Oct 27, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease oversee warmups before the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-US PRESSWIRE

Florida Gator Football: In Defense of the Offense


TRANSITION

“a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another.”

Transition is a word tossed around a lot in college football circles due to the high turnover of coaching staffs and players.

When Will Muschamp took over as head coach of the Florida Gator football team, the usual transition of coaching staffs and players took place.  New coaches, new systems, new ideas. Some players see a resurrection of sorts, some see the handwriting on the wall and bolt for greener pastures.

The biggest transition under Muschamp was the makeover of the offensive system from a spread offense that Urban Meyer ran to a pro-style that Muschamp felt comfortable with.  To do this he brought in 4 time Super Bowl offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.

What Weis found was a young offense lacking talent, direction, and focus.  Weis attempted to ride senior quarterback John Brantley and senior running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.  Brantley of course got injured and the wheels fell off from that point on and the Gators finished a disappointing 7-6.  After the season ended Weis bolted Gainesville to become head coach at Kansas.

Muschamp, a former defensive coordinator, sensing he had made a mistake in the selection of Weis understood his next choice would define him and ultimately decide if he is successful and sticks around or if he would be the next in a long line of first time head coaches who would fail at their first school.

In comes Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease.  Many felt he would be the saviour, of course, they felt that way about Weiss also.  The biggest problem with Weiss coming and going is it set the offensive transition back a season. Unlike the defense which is in the second season of Dan Quinn’s system, the offense is only in it’s first season under Pease.  As always transitions are hard.  On players, coaches, and fans.  But mostly players, as they struggle to learn the terminology, learn where they’re supposed to line up, where they’re supposed to be during the course of the play.

Just as we saw last year with the defense, players play slow because they’re thinking rather than reacting, we are seeing it this year with the offense.

“Any time you go through a transition you’re going to go through your growing pains. It’s communications really as much as anything, there’s a lot more thinking than there is reacting,” according to Muschamp.

Fans this season have been impatient and highly critical of the offense, in some cases it’s justified but mostly it’s simply because they do not understand what is taking place. Sometimes you got to break things down first before you can build them up. This year is a transition year  for the offense and as such, it is a learning year.  There’s a new quarterback who’s only real experience is at the high school level, wide receivers who are young for the most part, and offensive linemen who are dealing with their third offensive coordinator in three years.  The lack of continuity equals a lack of consistency.

Just as the defense struggled with consistency last year in the first year of a new system, the offense is struggling this year in the first year of a new system.  But take heed, just as the defense has made a considerable leap from last year to this, expect a similar jump for the offense next year.

“I certainly would see a jump in the second year,” according to Muschamp.  I’ve been through those transitions of first year to second year.  It’s a much smoother transition when players understand what is expected of them in situations and I think that any time you go through that you understand it is easier.”

In year two, guys have a better understanding of what to do and where to go and they can start letting natural ability to take over rather than over-thinking things.

“You go into year two and you start transitioning week to week and you make the adjustments,” Muschamp said.  “

Muschamp used the defense this season as an example of how much easier it is in the second year.

“We’re meeting defensive staff this morning or were making some tweaks and changes to some things we’ve done this season.  It’s a lot easier to sit in that room and make those changes as opposed to sit in the offensive staff room. Because that’s the first time a lot of those young men have been through that change schematically.  As opposed to what we’re doing defensively. ”

“I’m able to walk in the room and look at Jelani or John or whoever and say ‘you know we’ve did this such and such remember we’re good here?’  ‘Yeah we’re good.’ You don’t really have that database of information offensively right now.”

Year one of the transition to Brent Pease’s offense has admittedly been a struggle.  Probably not as much as some fans like to make out of it, however.  After all they are 9-1 and ranked 6th in the BCS and have 3 wins against BCS top ten teams playing the toughest schedule in the NCAA this season.  Not bad for a team who has fans calling for the coaches and the offensive coordinators heads.  And, yes, I have seen plenty of website message board threads dedicated to that.

Year two will hopefully see a tremendous leap from the pedestrian effort they’ve put forth this year, but that remains to be seen.  This year, however, the offense is still a work in progress and can be expected to remain primarily ground based and conservative as Muschamp seeks to finish 11-1 relying on the strength of perhaps the best defense and special teams in the nation.

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