April 7, 2012; Gainesville FL, USA; Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease talks to running back Hunter Joyer (41) during the first half of the Florida-Spring Game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE
Every program has some sort of archetype in fans' minds. Alabama's is tough defense with an adequate offense. Navy's is a triple option with overachieving, disciplined players. For most teams west of the Rockies, it's wide open offense with no defense to back it up (USC being about the only exception).
For Florida, it's definitely potent offense. This stereotype predates Steve Spurrier the coach, by the way, whether most people realize it or not. The school led the NCAA in scoring in 1928, and Spurrier of course won the Heisman as a quarterback in the '60s under the offensive-minded Ray Graves. About the only era of Gator football defined by super conservative offense was Bob Woodruff's tenure in the 1950s.
Of course there's a difference between conservative offense and bad offense, and the latter is what we've all been watching out of Gainesville the past few years. Even the 13-1 team from 2009 doesn't look all that special when you restrict the stats to just conference play. That side of the ball in Gainesville just hasn't been the same since Dan Mullen and Percy Harvin left town after 2008.
The problems were obvious. John Brantley was tasked with being a starting quarterback in the SEC (he's not). Chris Rainey was tasked with being an every down running back (he's not). Steve Addazio was tasked with being able to be concurrently a top offensive line coach and offensive coordinator (he's not). Charlie Weis was tasked with being a good college offensive coordinator (he's not). When Brantley missed time last year, a pair of true freshmen were asked to try to win games against Alabama, at LSU, at Auburn, and against FSU (ouch). All of this is to say nothing of the gaping void that represented the team's pass catching options once Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez left.
The latest guy tasked with the job of making the Florida offense go is Brent Pease, freshly imported from Boise State. Unlike Weis, Pease has only ever been a college coach. He's also been learning from Chris Petersen since the Broncos' magic run in 2006. Those two things he has going for him. Had he brought Kellen Moore to UF as well, I'd have no concerns whatsoever.
Instead, Pease has to choose a quarterback from Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel, two guys who have yet to separate from each other in practice. He has to make a running game using backs who have seldom seen much action other than garbage time carries. He has to mold a receiving corps out of a collection of players who either are injury prone, inconsistent, both, or a true freshman named "Latroy Pittman". About the only saving grace is that the line will probably be pretty good.
Oh, and the defense? There's not much to worry about over there. It was fine in 2010 under Teryl Austin (remember him?) and got better in 2011 in Will Muschamp's first year. It should be even better this fall, especially once Ronald Powell returns from his torn ACL. It will have a good chance at being one of the top 10 defensive units in the country.
The floor and ceiling of this year's Gator football team will be completely determined by how the offense turns out. If Pease is a reasonable facsimile of Petersen and can determine that one of the quarterbacks can run his scheme, then the team might make Phil Steele look like an oracle for picking it to win the East. If he does no better than fellow Boise State export Bryan Harsin did at Texas last year, well, the defense will win the team an extra game or two but that's about it.
Muschamp may be the guy ultimately in charge, but the team's success will not be determined by his area of expertise.