Young Offense Having to Learn Quick

Steve Addazio

All we heard all off season is how the Florida Gators are returning so many players that a repeat national championship is a given. On defense the thought is very true with the entire two-deep roster returning. However, there will be some newcomers on offense this season. Stars like Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy are gone, but it is the line that has new faces that are key right now.

New offensive coordinator Steve Addazio has his work cut out for him in 2009. Replacing Harvin and Murphy in the offense is key, but he also has to replace two multi-year starting offensive tackles along the offensive line.

This spring, Carl Johnson and Marcus Gilbert have stepped into the tackle spots and done a great job so far. However, injuries to the middle of the line have caused a few very young players to be inserted into the starting line up this spring and that has caused a little bit of a slow down of sorts in the entire offense.

"We are cross training with extremely young guys so it is a little sloppy right now," Addazio said earlier this week. "We have guys that have never played a down here running with the one's, and that is a frightening sight. But, they will be better for it in the end."

Adding to the problems right now is the fact that the Gators typically throw the entire play book at the offense in the first five days of practice. Addazio and the rest of the staff feel it is better to install it all and clean it up as you go rather than install little bits at a time and try and perfect it daily.

"We have a lot of installation in right now and the execution level isn't very high," Addazio said. "That gets compounded when you have a bunch of young guys playing up front. That is what's frustrating. You see a bunch of young guys that have never taken a snap of college football running in there with the ones...they aren't comfortable up there with the line. That's unsettling to everybody.

"The philosophy is to get as much in as fast as we can and then come back and try and smooth it out as opposed to a little installation at a time. There are pluses and minuses when you do that. The pluses are you get in and work it back. The minuses are that in the first 3-5 practices it is swollen until they catch up. It's not a factor when you have a veteran line, when they are young like some of these, it is a factor."

For now, Addazio and the staff know they will some issues, but it usually pays off in the end. Addazio also said the Gators are purposely holding Tim Tebow back from doing so much with his feet in practice, forcing him to rely on his arm and the offensive scheme. He understands that Tebow is natural with that part of his game but wants to perfect the other parts this spring.

"You have to put it into perspective," he said. "The young guys got a lot of stuff in and that's a struggle. The investment is going to be there, sometimes you have to just be patient with the growth. The line sets the tempo for the offense. We have a lot of offense in. But, the reality is we have a young group up front going right now with the injuries. We are stressing ourselves in different areas and not relying on the quarterback run as a big part of our deal (for practice).

Two freshmen getting reps with the first unit due to injuries and their ability to play well are Sam Robey at center and David Young at guard and tackle. Both are playing well this spring.

"He's really working hard," Addazio said of Robey who is subbing for injured Maurkice Pouncey at center. "He is a young guy and hasn't taken any snaps, but considering all of that I think he is doing a really good job. David Young was playing in the first group because Mo Hurt was out. We had three of the starters out today so that always makes it interesting."

Addazio is pumped about his chance to run the Gator offense in 2009 and believes the Gators will have all the fire power they need to duplicate previous offensive seasons leading up to this point.

"The most exciting thing you see is that we have the speed to throw the ball down the field and the tailbacks are electric," he said. "We aren't running the quarterback right now, so we are forcing ourselves into throwing the ball or get it to the tailbacks. Deonte has great speed, Carl Moore can go up and make some great catches, David Nelson is a real consistent guy. We have play makers, but we are trying to stress different things right now."

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It is rare to see an offensive line coach as the offensive coordinator. This will be the first year at Florida for that to happen under Urban Meyer when Steve Addazio takes the helm. One of the differences in practice situations is the fact that Addazio will not be on the field when the team does passing drills with just the skill players. Seven-on-Seven and One-on-One's with wide receivers and defensive backs will be coached up and practiced by the skill coaches.

Addazio shrugs it off and knows those players will be in good hands.

"I don't need to be there," he said. "It's just like if the offensive coordinator is the quarterback coach, he isn't watching the pass rush. You coach it off the film and we have great coaches here. Coach Meyer is in the 7-on-7, Billy (Gonzales) is in the 7-on-7, all the coaches are there, so it's not a big deal."

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