Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier talks with quarterback Feleipe Franks during practice last month on the UF campus. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]
Nussmeier: Experience will make difference
Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier seems convinced that Florida's offense will be dramatically better in year three of the Jim McElwain era. When asked why he feels that way, Nussmeier answers without hesitation.
“The players,” he said. "I feel good about our players. Now in year three, we've played a lot of young players in the first two seasons. We have a lot of guys that have experience now. We've won 19 games in two years. We've played in big games. We've played against great quality opponents.
“Playing in this league, you're not getting any layups. So, you've got to come week in and week out, and that's hard with young players, and they've done a good job of understanding where we're at and where we've got to go. And they understand the expectation. I'm really excited about the group, the leadership that's coming from within that group, and they're gelling together."
Nussmeier quickly points out the positives on offense: a more experienced line; a deeper and faster wide receiver corps; tight ends who run extremely well; proven producers at tailback; the excitement generated by the two new assistants (Ja'Juan Seider and Brad Davis).
“We're really starting to build a core of guys,” he said. “You look at our perimeter players. Our wide receivers are probably one of our deepest positions on our team. I really feel good about the way the line is starting to gel together, the depth at the running back position.
“I feel really good about where we're at from a speed standpoint of perimeter players. When you talk about Tyrie (Cleveland), and you talk about Brandon Powell and Antonio (Callaway), we've got some weapons.”
But what about the player responsible for locating those weapons and getting them the ball? What about the quarterback?
It is the great unknown on this offense. There is zero experience at the position this spring with former starter Luke Del Rio out following double shoulder surgery. The Gators like the arm talent of redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask and the potential playmaking ability of true freshman Kadarius Toney.
One potential problem: none have played a play at this level, yet.
Given that fact, many in Gator Nation may find the quarterback situation still a bit unsettling, but Nussmeier does not.
"No. Why should we (be worried),” he said. “Last time I checked, greatness wasn't defined by age or experience.
“Obviously, we're young at quarterback, but I like the players that are in our system. I feel good about the group, good about where we're at and where we're headed.”
Franks is considered the leading contender this spring to eventually become the starter, but the QB competition is just getting started, and both Trask and Toney will get their shot at the job. The coaches are already considering putting in a package of plays for Toney, who is an explosive threat running the football.
Here's Nussmeier's early take on the three young quarterbacks:
Feleipe Franks — “A lot more confidence, a lot better understanding of just the passing game overall (since he's been here). There's a different learning curve for each and Feleipe has done a great job of buying into what we've asked him to do and really improve in the classroom side of things. He's got great belief in his arm strength. At times, we've got to teach him that you can't make every throw and sometimes you can't throw it through three guys.”
Kyle Trask — “The thing about Kyle is he's deadly accurate. The biggest thing with Kyle is just getting repetition, getting in the game and playing. At times, he may overanalyze a little bit. In our second practice he threw a couple balls in the dirt. It's uncharacteristic of him because he is so accurate and you go, 'Whoa, whoa.' It's about letting it flow, letting him play and that's just repetition.”
Kadarius Toney — “He's electric. When you put the ball in his hands, he can make things happen. He had a run the other day in practice, and he had one again today. When he pulls it down and goes, you better bottle him up fast because he's electric, and we're really excited about him. He brings a whole new dimension to our offense. He gives us the ability to put some packages in and do some things differently. It takes you out of 'Hey, this is what they're going to be in.' Now, there's a whole new package that presents itself to a defense (that) they've got to prepare for week in, week out.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.
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