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Column: UF attack has gaping holes

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Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 1:00 am | Updated: 5:38 pm, Wed Aug 28, 2013.

The Florida offense isn’t missing just one or two pieces: The entire unit is a mess beyond a single year’s worth of repair.

Last season’s attack finished No. 105 in the NCAA, then lost its three leaders in total offense to graduation and saw one of the game’s greatest offensive minds leave to take the head coaching gig at Kansas.

But even without John Brantley, Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey and Charlie Weis, some are optimistic about the offense in 2012.

Color me confused.

Will Muschamp brought his jalopy to the shop, the mechanic gave it back to him missing three tires and a steering wheel, and he’s expecting it to run better.

With Brent Pease on board, the Gators plan to shift to a downhill, run-heavy offense. How exactly is that supposed to work?

Everything we’ve heard out of camp is that Mike Gillislee is far and away the No. 1 back. It’s easy to look at his 5.9 yards per carry last season and think he could be in for a big year, but take a closer look. Of Gillislee’s 56 carries, only two came during second-half, one-score situations. Two! The vast majority of his work came against defenses that were worn down and demoralized, or against teams who were so far ahead that they didn’t really mind if he ran for six yards on first down.

Now he’ll finally get his shot, but maybe it’s worth wondering why he hasn’t already. Are his pass protection skills that hopeless? Does he have nagging injury issues we haven’t been told about? Can he catch the ball?

Any or all of those issues could be in play in 2012, and it’s hard to build an offense around a lead back who didn’t catch a pass in 2011.

Even the running side of the equation seems shaky, given UF’s horrendous struggles on the offensive line last season. I could see hope for the unit’s improvement if there were new players involved, but neither D.J. Humphries nor Jessamen Dunker have cracked the starting five.

The offensive linemen will tell you they can succeed because of chemistry and cohesion, then in the next breath say they don’t know who is starting where because reps are split so evenly.

They’ll tell you things will be different because of a new strength program, even though a lack of agility and technical ability had much more to do with 2011 struggles.

They’ll even tell you that another year of experience makes them better, but how much stock can really be put in that? With the exception of Chaz Green, who is entering his junior season, all four projected starters are beginning at least their fourth year on campus. I can buy freshman to sophomore jumps, and I can buy jumps from Year 2 to Year 3. But if you want to tell me that a guy who has been here for three years will suddenly bust out in season four, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Sure, the defense will be great. But how much better can it be than last year, when it finished No. 8 nationally and the team went 7-6?

On top of the issues at running back and offensive line, there’s the unproven quarterback situation and the invisible wideouts.

So, unless the defense is going to shut out every team it plays, I have a hard time setting the over/under any higher than 6.5 wins.

Too many pieces need improvement, and there’s only so much a lackluster group of players can do in one offseason.

Contact Greg Luca at gluca@alligator.org.

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