A note: This blog is going to be Gator-heavy for this season. And I may be trying out Posterisks. For both of these things, I apologize in advance.
Word from Gator Country ($) is that the Gators’ no-huddle package, deployed sparingly in the steamrolling of Charleston Southern, is called either “banzai” or “bonzai” or “bansai” or something. (Gator Bytes confirms this.)
What it should be called*, in any case, is scary.
*Getting the disambiguation out of the way: I think banzai, a Western bastardization of a Japanese term that actually means “ten thousand years” and was shouted during headlong charges in World War II, is what the Gators are going for with the package’s name, as it would connote speedy, surprising attack, despite the irony of a derivation from a term that originally meant millennia. (Much cooler: Gyosukai, meaning literally “shattered jewel,” which would be appropriate for a package that could dash the best-laid plans of defensive coordinators.) But bonsai, referring to the meticulous cultivation of miniature trees, would work, too, because precision, as we will see, is key.
The idea is stolen from Oklahoma’s hurry-up, which helped power their near-unstoppable 2008 offense. As Buddy Martin explains in the Gator Country article, it’s also something Urban Meyer may have come across before the national championship game. When Oklahoma’s bright offensive coordinator, Kevin Wilson, was at Northwestern, his Wildcats and Meyer’s Bowling Green Falcons staged an offensive fireworks show.
But, because it must (and should) be tailored to the specific talent Florida has, I think it’s likely that it will come in a different form that Oklahoma’s did. While the Sooners’ up-tempo offense was predicated on allowing Sam Bradford to read confused defenses’ pass coverages and pick them apart, Florida builds everything from its multidimensional running game; while Oklahoma was introducing an element of chaos to their spread with their package, the Gators will be layering more pandemonium atop an offense that already causes it with a variety of motions, counters, and unconventional plays.
If trying to stop an offense with dual-threat Tim Tebow and a cast of fleet receivers who can also be runners is difficult, trying to stop that with limited defensive personnel and little time to adjust seems staggeringly so. And trying to stop it time and again against one of the fastest, best-conditioned teams in college football? Nightmarish.
Maybe the worst part of a prospective hurry-up for Florida is that nearly every thing the Gators have done on offense under Meyer is laboriously tested for maximum efficacy (bonsai, anyone?) and run by a quarterback who combines both slavish devotion to film study with above-average improvisational skills. Tebow, more than any other quarterback currently in the college ranks, is the perfect engineer for a no-huddle scheme that would combine both the preparation of a set of plays to be run in quick succession and the potential for massive breakdowns in the defense.
Though David Nelson guessed the Gators sprinkled in enough banzai to score “two or three” times from the package, Meyer’s comment (“What you saw Saturday was the tip of the iceberg.”) is both ominous and confirmation of what I saw: There was some rushing to the line, but it wasn’t anything near fully installed.
With that, the prospect of Joe Haden (or, uh, Deonte Thompson, Jeff Demps, or Chris Rainey) as a Wildcat quarterback, and the likely return of both Tebow as a scrambling quarterback and Aaron Hernandez receiving the exquisite tight end shovel pass, the Florida offense that rolled over overmatched competition with gruesome ease has much more lethality and speed to add.
Look for defenses* to suck wind and keel over all fall.
*But, if Troy does, don’t blame their lack of familiarity with tempo-based attacks, as the Trojans used to employ Tony Franklin, who knows a little something about fast-paced offense.