Gators in search of more big plays

Not that Will Muschamp or Charlie Weis needs anybody to tell them what was missing from Florida’s offense last season, but it’s pretty obvious when you go back through the Gators’ games.

They simply couldn’t make defenses pay with explosive plays down the field.

And what made that so frustrating for the Gators was that few teams in the country were any better in previous years when it came to producing big plays on offense.

According to ESPN’s Stats & Info department, Florida had 49 plays of 20 yards or longer last season, which tied the Gators for 77th nationally.

Compare that to 2009 when they had 83 plays of 20 yards or longer, which tied for first nationally. And in 2008, they had 82 plays of 20 yards or longer, which tied for fifth nationally.

It’s no secret that Florida’s passing game was lacking a season ago. In SEC games, the Gators completed just eight passes of 25 yards or longer, and only two of those went for touchdowns -- both came in the 55-14 rout of Vanderbilt.

Seeing Jeffery Demps' big-play ability decline so much last season while he was battling injuries underscores how important it is to have him healthy in 2011. Against SEC competition, he had just one play of 20 yards or longer -- a 40-yard catch against Georgia.

As a freshman in 2008, Demps had five rushing touchdowns of 36 yards or longer.

Finding playmakers in the passing game will be a priority this spring and during preseason practice for the Gators. Junior Frankie Hammond Jr. has a chance to be that guy. Redshirt freshman Chris Dunkley will get every chance to show what he can do, and maybe this is the year the light comes on for third-year sophomore Andre Debose. Senior Deonte Thompson had his moments last season, but he has to be more consistent catching the ball.

Once Chris Rainey returned to the lineup from his suspension, he made a difference. In three SEC games, he had five plays of 20 yards or longer, and two of those were touchdowns.