Urban Meyer eyes the I(-formation).

Over at Team Speed Kills, Year2 argues that some of us in the blogosphere are overreacting to the suggestion that Urban Meyer is contemplating moving his quarterbacks under center and running some of that old time I-formation stuff.

I’d like to interrupt this week’s Tennessee coverage briefly to go over something that has been thrown around by Smart Football, Spencer Hall (a.k.a. Orson from EDSBS), Senator Blutarsky, Rocky Top Talk, and I have no doubt others as well lately. It’s the notion that Urban Meyer incorporating pro-style elements into his offense will be some kind of earth-shattering change.

In the immortal words of Jules Winnfield…

My argument isn’t that the earth is going to move if Meyer occasionally inserts a fullback into the game (who’s the Gator fullback, anyway?), it’s that embracing the I-formation is unlikely to make the Gator offense better, or even allow it to hold serve at the level it’s currently performing.

Look at one of Year2’s points.

… Well, the big theory from spring practice was that hiring pro-style QB coach Scot Loeffler and adding some under center stuff was to get Tebow ready for the draft. There may be some truth to that; I’d be surprised if there wasn’t. However, Florida ran plenty of under center sets while Chris Leak was the quarterback (35% in the Ohio State game, for instance). The offensive staff has done it before and can do it again.

Sure it can, but do it well?  Does anybody remember the Gator offensive juggernauts of ’05 and ’06?  Of Meyer almost being reduced to tears after the 2005 LSU game (how many times have you seen a ranked team lose a game in which it was +5 in turnover margin)?  The 2006 Gators were the first team in conference history to reach the SECCG without breaking 30 points on offense in a single SEC regular season game.  That’s not the most compelling track record I’ve seen.

But, hey, if the move works and the Gator offense doesn’t miss a beat, I’ll be the first one to tip my cap.  From where I sit right now, though, it’s a vanity project that’ll be trotted out this year with little negative impact given the strength of the defense and the weakness of the schedule.  We’ll see how it plays out in 2010 when the post-GPOOE™ rubber meets the road.

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8 Comments

Filed under The Blogosphere, Urban Meyer Points and Stares

8 responses to “Urban Meyer eyes the I(-formation).

  1. Hobnail_Boot

    It has to be a recruiting tool, doesn’t it? If Meyer runs an offense that is usually spread but occasionally incorporates the I, he can sell both sides to recruits.

    I’d love to think this is all a reaction to losing Aaron Murray.

  2. Farsider

    I think this move could damage the Gators offensive efforts, unless they spread the field and work the triple option from under center, like Georgia Tech. It’s the running element–especially getting tough inside yards like a fullback— that makes Tebow such a threat. For the Gators to assume they won’t need Tebow’s running presence is either a move of vanity, or supreme arrogance. Time will tell.

  3. Mike In Valdosta

    Recruiting and post Teapot… How many QBs will survive the punishment #15 takes? That punishment just wasn’t on the other side of the ball in Corch’s previous stints. In the SEC, unless you have a linebacker playing QB, you cannot allow/force your QB to take that many hits.

  4. RA

    Senator,
    To your point that the gator offense sucked in 2005 and 2006 when they ran more I-formation, I think you’ve got the causation backwards. Meyer came in and tried to run his spread with athletes that didn’t didn’t fit and weren’t able to run the system.

    Leak couldn’t run, there was no protection, and the beat downs at LSU and Bama resulted. Over the course of the 2005 season, Meyer began to see the light and started putting more blockers in the backfield.

    I think the mediocrity on offense in 2006 was a result continuing to rely too heavily on the spread without the appropriate athletes. Watching Leak fake a pitch, then run, then slide 2 yards short of the first down was enraging. As was the gators’ complete inability to pick up any blitz. The only game the offense played well was the title game, in which OSU inexplicably decided not to blitz at all.

    Next year, John Brantley will be the QB. His skill set is much closer to Leak’s than Tebow’s. He will also get significant playing time this year to get him ready for next year. Could Meyer possibly be acting a little proactively by installing some facets of the offense he’ll run next year?

    • RA – thanks for the response.

      I wasn’t arguing that the Gators ran more I-formation in ’05 and ’06, just responding to Year2’s point that the Gators ran a lot more of their offense with the QB under center in those two years.

      I agree with you that a lot of the problems were due to fitting a round peg – Zooker’s recruits – in the square hole of Meyer’s offense. But that’s a problem that’s long gone now. In a sense, it’s like Meyer’s reverse engineering here to recreate the discrepancy.

      Does Florida have the personnel to run out of the I? Tebow’s never been asked to read the whole field out of the spread, now he’ll have to. How easy is it for a QB to go back and forth like that? How effective a runner will the QB be out of the I? If it cuts back Tebow, how effective will that knee-bend play action stuff be? Are you going to try to run those scat backs out of the I? If so, do they have the stamina to hold up in the SEC?

      I get the question you’re asking at the end, but it suggests an inefficiency that doesn’t make sense to me. Meyer’s known for some time that one day Tebow would be gone. Why is it necessary to recruit a quarterback who requires you to make significant changes to an offense that’s been rolling along for the last two years, instead of finding one who is a better fit? I have no doubt Brantley’s a good QB, but is he that good?

      I will say this – there’s one reason to think about adding an I-formation package, and that’s for short-yardage/goal line situations. I suspect that Florida may miss Tebow more in that area than anywhere else once he graduates.

      • RA

        Well, even though Florida’s offense has been statistically very good over the last two years, I think there’s plenty of room for situational improvement.

        In my eyes, if its 3rd and 15, the spread option sucks. Its hard to block long enough to let routes develop.
        If you have 2 minutes to go 80 yards, the spread option sucks. Its hard to conserve the clock running 5 yard drag routes and hoping your receiver breaks a tackle and gets out of bounds.
        If you are getting destroyed by the blitz (ala Miami owning UF’s offense for 3 quarters last year), the spread option sucks. There’s just not enough blockers to work with.

        I think UF has the personnel to run the I-form as a limited package – i.e. obvious passing downs, short clock situations, and when there’s protection issues. I think Moody would excel in it (hey, no more running Tebow up the middle 15 straight times to run the clock out!). UF just doesn’t have the depth at TE or FB to run it a ton though.

        I guess, as someone who has bitched about the spread option the last four years, I’m admittedly hopeful that this new experiment under center is being done to address problems rather than boost Tebow’s draft stock. I saw plenty of problems on offense last year that I think will only be worse without a Harvin caliber playmaker.

  5. Ubiquitous GA Alum

    “who’s the Gator fullback, anyway?”

    Maybe Corch Meyers will line Tebow at FB or H-Back since that’s what he should be in the NFL.

  6. DJ

    I think this may hurt the Gator’s offense…I can’t wait for the season to begin though…I heard Herschel Walker is playing in the legends sports challenge. At least I have that to look forward to also. Go dawgs!! sic ‘em!