GAINESVILLE, Fla. – There's a good chance Trey Burton will lead Florida in touches this season. He almost certainly will lead the Gators in positions played.
Florida has expanded Burton's role heading into the fall, lining him up at running back, fullback, receiver and tight end. It's an effort to confuse defenses, create mismatches and improve an offense that ranked 82nd in the nation in 2010.
"He's going to do so many things for us," first-year coach Will Muschamp said. "He's a guy that is going to be catching the football. He's going to be blocking. He's going to be carrying it. He was a short-yardage situation guy in the spring, was probably our best short-yardage back.
"It's kind of limitless what he's going to be doing in our offense."
Burton was a big part of Florida's scheme as a freshman. He ranked third on the team with 349 yards rushing, second with 32 receptions for 210 yards and scored a team-high 12 touchdowns. Most of his production came while lining up at H-back and quarterback in single-wing formations. He completed 4 of 6 passes for 83 yards.
"He does whatever you ask him to do," quarterback John Brantley said.
In a year in which the Gators had all kinds of identity problems on offense, Burton may have been the most consistent player on that side of the ball.
Brantley struggled in the spread offense, running backs Jeff Demps (foot) and Chris Rainey (suspension) missed significant time, and receiver Deonte Thompson dropped passes. Throw in botched snaps, penalties and turnovers, and Florida's offense was more mess than success.
New offensive coordinator Charlie Weis pretty much revamped the entire system — except for Burton's role. Weis realized Burton's best attribute is his versatility. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound sophomore is too fast and agile for most linebackers, too big and strong for most cornerbacks and smart enough to learn the nuances of every formation.
Burton's football IQ led coaches to consider moving him to safety because of depth issues in the spring, but the plan was quickly dismissed after the Gators evaluated the defensive pros versus the offensive cons.
"Trey understands the game," Muschamp said. "It comes to him very easy. He's one of those guys. It's been fun to be around him."
Burton has embraced his all-around role.
"I'm honored to do this," said Burton, who admires New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker. "You guys act like it's a burden. It's not. It's fun. I love doing this. I wouldn't have it any other way. I would love to play quarterback like I did in high school, but this fits me better."
It hasn't always been a smooth transition, though.
Burton had to learn how to block bigger guys and had to acclimate to getting hit in practice every day.
How has he progressed?
"Comfortable with it," Burton said. "I had to work on it a lot last year."
Burton may have needed to work on it, but when games rolled around, he looked like he mastered it. He scored a school-record six touchdowns against Kentucky. He finished with 145 all-purpose yards against Georgia. He started at quarterback against Florida State. He played everywhere and did everything.
"This comes easy to me because I played quarterback in high school," he said. "I had to know what everybody did anyway."