July 20, 2011; Hoover, AL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp speaks at the SEC media day press conference in the Wynfrey Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Gator Recruiting: On the Offensive

When Florida Gators head football coach Will Muschamp took over the Gators program he had a simple offensive plan: run the football between the tackles, control the line of scrimmage, and make vertical plays in the passing game. For those not in the know, this is what they mean when they say “pro style offense”.

“This league is a line of scrimmage league,” Muschamp said in an interview after his opening press conference. “Football is a line of scrimmage game, but there’s nothing like this league. The defensive lineman in this league set it apart. Everybody’s got good defensive lineman you’ve got to be balanced in what you do offensively. We’ve got to be physical up front, be able to run the ball when we need to, but still stretch the field vertically in the passing game.” He added, “We would like to recruit to be a little bit more of a pro-style offense. We’ll recruit to where we want to go.”

“Recruit to where we want to go.” A mantra easier said than done for first time head coaches like Will Muschamp. He’s had one glaring weakness when it comes to recruiting offensive players: he has no track record which recruits can hang their hat on. Offensive players want to know where they fit in to a particular scheme.  For this reason, Muschamp brought in Charlie Weis to be his first offensive coordinator. He was a big name, and the thought process was that recruits would flock to Gainesville to play for him. This decision would prove disastrous. Not only did he not help offensive recruiting, he actually set it back by mismanaging the players he inherited and mismanaging the offense. While Muschamp was able to get a few offensive players that are now helping them get to where they want to go, numbers-wise he struck out.

After Weis left and Brent Pease came in, Muschamp made it clear he would put his stamp on the program by challenging his players to become stronger physically and mentally and by focusing the offense on a between the tackles, run-first philosophy. His hard-headed approach to the downhill running game puzzled fans and media alike as the Gators eked out close win after close win this season seemingly neglecting the passing game altogether at times. For the mad scientist of Gainesville, there was method to his madness. Among other things, it let recruits know that the Gators were serious about running the football.

If you’re a big time running back who wants to be in a pro-style offense you are now considering Florida where in the past you may not have. In fact, the Gators first commitment in this class was a running back, Adam Lane. A few months later, they got a commitment from Gator legacy and four star running back Kelvin Taylor. Two big time backs and the Gators are through at the position, right? Not necessarily. Throughout this recruiting season it has been obvious they were seeking a third back in this class. After being snakebit in the past attempting that approach, many fans thought it wasn’t possible to bring in a third big time recruit at the position. Yet here they are a little over a month and a half from signing day and they’ve got a five star back in Alex Collins coming in for a visit this weekend and seriously considering the Gators. The Gators are now the “sexy” team in recruiting, especially in the run game.

Lane, 5-7 215, is a short back with big legs. He’s a workout warrior with a strong lower body, has great balance and vision, suprising speed, and should fit in well in Muschamp’s offense. He’s a sleeper that is not as highly regarded mostly because he missed his whole junior season due to injury. Taylor, of course, is considered the cream of the class. His father is Fred Taylor, a former great Gator running back who starred in the NFL for many seasons. Taylor rushed for over 10,000 yards in his career and is a splitting image of his father on the field. While not quite the burner that Lane is he has great patience, vision, and understands the nuances of playing the position in a pro-style offense. Both guys should make an impact next season in Gainesville.

Offensive line recruiting has suffered for a few years and the Gators had little depth last season making it extremely difficult to install a run heavy offense. Last season’s recruiting class was good on quality towards that goal but still short on quantity. The Gators this season were a year older and a little deeper on the line and better able to successfully run the offense Muschamp envisioned when he took over the program. So while Muschamp struggled getting line recruits to sign in his first two classes, he’s not having that trouble this season. Why? Recruits can see what this offense is about and exactly how they fit in. No wishwash here. If you’re a big, powerful masher, you are looking at Florida now. With four offensive lineman committed and two big time transfers in Tyler Moore and Max Garcia, it’s obvious that Muschamp is recruiting towards his goal, successfully.

Garcia is a big time offensive tackle who started twelve games his sophomore year at left tackle for Maryland and manned the scout team for Florida while sitting out this season per NCAA transfer rules. He will be eligible to play starting next season with two years of eligibility left and is expected to make an immediate impact for the Gators. Tyler Moore, a 6-6 305 offensive tackle was only the fourth true freshman to start on the line at Nebraska when he started four games in 2011 at right tackle and was a freshman All American. He left Nebraska and enrolled in a junior college. He is expected to enroll in January at Florida and should be eligible to play next season after sitting out this season.

Three star center Cameron Dillard from Canton, Michigan is a smart, strong run blocking center. He’s an old-style mauler with a low center of gravity who plays with good pad level and often drives through his man. At 6-3 285 he has the right build to play the position and his strength will be an asset as well. Octavius Jackson may be a sleeper. At 6-4 300 with a sub 5.0 forty yard dash and a 31 inch vertical leap, Jackson is a rare combination of size and agility. He is equally adept at pass blocking and run blocking, is great at setting the edge for off-tackle and jet sweep plays, and his quickness will make him a great asset for the Gators in the screen game.

The recent commitment of junior college offensive tackle Trenton Brown was huge for the Gators both literally and figuratively. At 6-7 (some sites have him at 6-8) and 350 pounds Brown is a massive human being. Watching his tape was like watching the incredible hulk when he’s just tossing things around. It’s hard to tell from video because his opposition looks small and not very talented, but he does appear to have good agility for his size. Finally, Roderick Johnson recommitted to the Gators this past weekend. At 6-5 320 Johnson is a large guy as well with long arms and quick feet and should provide valuable depth for the Gators.

Of all the Gators weaknesses over the last couple of seasons, perhaps none is larger or more glaring than at the wide receiver position. One of the reasons Muschamp was so hard-headed about running the football was simply because he really had little choice. Due to transfers and recruiting misses, the receiver position was extremely lacking in depth this season. The only experienced players were tight end Jordan Reed who was only in his second year ever playing the position and wide receiver Frankie Hammond who hadn’t shown much in his time in Gainesville. After that they were relying on sophomore Quinton Dunbar, sophomore Solomon Patton,  two tight ends who were converted from defense, and then two true freshman. Throw in a first time starter at quarterback running a new offense and you really do not have the blueprint for offensive success.

While this past season was an exhibition for prospective running backs and offensive lineman, it was more of a “help wanted” sign for receivers. It’s imperative for the Gators to not only add quality at the receiver position but quantity as well. Right now the Gators are sitting on five receiver commits Ahmad Fulwood a four star receiver from Jacksonville, three star Chris Thompson from Gainesville, three star Alvin Bailey from Seffner, three star Marquis Hawkins from Columbus, Georgia, and the latest, four star Demarcus Robinson from Fort Valley, Georgia.

Fulwood, 6-4 200, is the star of the receiver class, a big, strong, fast wide receiver with great hands that can stretch the field vertically and fight for balls in traffic. He has all the tools to be an elite receiver in the SEC and is expected to make an immediate impact when he arrives in Gainesville. The newest wide receiver recruit is Demarcus Robinson, a guy who was previously committed to Clemson, but recently pledged to the Gators and quickly shut down his recruitment. He is 6-2 195 pounds with deceptive speed, fantastic blocking skills, great hands, and is a legitimate deep threat. Bailey, 5-10 175, is likely to be a slot receiver for the Gators with great hands, good toughness for his size and is electrifying with the ball in his hands. He can also return punts and kicks. Hawkins at 6-1 175 is another big, strong wide receiver who can go up and get footballs in traffic. Thompson, 6-0 170, is a speedster who can get deep, has a great vertical leap, and is great at creating separation from defenders. Hawkins and Thompson both are sleepers as three stars. They both have the tools to be good players for the Gators.

While last season may have been somewhat difficult for Gator fans to digest offensively. It allowed Muschamp to brand his offense to prospective recruits. Now, in year three of recruiting, he’s able to go out and “recruit to where we want to go.” And with two running backs committed, four offensive lineman committed with two transfers, and five wideouts that is exactly what Muschamp and his staff are doing.



Tags: Adam Lane Ahmad Fulwood Alvin Bailey Cameron Dillard Demarcus Robinson Florida Gator Football Recruiting Gator Football Kelvin Taylor Max Garcia Octavius Jackson Roderick Johnson Trenton Brown Tyler Moore

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