Two of the powerhouses in the Southeastern Conference have almost finished up spring practice and seem to be going in different directions offensively. The Florida Gators are preparing for life after Tim Tebow and are uncertain on what they will showcase in the upcoming season under the leadership of John Brantley. Alabama, on the other hand, has impressed head coach Nick Saban so far this spring with their offense that returns almost every playmaker.
“I feel really good about the way we’re going on offense,” Saban said on Wednesday. “The quarterbacks are playing well. We’ve got good skill players all the way around, and they’ve done a really good job. I think we’ve improved the passing game.”
The Crimson Tide’s offense will need to be as productive this year as they were last season due to a defense that only returns two starters. The defending national champions won the title behind a powerful rushing attack led by Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, but will need to be more productive through the air. Greg McElroy returns as the Tide’s starting quarterback and will need to get the ball to his playmakers at receiver in Julio Jones, Marquis Maze, and Darius Hanks to take the load off their running game this year. Alabama spent most of their spring’s first scrimmage focusing on the passing game and Ingram likes what he has seen.
“They were making plays,” he said. “When we were taking shots downfield, they were making plays. They weren’t dropping balls. Greg was making the right reads, so that showed up. Instead of incomplete passes or interceptions, those were big explosive plays. I don’t think it’s anything that anybody should be too concerned with, because we’re going to stay a balanced offense.
On the other hand, Florida head coach Urban Meyer doesn’t know what to expect offensively from the Gators this year. In addition to Tebow’s departure, running back Jeff Demps missed spring practice to focus on track and Andre Debose was held out of contact drills this spring. All of this, along with a new quarterback under center, leaves Meyers wondering how they will perform offensively this season.
Meyers hopes to get some answers following today’s spring game before the NCAA College Football season begins in the fall.
“Want to determine who we are on offense,” Meyer said. “I don’t know. We don’t have an offense. I told you that five years ago. Are you guys going to change a lot? We have no idea right now.
“We’re going to do what we do well. If that’s I-formation, if that’s shotgun, if that’s [backup] Jordan Reed at quarterback, if that’s throwing it all over the lot, I don’t know. Right now, I can’t tell you.”
Alabama is the clear favorite according to online sportsbooks to win the 2011 BCS National Championship with a money line set at +380 and the Gators are at +2000.