scheme

If you watch the offense that Coach Urban Meyer put on the field at his previous stops at Bowling Green and Utah, the first thought is that this is a very complicated scheme that makes a defense defend the entire field. Looks can be quite deceiving, though. While the offense will indeed make an opponent cover the entire field, this is not a scheme that is based on hundreds of plays.

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After day one of his first spring practice at the University of Florida on Thursday, Meyer admitted to the press corps that the coaches had managed to put in two plays. After day two, the Gators now have four plays installed, not exactly where he wants it to be, but progress is indeed being made.

"We got two about two more," said Meyer after Friday's practice. "We got that shovel pass came in today, the speed option came in today and some short yardage. The good thing is we're good thing is we're not an offense full of plays. It's a bunch of formations with the same plays. A lot of the base is in, now we have to keep repping it because right now it looks awful."

The Meyer offense has been the talk of college football in the offseason. It's been called gimmicky by some, innovative by others. Meyer has openly talked about how much fun it should be to use this offense with the athletes that he's inherited at Florida, particularly the wide receivers, whom he has continually praised as some of the best he's seen athletically at this level.

He took time Friday to mention his three tailbacks, Deshawn Wynn, Skyler Thornton and Markus Manson, although he was a bit cautious because of the depth issues at the position.

"I've been hard on their tailbacks and they've had two good days," said Meyer. "Wynn and Skyler and Markus have done a nice job."

The lack of depth at the position will help those three get plenty of reps in the spring, but Meyer laments that he's got to have more than just three tailbacks in an offense that will probably be about a 55-45 percent run-to-pass mix.

"We need six in this offense," he said. "Next year we'll have four with Kestahn Moore, but it's a big advantage for the ones we have here because they'll get a ton of reps."

The spread option offense that Meyer is installing is run from the shotgun with a single tailback in the backfield along with the quarterback and four wide receivers. The wide receivers in the slot will get carries like a running back off of the option and on reverses, but they'll also go in motion and then take handoffs to run the ball between the tackles. There is a form of the speed option (see Syracuse) in this package, and the passing game has base plays that are quite similar to the West Coast offensive schemes although there is a lot of downfield throwing in the passing schemes.

The idea is to spread the defense and then punch holes in it by creating mismatches of size and speed. Because the offense incorporates so many different facets, it becomes nearly impossible for a team to prepare for in just a week.

"It's a lot different but it gives the defense a lot of different looks," said Wynn, ready to have a breakout year at tailback. Wynn has worked hard in the offseason and he's dropped some weight. He's down to 224 now, about the same weight he was at two years ago when he busted loose for a 60 yard touchdown run against Miami. Wynn said he's feeling good and that he's regaining the quickness that was missing last year when he was trying to play at 230-plus pounds.

Wynn was comfortable in the shotgun pro-style offense that was run at Florida in his first two seasons, but the new style of this offense has him excited.

"It's a lot different than we've had here because it gives the defense a lot of different looks and they really don't know what's coming at them," he said. "The whole thing about this offense is the mismatches it gets you against the defense."

The offense has been of the record breaking variety at Bowling Green, where Meyer had Josh Harris (now with the Baltimore Ravens) at quarterback, and at Utah, where Alex Smith in two seasons went from unknown to the likely first quarterback taken in the April NFL draft. The quarterbacks have to be accurate passers, but they also have to make option decisions including the choice to run the football. Because the quarterback is exposed to hard hits running the ball, Meyer knows he's got to develop some depth, but at this point of the spring drills, there are only two scholarship quarterbacks and one of them was playing high school football just three and a half months ago.

"It kinda scares you when you see only two scholarship quarterbacks practicing," said Meyer while noting that he thought both rising junior Chris Leak and true freshman Josh Portis did a better job of "letting it rip" during Friday's practice. "Chris did a good job today and I think Josh is not nearly as far ahead as Chris, but he's talented."

There are two other scholarship quarterbacks but both of them are occupied with other sports. Rising senior Gavin Dickey is an outfielder who has played his way into a starting position with the sixth-ranked Gator baseball team, while redshirt freshman Cornelius Ingram is a seldom-used reserve on Florida's basketball team, which will play Villanova in round two of the NCAA Tournament in Nashville Sunday afternoon.

In Meyer's way of doing spring practice, there are winners and losers on Wednesday and Saturday. Saturday morning's first scrimmage of the spring will be a winners and losers day as the scrimmage focuses in on the goal line and short yardage part of the offense.

"We had a good day today but tomorrow's the day that counts," he said. "We'll have a winner and a loser so we'll see what happens. Tomorrow we're going to do a lot of short yardage, a lot of goal line situations, really pound the ball in there. We're going to find out if they can throw it in the end zone pretty good."

The 10 a.m. scrimmage will also allow good looks at the defense.

"Defense, no idea until you put the pads on them," said Meyer. "I think they're flying around well but who knows? Tomorrow we'll have a good little discussion with you about where we're at."

PRACTICE NOTES: Branden Daniel is recovering from shoulder surgery, so he's not practicing this spring. It's doubtful that the 6-4, 301-pound defensive tackle will get a chance to participate in spring drills. "He had some pretty serious surgery," said Meyer…. Walkon linebacker Richard Brown, who tore his ACL during the fall last year, is also still rehabbing but should be back for the fall drills at full speed. Brown, who made it to AAA baseball in the New York Yankees organization out of high school, is a player that Meyer has no idea about as far as football skills, but the coach said, "If he made Triple A with the Yankees, then he's pretty darn good." … Linebacker Brandon Siler smiled when asked if the team is having fun. "It looks like we're having fun out there because that's exactly what we're doing," he said. Siler said the way the drills move so quickly that things "stay on edge and you play hard all the time."

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Siler said, "He [Meyer] told us that he expects us to be a great team so we have to perform to the standards that he's set. We've got really high standards set for us and everybody is trying to perform to get to that level. Everybody wants to win and we're going to start winning around here. A lot of it is between the ears. It's about self confidence, knowing yourself and knowing where you need to be. We have to be confident enough that we can count on each other."

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