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With the NFL back, all of those undrafted players are starting to receive phone calls and even offers from teams. The picture to the left is, of course, TBG favorite (we have a lot of those) Chas Henry. As of this piece being written, Henry had yet to be signed, but it is only a matter of time. The best punter to ever punt the ball in an organized game is sure to get a shot somewhere and even more sure to stick.
Among those picked up by teams during the first day of free agency were Duke Lemmens – Arizona Cardinals, Terron Sanders – Baltimore Ravens, and Emmanuel Moody – Buffalo Bills. Maybe Will Hill agreed to a deal with the Washington Redskins, maybe not.
There are still a number of former Florida players out there, including Henry, Carl Johnson, Lawrence Marsh, Carl Moore, and Justin Trattou. Odds are some of them will have already found a team by the time you read this.
(Photo: University of Florida)
Part two in a series where The Bull Gator and I go over the Florida roster differences from this season to last and what to expect in 2011. Click here to view our thoughts on the Gators quarterbacks.
2010: Emmanuel Moody – RSR, Steve Wilks – RJR, Jeff Demps – JR, Chris Rainey – RJR, T.J. Pridemore – RSO, Mike Gillislee – SO, Mack Brown – FR
Preseason Rating: B
Postseason Rating: C
To begin the 2010 season, one could have made the argument that UF’s running backs were one of the strongest units on the team. They had the guy who had really underachieved his whole career but was destined to have a great senior year (Emmanuel Moody), the speedster that would find an open hole and the next thing you knew he would be celebrating in the endzone with his teammates (Jeff Demps), the other speedster who would have double-duty as a WR and RB but would without a doubt excel in both areas (Chris Rainey), and the young guys who were just itching to get the chance to show what they could do (Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown). Throw in two experienced fullbacks in Steve Wilks and T.J. Pridemore and the Gators backfield in 2010 had the chance to be something special.
And then the season started.
Much like the quarterback position, it’s difficult to determine who is responsible for the backfield’s lack of production in 2010. Was it the players themselves? Was it the play calling? Was it the offensive line? Was it the lack of a passing game that allowed defenses to hone in on the run game? Was it that damn text message? Or maybe it was a combination of all of the above.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter who’s to blame. What matters is that the Gators once again did not have a go-to RB and did not have a back that even sniffed the 1,000-yard mark. Not having a 1,000-yard rusher is fine when you have the likes of Tim Tebow gaining 700+ yards and the combination of Demps and Rainey gaining over 1,300 yards, which occurred in 2009. But in case you hadn’t noticed, Tim Tebow is no longer wearing orange and blue on Saturdays (he prefers to wear it on Sundays now!).
In 2010, the Gators rushed for an average of 166.5 yards per game, and were kept under 100 yards on the ground four separate times including the game against South Carolina in which the Gators were only able to manage a whopping 35 yards of rushing. Even sadder is that the Gators actually had a long rush that day of 25 yards, so you can imagine how effective the other runs were. The 166.5 yards was good for 44th best in the nation in 2010, something that I grade as very average and therefore give a C.
Jeff Demps finished with the most yards on the team: 551. To put that in perspective, 142 players in Division 1A college football had more rushing yards than Demps. Chris Rainey probably would have finished with roughly the same amount of yards had he not been suspended for five games after reminding his girlfriend that it might be her time to pass away. When it was all said and done, 10 players in college football had more rushing yards than all of the running backs listed above combined. In a nut shell, our rushing attack was not so much of an attack at all.
Oh yeah, and those two fullbacks listed above…well, let’s just say that it took me a while to remember who the fullbacks even were from last year’s team. After all, what in the world does a fullback do in the spread offense? The answer: apparently not too much.
2011: Jeff Demps – SR, Chris Rainey – RSR, Mike Gillislee – JR, Trey Burton – SO, Mack Brown – SO, Hunter Joyer – FR
Preseason Rating: C
I am really not sure what else to grade this unit besides the grade that they ended up with in 2010. I mean, we are talking about pretty much the same exact group of players. The top five rushers from last year’s team are returning this year (which includes Trey Burton and Jordan Reed, who technically weren’t RBs last year). And if last year’s unit was only a C, what’s to make me think that this year’s unit will be significantly better, or worse for that matter?
A part of me says that with this new I-form offense, we will put more emphasis on the run game and therefore our rushing stats will go up from where they were last year. And while that may be true, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the unit will be better. Just because you have better stats on more carries, doesn’t mean anyone is bending over backwards to hand you the Doak Walker Award. With that said, Jeff Demps was recently named to the watch list for this exact award, so what do I know?
I hope that I am being too hard on this unit and that by the end of the year I look back at this analysis and realize that I was way underestimating the abilities of this unit and of our offense as a whole. I hope that both Demps and Rainey flirt with the 700-1,000 yard mark for the season. I hope that Gillislee continues to improve, becomes a force in goal line situations like he has the ability to do, and maybe even pushes for a starting spot by the end of the season. (Side note: does anyone think it’s crazy that Gillislee is already a junior?) I hope that the versatility of Burton allows him to line up all over the field and becomes an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses. Lastly, I really hope that Mack Brown is not the bust that I thought he was when he came out of high school and proves me, and other doubters, wrong by making a name of himself this upcoming season. (Side side note: does anyone think it’s crazy that our previous coaching staff wasted Mack Brown’s redshirt year last year?)
Maybe the most intriguing guy to watch heading into the 2011 season is a guy who you may not have even noticed last year had he been on the team. As a true fullback, someone who certainly isn’t scared to lay the wood and put a helmet in a defender’s chest, Hunter Joyer should be a valuable addition to this “new and improved” offense. The downhill and attack-like nature of the I-form offense is perfect for a bruising fullback like Joyer. And while it has been a few years since I got to cheer loudly for a fullback when he got into the game (I miss you Billy Latsko!), I think Joyer may be the perfect player to help bring back this tradition.
As with many of the units on UF’s 2011 team, there may be more questions than answers when it comes to looking at the running back corp. We pretty much know what the returning players can do, so that makes life a little easier. But in reality, we have no idea how Charlie Weis and company plan to use the running backs, how the running backs will fit into this new system, how the offensive line will look when it comes September, and how the passing game and John Brantley will help the running backs by providing them with a consistent and dangerous-enough passing attack so that the opposing defense is kept honest. But hey, if we knew all these answers, what fun would the actual games be?
Part 38 in the Long Titles Really Give You Insight into What the Article is About and Give You the Necessary Information to Decide Whether You Want to Continue or Not Series
I should be the next offensive coordinator at Florida. I should also be the next defensive coordinator. I have plenty of college and professional experience. I am exactly what Will Muschamp is looking for and he knows it. I have the track record to back it up and I come cheap. Much cheaper than someone who is currently employed by another program. I am what the Gators need on both sides of the ball. And how do I know this? I play football video games and I watch football movies. So what if I’ve never actually coached in a game with what you might call “real” people.
To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what Boom is looking for. I watched the introductory press conference and I’ve heard everything everyone else has, but overall I don’t know. What I do know is that over my many years of dominating in both NCAA Football and Madden I have become virtually unstoppable. I score at will in any offense, I make timely and correct personnel decisions, I am a defensive mastermind, and most importantly I win. A lot. So much so that it’s almost comical. I’m not really sure what more you could want.
Take the video game version of Florida for instance. The Gators offensive playbook on NCAA Football has been garbage since Urban Meyer took over the real program. The intricacies of the spread never really translated well to the video game world, yet I make it work. I haven’t lost a game in years and I average nearly 60 points per game. John Brantley won the Heisman Trophy in both his junior and senior season. Name one other coach who could have accomplished that!
What sets my offense apart from that of a certain former Florida offensive coordinator and pretty much every candidate that will ever arise is that I take chances. A lot. On first down, I always go deep. It’s not about keeping defenses honest, it’s about scoring quick and then again and again. Always kick your opponent when he’s down. There’s no mercy. In my world, not running up the score is frowned upon. And yes, I run the ball too. What fun is one 1,000-yard rusher when you can have two, or even three? I made Emmanuel Moody relevant. Deonte Thompson never dropped passes when playing for me. My offensive line blocks everything. My kickers never miss, NEVER. And they do all of this without the need for unnecessary things like practice.
On defense, I’m even better. Sacks aplenty. Interceptions at an unequaled pace. Blitz, blitz, blitz. Facing third and eight? Blitz everyone. The opponent punting? All out punt block. Defense isn’t time to sit back and wait. It’s time to punch someone in the gut. Time to use the hit stick. If defensive wins championships than I’m the gold standard. There isn’t a national award my guys don’t win and there isn’t a team that even dares to put up 10 points on me. I truly do bring the BOOM.
Whatever I didn’t learn from video games, football movies were my education. The Program taught me that Halle Berry can make both your running back and fullback practice harder and eventually come together to win the big game. Varsity Blues taught me that when you NEED a score give it to your 400-pound offensive lineman. Friday Night Lights, Any Given Sunday, and a host of others taught me that even though your wide receivers are rarely mentioned by name and have small parts they will still make every tough catch when it matters. And Little Giants taught me that an unknown coach from Canada can bring together a group of afterthoughts to take down the powerhouse.
Really, what else do you need? A guy who didn’t do for Miami what he could have with that talent? Giving a promotion to someone who may be a few years away from still being completely ready? The leader of one of the country’s worst passing attacks? No, you need me. Someone who can start right away, is a GREAT recruiter, knows how to get kids to the NFL, and never loses.
We’ll start off with a quote from contributor and frequent commenter One Eyed Willy, which puts an interesting perspective into the Steve Addazio–Dan Mullen dynamic and more than likely echoes the thoughts many Florida fans currently have.
“I feel like Addazio is Mullen’s little brother who he taught how to play basketball back in the day. Mullen taught him his signature sky hook and his behind the back dribble. Problem is that when Addazio tries to use those moves against Mullen, big brother is already two steps ahead. But maybe Addazio’s stupidity pays off. Maybe Mullen thinks ‘well, if they were smart they would run a play action pass here since they have been setting it up all day long.’ And since Addazio isn’t smart he runs an option to the short side of the field that happens to work because the entire defense is thinking play action pass. One can only wish.”
One of the biggest concerns heading into Florida’s matchup with Mississippi State is that Mullen knows the Gators. He was there. He helped create the offense and he is also aware of what can stop it. Addazio was the replacement. The next choice. He learned it from Mullen and very rarely does the student become the teacher.
Could the Bulldogs hold the upper hand because of what they know of the way the Gators play? It’s a valid possibility and one that has fans worried. They aren’t confident in Addazio’s abilities – just take a look at the quote again – and are hoping that sheer luck and Mullen overthinking is what saves the day for them and gives Florida the victory. Ah the ups and downs of being a Gator fan in 2010.
What pulls the whole thing together is how Willy ends it: “One can only wish.” That might as well be the theme for the rest of the season for Florida. No one is exactly sure what was expected out of the 2010 season, but for Gator fans whatever it was wasn’t enough. A step back due to a number of new players at key positions sounds fine and reasonable, but when it actually happens fans hit the panic button. Now Florida faces something it hasn’t had to deal with since 1999: back-to-back-to-back losses.
Breathe. It’s okay. Breathe. We’ll get through this together. That hasn’t happened yet and the Gators still have to be considered the favorites in this matchup. The Bulldogs are an improving team and have the Mullen factor going for them, but before you grab a paper bag and have to put your head between your knees look a little deeper.
MSU has looked great in three big wins against lesser opponents. In their last outing, they rushed for over 400 yards. They held the ball for 39:02 of the game. That’s scary good, especially when you consider the fact that the Gators haven’t played a linebacker for a single down for two straight games (okay, so that’s a little much, they’ve played, but they’ve been invisible). The Bulldogs have scored 47 or more against the likes of Memphis, Alcorn State, and a Case Keenum-less Houston team.
Now look at their SEC games. The games MSU is 1-2 in. In losses to Auburn and LSU, the Bulldog offense only managed one touchdown in each. In a win over Georgia, they put 24 points on the board. Not bad in that final game, but overall the offense is averaging 12.7 points per game against SEC opponents (yes, there was another TD in there against Auburn, but the defense scored it).
So what you really have to wonder is which MSU we’ll see. The one that is a well-oiled machine? Or the one that struggles to put points on the board? And then you have to ask the same question about Florida. Do we get the Gators who looked like they had put it all together against Kentucky? Or the Gators with a frustratingly confusing offense and a leave-the-middle-of-the-field-open defense?
If there ever was a trap game for Florida, this is it. You see, the Gators still control their destiny in the SEC East. Florida has two conference losses and the only teams without three already are South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Both have one SEC loss and both still face the Gators. But this is the game. The game where Florida can’t experience a letdown. It’s too hard to say if they’ll bounce back after losses to Alabama and LSU or if they’ll still experience the same issues they did for 120 minutes.
You’ve heard it a million times. This is a good football team. And that’s true. This team has as much talent as any team in the country. The problem is the utilization of that talent. Sure John Brantley doesn’t fit perfectly into the offense, but what happened to “we tailor our offense and play calling to the personnel we have?” Really? You do? Then why is Jeff Demps constantly running the ball inside the tackles and Emmanuel Moody is getting plays called that take him to the outside. And, oh yeah, screens only work if you set them up effectively. You can’t just keep going to them over and over and hope for them to eventually work. Well, maybe Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio can hope, but something is not clicking and it may have to do with that fact that Percy Harvin isn’t the one catching those screen passes anymore.
There are problems and MSU knows that. They have some of the same problems when it comes to facing the tougher teams. Because of that, this one could really go in either direction. The average fan doesn’t like to think a program like Florida could lose to one like Mississippi State, but the have-nots have closed the gap between them and the haves. They have athletes as well. Players that can step up in big moments. Florida may be nervous going into every game the rest of this season. They have to worry about this one first.
Get the play calling issues figured out (because if you think the yelling for Addazio’s head is loud now, just wait). Utilize the talent you have (PLEASE!). Occasionally simplify things (blocking schemes don’t always have to be this guy pulling here and this guy moving there, they can be just “block”). Stretch the field (the occasional incomplete deep pass is okay as long as you’re taking a shot). Pressure the opposing quarterback (and don’t stop). Get the linebackers involved (they can be great). Force turnovers (this is a big one).
It all seems awfully simple. On paper. In the past two games though, there have been issues with some or all of those things. If it’s not fixed against Mississippi State, it’s anyone’s guess what the rest of the season will bring. We’re only halfway through and I’m already out of “ughs.”
Who Do You Have?
I took yesterday off from the blog world to reflect on the disaster that was Saturday. Okay, so that’s not true at all. I took yesterday off because it was Sunday and I had no desire to do anything but sit on my couch and do, well, nothing. But I might as well have been stewing from what felt like a season-ending derailment in every sense of the feeling. Funny thing though, it wasn’t.
Put your orange and blue bias down for a minute and think objectively. Before the season started what did you think Florida’s final record would be? 14-0? No, you didn’t. 13-1? Maybe, there is talent, but it might have been a long shot. 12-2 or 11-3? Seems more reasonable. I’m not trying to justify losing as being “okay.” It’s not. This is college football. You get lucky if you can lose a game a still come away with a National Championship. The Gators know; they’ve done it three times. What I am trying to say is that it shouldn’t have come as a shock that the #1 team in the nation – Alabama – beat Florida.
What is shocking is the way it was done. It you looked at the stats without seeing the final score, you might think the game was closer. You would say the Gators’ defense played pretty well in containing Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson – with the exception of one 30-yard jaunt by the latter. You would be wowed that Florida had more total yards, a greater time of possession, and held the Crimson Tide to only 103 yards passing. Then you would get to turnovers and want to put your head through a wall.
The Gators had their chances. They drove the field more than once to be stopped by “interesting” calls (I won’t say “bad” because as obvious as the Trey Burton and Emmanuel Moody touchdowns may have been to a Florida fan, it’s completely understandable why neither was overturned) or turnovers. All in all, despite a few lengthy drives, Florida still looked lost on offense. John Brantley is learning his way and he is 4-1 as a starter, so this isn’t necessarily complaining, but he continues to look flustered. Traveling to the nation’s top team and playing in that environment is no small feat, but Brantley has looked nervous throughout the season. Part of it could be the mental game (more to come, but the snaps are definitely affecting him) and part could be the legacy he is following, but he needs to snap out of it. Brantley has the talent to be a top quarterback. It’s time to show it. The training wheels are off.
As for the snaps, how many games must the experiment go on? I’ve said it before, and I really do hate to put down a very good player, but move Mike Pouncey back to guard. Clearly the coaching staff is having a hard time determining who the best option at right guard is. We’ve seen a steady rotation at the position. Well, five games into the season they also have a serious problem at center. After one game, we all heard it was an easy fix, but now it’s four games later and it’s still broken. Seriously, thanks for trying Mike, but you’re a better guard. That’s where you belong. The snapping issue is something you think too much about now and it’s not going away.
The biggest concern on the defensive side of the ball was the disappearance of one unit. I won’t necessarily put any blame on the players themselves as it looked more like the sets being called, but the linebackers were largely non-existent for the entire game. Coverage calls and defensive schemes were the culprit as it appeared the LBs were put into assignments which took them out of the play for the most part. The first half was frustrating as Alabama seemed to work the open parts of the field over and over again. Those areas where in any other game this season the linebackers would be.
I could get into other areas as well, but the game is over. It goes along the lines of something cliché statement about not being able to change the past and blah, blah, blah. It could be seen as a heartbreaking game for Florida or one which exposed some definite areas of weakness that need to be addressed.
The best way to describe this game is with the word unsure. Of course, there were players that could have and should have stepped up, but ultimately the coaching staff appears to be unsure of what to do. (Side question: does anyone else find it interesting that the man taking the heat for a lot of this – Steve Addazio – coaches from the sideline and not the booth like so many other offensive coordinators?) There were games like this last season as well. For whatever reason, the Gators go into safe mode. The playbook is different and the defensive schemes are out of the ordinary. Florida goes from playing to win to playing not to lose. Against an opponent as strong as the Tide, the Gators did lose.
It’s hard to determine exactly why. There are enough reasons above or in a number of other places. But the coaching staff needs to be confident in what they have. We won’t know how good of a gunslinger Brantley can be until they let him do it. We won’t know exactly how much Florida can get out of the running backs if they continue to run them right into the line.
A loss to Alabama isn’t the end of the world, but a game plan like that and it won’t be the last one. The talent is there and the Gators are still very much in the driver’s seat to go to a third consecutive SEC Championship Game. Changes need to be made if that’s going to happen though.
Florida running back Jeff Demps injured his left foot in the win over Tennessee and then hurt the foot again in the Gators’ victory over Kentucky. Due to the injury, Demps will miss practice during the early part of this week and will wear a protective boot.
Despite the precautions, the injury doesn’t appear to be serious as there is nothing broken or torn. The two words being thrown around at the moment are bruise and sprain. Although it presents an issue for Demps in preparing for the matchup with #1 Alabama, he should be able to play when the Gators face the Crimson Tide on Saturday.
Demps is a key part of the Florida offense and may just be its most dangerous weapon so far this season. He leads the Gators in rushing yards and is always a threat to break a long run. Without him in the lineup, Florida will have to rely on Mike Gillislee and Emmanuel Moody to carry the load. While both have shown flashes of talent this season, neither brings to the offense what Demps does.
When the sprinter gets to the outside, no one in the country can catch him. Demps is the fastest playing in the nation and, although Gillislee has shown some breakaway ability, having him out of the lineup could hurt the Gators. You don’t want to face anyone, let alone the nation’s top-ranked team, without one of your best offensive players.
With every precaution being taken, expect Demps to at the very least give it a go against the Tide. This isn’t a game he wants to miss and without serious damage to his foot, he’ll do his best to see if he can contribute before throwing in the towel.
Florida beat Kentucky 48-14 on Saturday night. But you could also say Trey Burton beat Kentucky 36-14. Or that the Florida eights defeated the Kentucky eights by a score of 7-2. Whichever way you look at it, the Gators beat the Wildcats by a good enough margin to get fans excited about the offense for at least a few days.
The world has now been introduced to Burton, who switched his jersey number before the game, got some sort of supernatural power out of the #8, and the proceeded to set a Gator record by crossing the goal line six times. That’s one more than Tim Tebow’s previous school record. Burton almost passed for a touchdown as well, but Omarius Hines mysteriously tripped on his way down the field.
Or was it all that mysterious? The game saw nine touchdowns. All nine were scored by players wearing the #8 on their jerseys. Hines wears #82. If he had kept his balance, he would have caught it from a #8, but clearly that wasn’t good enough for the football gods. They had made their decision on exactly who could score TDs earlier that night and it just wasn’t in the cards for Hines.
Burton’s final stat line was something of legend. 10 total carries and receptions, six touchdowns, and that 42-yard completion to Hines for good measure. His five rushing touchdowns came on only five carries, almost like you were controlling him in a video game trying to prove you could score on each and every carry. Have to believe the Gators have a good red zone option for the next three or four seasons.
And Burton wasn’t the only bright spot. John Brantley finally broke the 200-yard passing barrier and ended the night with 248. Jeff Demps proved that maybe 26 carries in one game isn’t the best way to use him. Emmanuel Moody looked like he could be the power runner. Carl Moore was great and could be becoming the go-to receiver. And Andre Debose finally got touches, something fans have been desperately waiting for.
On the defensive side of the ball, Duke Lemmens and Justin Trattou continued to overachieve. Jaye Howard is proving to many that he could be the best player along the line. There’s not enough to say about Jon Bostic. And Jeremy Brown made sure the #8 was well represented on the defensive side of the ball as well.
It was a definite step forward for the Gators. After three games there were plenty of question marks and there still are, but it’s a step. A step right toward the #1 team in the nation and Alabama. One that brings along a renewed hope heading into the next game. The defense continued to impress and the offense seemed to stabilize. Hopefully it wasn’t an aberration and was what will become more of the norm.
Florida did a lot right against Kentucky and could have some carried over momentum heading into that matchup with the Crimson Tide. The first quarter of the regular season is over and the Gators are 4-0. Now Florida heads to the proving ground. Bama, LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia. There’s still a long road ahead, but the victory over the Wildcats was reflective of what a top 10 team should be doing. Again, a step forward.
• Not good news for those of you hoping to catch a glimpse of Florida in action before the 2010 season-opener. The Gators have decided to close all practices to the media and fans, so reports on some of your favorite players may be hard to come by. The season isn’t that far off now, but this news doesn’t help us get there any faster.
• GatorBait.net gives us 10 predictions for the Gators. It’s hard to disagree on any of them, but I do have a few points:
I’ve said for a while now that I think Mike Gillislee is going to push Emmanuel Moody. Gillislee is more talented than most think and could get a significant number of carries in 2010. Moody is still a more than capable running back, but it’ll be hard to keep Gillislee off the field.
I’m not sure it matters if Lawrence Marsh is a starter or not. The Gators could use a rotation-approach at defensive tackle. Expect to see Marsh, Jaye Howard, Omar Hunter, and Terron Sanders each get plenty of time. As for those five-star DTs Florida added, this is a position where it can take a little longer to develop at the next level. While they both could play in 2010, it’s not a bad thing if they are limited as they adjust to the college game.
And finally, this isn’t a knock on Jelani Jenkins, but I believe Jon Bostic may be better suited to play middle linebacker. Jenkins is a freakish athlete who could play at any LB position, but what’s best for Florida might be to get both on the field at the same time. If that’s the case, I think Bostic may be the good MLB choice with Jenkins utilizing his speed on the outside.
• Sampson Genus. Great name. One of USF’s best players. Genus is dedicated to being a leader on the field and in the locker room.
• USF had a shot at pulling in linebacker Glen Staley. Maybe an outside one, but there were rumors the former USC signee was down to the Bulls and FSU at one point. Unfortunately, Stanley ended up going with the Seminoles. The LB will have two years of eligibility remaining.
• Jeremiah Masoli has found a home at Ole Miss. The former Oregon quarterback was offered a chance to walk on at Ole Miss and will take head coach Houston Nutt up on it (I’ll do my best to never again write the phrase “nut up on it.”).
Masoli has about a month to learn the Rebels system and if he does well in practice could earn the starting job. The quarterback will be eligible to play right away and without a clear leader at the position, Masoli could gain control of the job.
There are people who paint Masoli as the bad guy in this whole process. He was, after all, dismissed from his former program. And then there are those who call Nutt dirty for accepting a player with Masoli’s record. It’s hard to argue with that second group.
I have a feeling Masoli stays out of trouble while a Rebel though. He knows this is his chance to redeem himself and get people to think of him as a football player again.
• The Bryce Brown situation sure is fun to watch unfold. It’s really a matter of who you choose to believe at this point. Did Brown ask for his release at a certain point? Did he text his request to Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley? Did the two meet to discuss it? It’s hard to know what really happened.
Regardless, Brown has not been released from his scholarship. The running back seems to want to transfer to Kansas State, but is having a hard time getting Dooley and Tennessee to cooperate. However, it could be because Brown may not be going about it the right way. Interesting saga involving a former #1 overall recruit.
USC put together some great recruiting classes during Pete Carroll’s tenure as head coach. 2006 was no different. The Trojans assembled a typically stellar class – ranked number one in the country by many – and appeared set to remain one of the nation’s top teams.
If there was one question about that class, it was the running backs. USC was fresh off of the careers of Reggie Bush and LenDale White, so it’s no surprise nearly every decent running back in the nation wanted to be a Trojan. What was surprising is just how many USC ended up signing. The Trojans class ended up consisting of three running backs, an athlete pegged to be a RB, a linebacker who would become one as well, and a fullback.
Four of those six – Allen Bradford, C.J. Gable, Stafon Johnson, and Emmanuel Moody – were rated among the nation’s top 70 players by Rivals.com. The other two – Kenny Ashley and Stanley Havili – were both awarded four stars by the ranking service.
USC fans were in awe over the haul and couldn’t wait to see what their new stable of backs would do on the field. Although rated as a linebacker, Bradford was the nation’s #9 prospect overall. Johnson and Gable were also given five stars and ranked in at #18 and #23 respectively. Moody was a little further down the list at #70 while Ashley and Havili missed the Rivals100, but still ranked impressively.
Fast forward to today. Four years after the collection of star running backs arrived at USC. What would you have thought would become of them? Surely not all of them would become All-Americans. One or two might even leave the Trojans for playing time elsewhere. But we had to have expected at least a star or two would come out of the bunch. Well, here’s where we are today…
Ashley was the first casualty of the group. Having originally wanted to attend Mississippi State, Ashley changed his mind when USC offered him a scholarship. He wouldn’t end up qualifying and is still waiting to notch his first carry as a member of a FBS team. Ashley will get his chance this fall at Ohio.
Havili’s career numbers are the lowest of the group the remaining five, but that’s expected since he was a fullback. Therefore, he gets a pass. Havili will be a redshirt senior with the Trojans this fall.
After Ashley, Moody was the next to go. Moody got off to a great start at USC and looked like he would be the star of the class. He rushed for 130 in only his third game in a win over Arizona during his true freshman season. Moody would eventually get hurt and miss the final five games of the season. During the offseason, he wasn’t sure of future playing time and decided to transfer to Florida. After playing each of the last two seasons with the Gators, Moody has one season of eligibility left. He has rushed for 1,254 yards during his career and only six touchdowns.
The other three remained at USC and each got a chance at various times to pull ahead and take hold of the starting running back position. Gable had a solid first year in 2006, rushing for 434 yards and getting a good amount of carries after Moody went down. He would have another decent year in 2008, but didn’t top 24 carries in either 2007 or 2009. Gable, along with Bradford, will be back for his final season in 2010. Bradford didn’t become a big part of the offense until last season when he rushed for 668 yards. He had more carries in one game – the Emerald Bowl against Boston College – than he had in any season from 2006 to 2008. Johnson had the most promising career of any of them before a freak weightlifting accident ended his final season. From 2006 to 2009, he totaled more carries, yards, and rushing touchdowns than any of the others.
That sounds good and all, but even being the leader of the group isn’t all that impressive. In the four seasons since the backs signed with USC, Johnson is the only one with more than 1,500 CAREER rushing yards (1,552). By comparison, eight FBS running backs rushed for that many yards in 2009.
You could chalk it up to the fact that there were so many of them, but that doesn’t solve the entire issue. Yes, Joe McKnight came a year later, but he wasn’t the world-class star he was expected to be either. In reality, USC not only suffered from getting too much of a good thing back in 2006, the Trojans suffered from some bad luck and several careers not panning out as expected.
Take a look at Florida’s Jeff Demps for example. Demps faced the same major issue each of the USC backs did: competition at the position. In fact, Demps has had to compete for carries with Moody, Chris Rainey, Percy Harvin, and Tim Tebow over the course of his short career. So much so that he has yet to carry the ball 100 times in a season. Bradford, Gable, and Johnson each accomplished that feat. Despite that, in only two years, Demps has more yards than every one of those that signed with USC in 2006 except Johnson. He should pass Johnson sometime in the first quarter of the 2010 season.
That’s not to say the Gators utilize their backs better or anything along those lines, it’s just to illustrate that competition at the position may not have been the issue. Four years later and we should be looking back at storied college careers and one of the best classes of running backs to ever come along. Instead we’re looking at a group of players that collectively and individually didn’t live up to the hype.
Several have one year left to really make a name for themselves, but even that seems like a distant possibility. Moody will still be fighting for carries in the Florida offense and Bradford and Gable will be dueling with each other. Although having too many backs will always be voiced as the reason for their lack of production, none of the group ever took control of the situation and came out on top.
If you hear a rumor enough times, it seems to end up being true more often than not. During the last recruiting cycle, rumors started to spread about Plant’s (Tampa, FL) Aaron Murray choosing Georgia over Florida. Few believed the speculation because the star quarterback was thought to always favor the Gators. But sure enough, he committed to the Bulldogs. That’s not to say you should always believe the rumors, just to take heed when you hear the same one over and over again.
Earlier this week, rumors spread like wildfire stating running backs coach Kenny Carter would be joining Charlie Strong at Louisville. Current Gator commit Mack Brown said Carter told him as much. No one wanted to believe Carter would leave for a similar position at a (sorry Cardinals’ fans) smaller program. But he did. Carter left and Florida needed a replacement.
More rumors began to spread about exactly who that replacement would be. Stan Drayton’s name was pushed to the forefront and many couldn’t believe it. Why would Urban Meyer hire back a guy Florida let go after the 2007 season? A guy who didn’t exactly praise the Gators on his way out? The rumors didn’t make sense, but in the end they were true. Drayton will return to Florida to coach the running backs.
Before you get too deep into “but didn’t Florida not want this guy only a few years ago?” and “why would he ever be brought back?” take a look at what Drayton did and had to work with during his previous stint with the Gators.
Drayton came to Florida in 2005. The year before, Ciatrick Fason had an outstanding year in which he ran for 1,267 yards and 10 touchdowns after which he decided to enter the NFL Draft. Fason’s departure left the Gators with a returning unit that had no player carry the ball more than 58 times during 2004. Florida played in 13 games that season, meaning the leading returning ball carrier only averaged 4.5 carries per game the prior year. Due to that, and a new head coach and offensive philosophy, the run game struggled during 2005. It had its moments, but for the most part took a step back. But that should’ve been expected as the Gators adjusted to the new offense.
In 2006, the Gators won the National Championship in part due to a running game that gained nearly 500 more yards and ran for five more touchdowns than the previous season. The team’s top seven rushers all averaged at least 4.8 yards per carry. Although Florida wasn’t considering a “running” team, the unit did its part.
2007 would be Drayton’s final year with the Gators. It was a season that saw the team gain over 350 more rushing yards than it did in 2006 and up its run TD total from 24 to 39. Yes, a large part of that surge was due to a quarterback named Tim Tebow carrying the ball 210 times, but didn’t Drayton at least have something to do with that? It was Meyer’s offense, but you would think the running backs coach at least had something to do with all aspects of the run game regardless of who’s carrying the ball. Especially when it comes to plays designed to be a run.
The year after Drayton left, the running game seemed to take a leap forward. The three true running backs that carried the ball at least 58 times a piece all averaged over 7.2 yards a carry. Many seem to attribute this to a new coach and going away from the Drayton’s approach to the unit. Not to take anything away from Carter and his accomplishments as a Gator assistant, but he had Jeffery Demps, Emmanuel Moody, and Chris Rainey. Drayton didn’t.
So maybe Drayton’s return isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe he’s a better coach then we think. Maybe he knows the system and has worked with some of the other coaches before and will offer the smoothest transition in. Maybe he’s a great recruiter (which he is…then again, as One Eyed Willy says “it’s Florida, aren’t all the coaches at programs like this great recruiters?”). Maybe Drayton 2.0 will be received better than the first incarnation. We’ll find out soon enough.