Paul Myerberg, in his preseason piece on his No.34, Florida, has a villain for last year’s poor showing by the Gators. First, the historical context:
You can further encapsulate last season’s offense – the Charlie Weis year, you could say – in two points: Florida went 5-3 when holding opponent to 21 points or less and ranked 111th nationally in third down conversions. From 1990, Steve Spurrier’s first season, through 2010, Urban Meyer’s last, Florida lost only six games when allowing 21 points or less.
Then, there’s the Costanza-like advice for the new guy.
Pease will improve Florida’s offense by taking care of the little things. First, find a quarterback. Next, start running with consistency on first down. Set up play action; Boise’s offense is unstoppable when the run sets up the pass. Convert on third down. Don’t rely on the pass to convert on third down. Run in short yardage situations. Protect the quarterback. Get tougher, please. Don’t call for a six-yard out when you need seven yards. Be flexible. Whatever Weis did, do the opposite. Be the anti-Weis.
Okay, okay. I think we get the point here. And Myerberg is fair in pointing out that the change in coordinators isn’t likely to make Florida into an offensive powerhouse overnight for the usual reasons, namely identity issues (Pease is the Gators’ third OC in three years) and personnel ones. But I wonder about something else: how do we know that Muschamp has a clue about hiring a decent offensive coordinator? I mean, Weis was a name hire and nothing else. This time, it wasn’t about hiring a name. It was about latching on to a program’s (Boise State) offensive success.
Muschamp knows he wants to run his offense out of a pro set, but other than that, he seems to chase the shiny toy. Here’s something he has to say about his new offense:
He promised more “imagination” on offense with shifts and motions under new offensive coordinator Brent Pease. He said about 50 percent of the strategy could be out of the shotgun format.
“We don’t see a lot of multiple motions and shifts … it creates issues defensively,” noted Muschamp of how Pease could be a challenge for SEC defensive coordinators.
Maybe he wasn’t paying attention to what Gus Malzahn was doing at Auburn when Florida lost to the Tigers last season. Motions and shifts, multiple or otherwise, aren’t exactly new to the SEC. And Malzahn’s own track record should perhaps serve as a warning for Muschamp: successful the first year with a quarterback who wasn’t the most gifted physically but who grasped the offense quickly and ran it well; off the charts the second year with the incandescent Newton; awful last year because none of Auburn’s quarterbacks could handle the responsibility. Florida, last time I checked, didn’t exactly display the kind of stuff at the quarterback position from which legends are made.
And if there’s a program that’s shown it doesn’t translate well to other places, it’s Boise State. College football is littered with former Bronco head coaches who couldn’t duplicate their success away from the blue turf. And Texas, which hired Pease’s predecessor last season to revamp its offense, didn’t exactly set the world on fire, multiple shifts or not.
Maybe this is the time it works, maybe not. But if you’re wondering why a team with Florida’s defense and Florida’s special teams isn’t more highly thought of in the preseason, maybe there’s more to it than Charlie Weis.