Hunter Joyer To Be Featured More In Gators Offense

When Hunter Joyer first committed to the Florida Gators, it was difficult to predict his future. The fullback position has been in question for years at Florida. There have been traditional blocking fullbacks in the past, but there have also been seasons when FBs were converted to other positions because it wasn’t a viable role in the offense. Times have changed though, and with the hiring of offensive coordinator Brent Pease, it appears the fullback position may have its time in the spotlight.

Joyer provided a spark at times for a struggling offense during his freshman season in 2011. He instantly became a fan favorite and was the type of hard-nosed, extra effort player everyone loves. Despite that, his role with the Gators was in question; remember, Trey Burton was once a “fullback.”

Although his carries in 2011 were limited, Joyer looked like he could be a viable option running the ball (something he proved in high school), but heading into the 2012 season, his other abilities may be more exciting. In Pease’s offense, Joyer should not only get a chance to carry the ball on occasion and block for whoever is behind him toting the rock, but we could see him catching passes out of the backfield as well.

Joyer is a diverse talent with the ability to contribute to the Gators offense in many ways. Pease will look to utilize the soon-to-be sophomore in a variety of situations while he sees more and more playing time.

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The Offense: Florida Gators 39 – UAB Blazers 0

The longer this recapbecame, the more I realized I needed to split it up. So here’s the offense. Twomore parts – the defense and special teams/other – to come today as well.
Game two has come and gone and as expected, Florida is 2-0. That’s not a surprise,but what might be is the Gators play so far. It hasn’t been spectacular justyet, but it has been very good in areas, good in others, and improved in thefinal few. Fans will keep pointing to 2010 and say “it has been better so far this season,” but maybe it’s time tomove on. After two games it has been better, but 2010 no longer matters. 2011does. The SEC schedule begins in six days when Florida hosts Tennessee. Another win has fansconfident and ready to attack the rest of the schedule. For now we do look back,but less than 24 hours back at the 39-0 win over UAB.
The offense is still a work inprogress, but one we’re all excited to see grow. The playbook hasn’t beenentirely opened just yet and that’s just fine. Charlie Weis is known to play to his opponent. After the win over FAU, the use of screens and dump offswere excessive, but they worked. Against UAB, they were used again, but theyworked. The first thought is that they won’t work against bigger, faster,stronger SEC defenses, and that’s true for the most part, but what we don’t knowis what we don’t know. Yes, that makes sense. There’s more to Weis’ playbookthan screens. He’ll use what he needs when he needs it. So far he’s had littleneed for much more than the basics.
John Brantley wasn’t asked to throw the ball as much against UAB ashe did against FAU, but he was more efficient and got the ball down the fieldmore. The game’s first offensive play was exciting even if it didn’t run assmoothly as you’d like (trickeration isn’t always perfect). A 40-yard gain is a40-yard gain I guess. Overall, Brantley passed for 195 yards on only 12completions, compared to 229 on 21 in the first game of the season. Whenworking the middle of the field, he looked more confident and on several playsstood in the pocket, surveyed the field, and fired the ball to his receivers. Brantleyhasn’t been great yet, but he hasn’t needed to be. What he has been isconfident and that should mean something heading into the Tennessee game. Onthe season, Brantley is completing over 67% of his passes, but that 1-2touchdown-to-interception ratio is still a little bit cringe-worthy. Thepassing game needs to be a threat to opposing defenses moving forward and itneeds to not only create scoring opportunities, but actually score.
While the Gators only attempted 20passes against the Blazers, they were pounding the ball away while establishingthe run game. On the night, Florida running backs carried the ball 49 times andBrantley and backup quarterback JeffDriskel added three additional carries. The goal was to keep the focalpoint on the run game and it worked. ChrisRainey was his dynamic self totaling 119 yards on 16 carries. Jeff Demps only carried the ball twicebefore going out with what looked like a minor injury. We’ll definitely behoping it remains minor. The plus of the night was the backups. Against FAU, Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown totaled five carries and 19 yards (all were Gillislee’s),but against UAB, they combined for 115 yards on 21 runs. It was very importantto get the backups more carries especially in situations where Demps was unableto go. We’re now a little more confident in what Gillislee and Brown offergoing forward. Trey Burton and Hunter Joyer got into the action aswell. Those two along with Rainey and Gillislee all had rushing touchdowns. Twogames in and five different Gators have scored on the ground.
With only 12 completions, you’regoing to come away with low numbers among the wide receivers, but we still needto know who’s going to step up. Rainey led the way again with three receptions –only half of his total against FAU. Next up were receivers Andre Debose, Quinton Dunbar,and Deonte Thompson with two each.The main reason was the use of screens, but we still have to wonder what we’llsee going forward. After two games, the leading receivers that are actually WRsare Debose and Thompson with five catches and Dunbar with 82 yards. This goesback to the “if you don’t need it, don’topen it up yet” theory, but what happens when Florida needs to rely on adeeper passing game? We just don’t know yet. Brantley looked good hittingreceivers over the middle of the field for good gains, but it was limited.Tennessee will tell us much more and hopefully tell us who the top receiverswill be.
Finally, the offensive line. Ah,the offensive line. The line has talent; we’ve said that for a while now.Plenty of talent across all positions, but also uncertainty. The main reason isa lack of consistency so far. There were a handful of plays where the linelooked phenomenal. The times Brantley worked the middle of the field were goodexamples, but the prime one was the hole they opened for Rainey on histouchdown run. The line parted and took the entire UAB defense with it. It wasa relatively short touchdown run, but if that same play had happened furtherback down the field, it could have been a huge gain. Those are the types ofplays we need to see more of. The line was improved over week one, but stillhas some work to do. The screens were designed, but many of the dump offs werebecause of the quick pressure Brantley faced. This line can be good (and in2012, possibly great), but they need to do so play after play after play. Andthe penalties have to go.
There’s the offense. Defense to come.

Florida Gators Running Backs & Fullbacks – 2010 vs. 2011

Part two in a series where The Bull Gator and I go over the Florida roster differences from this season to last and what to expect in 2011. Click here to view our thoughts on the Gators quarterbacks.
2010: Emmanuel Moody – RSR, Steve Wilks – RJR, Jeff Demps – JR, Chris Rainey – RJR, T.J. Pridemore – RSO, Mike Gillislee – SO, Mack Brown – FR
Preseason Rating: B
Postseason Rating: C
To begin the 2010 season, one could have made the argument that UF’s running backs were one of the strongest units on the team. They had the guy who had really underachieved his whole career but was destined to have a great senior year (Emmanuel Moody), the speedster that would find an open hole and the next thing you knew he would be celebrating in the endzone with his teammates (Jeff Demps), the other speedster who would have double-duty as a WR and RB but would without a doubt excel in both areas (Chris Rainey), and the young guys who were just itching to get the chance to show what they could do (Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown). Throw in two experienced fullbacks in Steve Wilks and T.J. Pridemore and the Gators backfield in 2010 had the chance to be something special.
And then the season started.
Much like the quarterback position, it’s difficult to determine who is responsible for the backfield’s lack of production in 2010. Was it the players themselves? Was it the play calling? Was it the offensive line? Was it the lack of a passing game that allowed defenses to hone in on the run game? Was it that damn text message? Or maybe it was a combination of all of the above.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter who’s to blame. What matters is that the Gators once again did not have a go-to RB and did not have a back that even sniffed the 1,000-yard mark. Not having a 1,000-yard rusher is fine when you have the likes of Tim Tebow gaining 700+ yards and the combination of Demps and Rainey gaining over 1,300 yards, which occurred in 2009. But in case you hadn’t noticed, Tim Tebow is no longer wearing orange and blue on Saturdays (he prefers to wear it on Sundays now!).
In 2010, the Gators rushed for an average of 166.5 yards per game, and were kept under 100 yards on the ground four separate times including the game against South Carolina in which the Gators were only able to manage a whopping 35 yards of rushing. Even sadder is that the Gators actually had a long rush that day of 25 yards, so you can imagine how effective the other runs were. The 166.5 yards was good for 44th best in the nation in 2010, something that I grade as very average and therefore give a C.
Jeff Demps finished with the most yards on the team: 551. To put that in perspective, 142 players in Division 1A college football had more rushing yards than Demps. Chris Rainey probably would have finished with roughly the same amount of yards had he not been suspended for five games after reminding his girlfriend that it might be her time to pass away. When it was all said and done, 10 players in college football had more rushing yards than all of the running backs listed above combined. In a nut shell, our rushing attack was not so much of an attack at all.
Oh yeah, and those two fullbacks listed above…well, let’s just say that it took me a while to remember who the fullbacks even were from last year’s team. After all, what in the world does a fullback do in the spread offense? The answer: apparently not too much.
2011: Jeff Demps – SR, Chris Rainey – RSR, Mike Gillislee – JR, Trey Burton – SO, Mack Brown – SO, Hunter Joyer – FR
Preseason Rating: C
I am really not sure what else to grade this unit besides the grade that they ended up with in 2010. I mean, we are talking about pretty much the same exact group of players. The top five rushers from last year’s team are returning this year (which includes Trey Burton and Jordan Reed, who technically weren’t RBs last year). And if last year’s unit was only a C, what’s to make me think that this year’s unit will be significantly better, or worse for that matter?
A part of me says that with this new I-form offense, we will put more emphasis on the run game and therefore our rushing stats will go up from where they were last year. And while that may be true, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the unit will be better. Just because you have better stats on more carries, doesn’t mean anyone is bending over backwards to hand you the Doak Walker Award. With that said, Jeff Demps was recently named to the watch list for this exact award, so what do I know?
I hope that I am being too hard on this unit and that by the end of the year I look back at this analysis and realize that I was way underestimating the abilities of this unit and of our offense as a whole. I hope that both Demps and Rainey flirt with the 700-1,000 yard mark for the season. I hope that Gillislee continues to improve, becomes a force in goal line situations like he has the ability to do, and maybe even pushes for a starting spot by the end of the season. (Side note: does anyone think it’s crazy that Gillislee is already a junior?) I hope that the versatility of Burton allows him to line up all over the field and becomes an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses. Lastly, I really hope that Mack Brown is not the bust that I thought he was when he came out of high school and proves me, and other doubters, wrong by making a name of himself this upcoming season. (Side side note: does anyone think it’s crazy that our previous coaching staff wasted Mack Brown’s redshirt year last year?)
Maybe the most intriguing guy to watch heading into the 2011 season is a guy who you may not have even noticed last year had he been on the team. As a true fullback, someone who certainly isn’t scared to lay the wood and put a helmet in a defender’s chest, Hunter Joyer should be a valuable addition to this “new and improved” offense. The downhill and attack-like nature of the I-form offense is perfect for a bruising fullback like Joyer. And while it has been a few years since I got to cheer loudly for a fullback when he got into the game (I miss you Billy Latsko!), I think Joyer may be the perfect player to help bring back this tradition.
As with many of the units on UF’s 2011 team, there may be more questions than answers when it comes to looking at the running back corp. We pretty much know what the returning players can do, so that makes life a little easier. But in reality, we have no idea how Charlie Weis and company plan to use the running backs, how the running backs will fit into this new system, how the offensive line will look when it comes September, and how the passing game and John Brantley will help the running backs by providing them with a consistent and dangerous-enough passing attack so that the opposing defense is kept honest. But hey, if we knew all these answers, what fun would the actual games be?

The Plant Pipeline

Those of you that live in Tampa know about Plant.  Chances are those of you that follow college football recruiting do too.  One of the better public high schools in the area, Plant has had its fair share of big names in the football world and continues to produce multiple FBS-caliber athletes every year.
You probably remember Mike Williams as the USC star that attempted to leave the Trojans after two years only to be denied entrance into the draft by the NFL.  Before dominating defensive backs in college and then unfortunately not doing the same in the professional ranks, Williams was a stud wide receiver at Plant.  One that Florida wanted as a tight end (insert head smack).
Robert Marve will be suiting up for Purdue this fall.  You’ll recall Marve being touted as the next star signal caller at Miami.  Ultimately, things didn’t go his way with the Hurricanes and he transferred, but before all of that, Marve was a record-setting QB at Plant.
After Marve came quarterback Aaron Murray and one of his favorite targets tight end Orson Charles.  Florida wanted both, but the duo ended up together at Georgia.  Murray’s choice was a surprise to some and Charles earned notoriety for breaking one of the Gators’ national championship trophies.  Both stared at Plant before becoming Bulldogs.
Plant has produced plenty of talent over the years, but among the bigger names you’ll notice a common theme.  None of them were or are Gators.  Williams may have been a recruiting gaff on Florida’s part, but his size makes it at least somewhat understandable as to why a school might want him to play TE.  Marve would have had to sit behind Tim Tebow just as long as John Brantley did and then compete with Brantley for the starting job.  A competition he would have lost.  In the end, Murray made the right decision.  He wanted to play as soon as possible.  Entering his redshirt freshman year, he’s the Georgia starter.  And Charles may be the one that really got away.  A player with his abilities and talents would have fit into the Florida offense nicely and he would have seen playing time quickly.  The Gators were in it with all of them, but ended up striking out each time.
Now comes along the biggest name of them all.  James Wilder Jr. is a running back/defensive end/linebacker hybrid who ranks as the third-best prospect in the entire nation.  Most players listed as athletes have either played multiple positions well but none great or have excelled at one but may project to another in college.  Wilder isn’t like that.  He would be in the top 10 (and possibly top five) of any of the three positions he could play at the next level.
Wilder has made it known that he wants to play running back or at the very least get a shot at the position.  He could end up at linebacker – the position most think he is best suited for in the long run – eventually, but he wants a shot at carrying the ball wherever he goes.  Initially, Miami was mentioned as his top school if he played offense and Florida came in at number one if he ended up on defense.  That may now be blurred.
This past week, Wilder took in both Florida and FSU.  He visited the Gators and Seminoles along with his head coach and several teammates.  Wilder hoped to learn even more about two of the programs high on his list.  With only a few weeks until he makes his decision (Wilder is rumored to be announcing his selection in July), the star athlete wanted to get another look at two schools he’s extremely familiar with.
Wilder liked both, but that’s no surprise.  What is, though, is that the Gators recently picked up a commitment from a Tampa fullback.  Tampa Catholic’s Hunter Joyer may be an indication that Florida is looking to beef up its running game.  If so, they could be doing it in part for a player with Wilder’s talents.  A capable blocking back coming in with one of the top rushers in the nation.
And what about those teammates that accompanied Wilder?  Well, both are on Florida’s radar screen.  Quarterback Phillip Ely (like the past few Plant QBs) already has offers from more than 20 schools.  There’s no guarantee he’ll receive one from the Gators since they aren’t sure if they’ll go after another passer, but if they do, Ely could be near or at the top of their list.  The other was offensive lineman Tony Posada who also has numerous offers at this point.  Florida isn’t among them, but could be in time.  A prospect of Wilder’s talent will end up wherever he wants, but having teammates onboard as well never hurts.
If this is the year Florida finally pulls in a big name from Plant, Wilder’s is big enough to make the Gators forget all those of the past.  Fortunately, we don’t have to wait until signing day to find out his decision and if the Plant pipeline will add a stop at Florida.

The Long Snapper (6/18/10)

College football.  Quick and to the point.
Florida picked up commitment number five this week.  Tampa Catholic (Tampa, FL) fullback Hunter Joyer became the latest Gator and a very happy one who was basically waiting for Florida to offer.  Joyer – who is 6’0”, 245 pounds – is an agile back with the power to be a good blocker at the next level (might we be seeing more traditional two-back sets?).  He had received offers from a number of other schools including Georgia, but was waiting for the Gators to pull the trigger.  Joyer is already saying the right things and is ready to help Florida in any way he can, even if it means he won’t get a lot of carries in the Gator offense.  He’s just glad to be a member of the orange and blue family.
USF was busy picking up another commitment of their own.  Safety Chris Garye continues the Tallahassee Lincoln (Tallahassee, FL) pipeline to the Bulls.  The 6’3”, 205-pound defensive back has a high football IQ and was impressed with the new coaching staff.  Garye has played a number of positions on both offense and defense, but projects to find a home at strong safety at USF.  He’ll be joining former Lincoln star B.J. Daniels with the Bulls.
My ever-expansive search for a favorite Pac-10 team (it wasn’t all that expansive, in fact, there wasn’t even actually a search) may have finally come to an end.  Congratulations Utah you get the honor of being named a TBG favorite.  With it comes great responsibility and the expectation of a Pac-10 title within the next few years.  Do me proud.  The Utes will join the Pac-10 in 2011 as the twelfth member of the conference (possibly the eleventh depending on when Colorado comes aboard) leaving the Mountain West for the possibility of an automatic BCS bowl bid.  While some the conference moves may leave you scratching your head (a lot of the rumors definitely did), this one makes sense all around.
I can’t be the only one that wishes this news hadn’t come out.  Florida will add statues of Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, and Tim Tebow outside of The Swamp after the 2010 season.  Maybe it’s the fact that many others have done or are doing this.  The three definitely hold a special place in the hearts of many Gator fans, but I’m just not onboard with the statue thing.  Maybe it’s because Steve and Danny are going to get pretty lonely as picture seekers run to Timmy before every game.  But it’s mostly because my vote for animatronics was denied.