Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Play Time's Now for Gators Youngsters; with Caldwell Being Held out, Florida Football Coaches Search for Some Offensive Playmakers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Play Time's Now for Gators Youngsters; with Caldwell Being Held out, Florida Football Coaches Search for Some Offensive Playmakers

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL DIROCCO

GAINESVILLE -- One of the Florida football team's most important players will be useless in this Saturday's Orange and Blue Game.

Andre Caldwell's broken leg has healed, but he's being held out of the spring game as a precautionary measure. Gators coach Urban Meyer doesn't want to take any chances with his best and most versatile receiver, because he remembers how much losing Caldwell devastated Florida's offense last season.

"We're being really smart with him, " Meyer said. "We just need him back."

Criticize quarterback Chris Leak for being a poor fit for Meyer's spread-option offense, or rip the offensive line for struggling to block the option. The real culprit for the Gators' offensive struggles in 2005 was a lack of playmakers -- which became painfully evident after Caldwell broke his leg during the second-half kickoff against Tennessee.

Caldwell will be back for his senior season this fall, but Florida will need other receivers to become playmakers, or the significant improvement the offense showed in Meyer's second seasons at Bowling Green and Utah won't happen in Gainesville.

"If you're going to be an explosive, high-scoring offense, you have to make a lot of big plays and have a lot of big playmakers, " Gators offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said. "If we get some guys that step up into that role and can do those things, that's when you'll see the offensive explosion."

Caldwell, who will be a senior, is where it starts. He had a great start to 2005, accounting for 336 all-purpose yards in the first 21/2 games. He caught 10 passes, ran the ball five times and averaged 31 yards on four kickoff returns.

Caldwell was the receiver who carried the ball on reverses, handoffs and pitches, and when he went down with the injury, Florida lost that offensive element. The coaches tried Chad Jackson, but he averaged 5.6 yards on 16 rushes -- more than 7 yards shy of Caldwell's mark (12.8 per rush).

"With me coming back, that gives us more versatility, " said Caldwell, who has 72 catches for 1, 011 yards in his Gators career. …

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