Monday Morning Driskel: Florida Gators Thoughts After The Win Over The Tennessee Volunteers

Another win, another new Florida Gators feature at The Bull Gator. The name is inspired by our quarterback Jeff Driskel and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback, which discusses a plethora of topics concerning the week’s NFL games. We hope to do something similar–but on a minor, more pertinent-to-us level. Don’t worry, it won’t be nearly as long. Let me know how you think this goes.

Also to take note: I AM NOT CRAZY. I know it’s Tuesday. Sadly, the idea came to me Monday night, so I figured why let a week go to waste?

Let me start this off by saying this was a fantastic college football week. The Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers in stunning fourth quarter-shutout fashion, and Florida moved up to No. 14 in the polls, just behind Lane Kiffin and USC, who, to top it all off, lost to Stanford 14-21. And if there’s one thing Tennessee and Florida fans can agree on, I think it’s the happiness brought by seeing Lane Kiffin fail.

Beyond that, there’s not a great deal the Volunteers would be willing to agree with us about, after our 37-20 win in the hostile Rocky Top-land. For the Gators, it was a tale of two halves. The first half was slightly ugly, which featured Mr. Muschamp screaming at the top of his lungs at a referee, and the second half was, as TBG said, “glorious.”

What We Learned

Jeff Driskel is improving, quickly: I don’t think we could ask for much more than what Driskel has given us so far, and he looks like he can be so much better. He was extremely accurate, and his touchdown pass to Jordan Reed with defenders surrounding him was a thing of beauty. I feel bad for Jacoby Brissett, but Team Driskel all the way!

Driskel, calm and composed: The knock on Driskel coming into this year was his composure level. After showing he can effectively control the football game, accurately facilitate the football to his receivers, and thankfully handle the football without coughing it up, Driskel would appear to have better composure tenfold. Seriously, you couldn’t ask for much more from a sophomore quarterback who was starting in only his second game.

Against the run, Tennessee is tough inside, extremely flawed on the outside: If you noticed a trend in Florida’s results from different run plays, you weren’t alone. The Gators busted out long runs, including an 80-yard run by Trey Burton by avoiding the middle of the Tennessee defense, which was stuffing Florida at the line all night. The Vols have a few kinks to sort out on the corners of their defense.

Trey Burton can be a factor running the Wildcat: Burton was potently effective Saturday, running for 91 yards and two touchdowns on only three carries. We knew Burton had a chance to make an impact from the Wildcat, but it’s been a while since he has made much of a difference.

Frankie Hammond Jr. looks like Percy Harvin: Hammond Jr. is nowhere near the athletic level that Harvin is, or was, but Hammond sure has looked explosive and surprisingly smart in the open field.

The defense is great in the fourth quarter: Not so great in the first half, but I think preventing opposing teams from reaching the end-zone in the fourth is somewhat impressive, especially against a couple pretty good offensive teams. Jeff Dillman’s conditioning probably has a lot to do with this.

The safeties are all over the field: Josh Evans was everywhere at once during the first two games, despite getting knocked out of the second. Matt Elam also seemed to be picking up the slack during the last game by leading the team with 10 tackles.

Our defense, Marcus Roberson can’t catch: Very disappointed by Roberson’s hands. He’s always there for an interception, only to find it just beyond his grasp.

Things We Already Knew That Proved To Remain True

Will Muschamp is somewhat of a hothead: Haha, TBG seems to be unhappy about this.

Gilly’s good: Mike Gillislee is continuing to live up to his role as the probable best player on offense.

The Vols would be very sad when they lost: I wish I could have found a picture of the fans crying when they realized there was no chance of a burnt orange win, but if you watched the game on ESPN, you know what I’m talking about.

Surprise Of The Day

Derek Dooley may also be a hothead: Spiking the ball down is not an appropriate reaction after his quarterback Tyler Bray delivered a perfect pass to the disgruntled coach.

Play Of The Day

Trey Burton’s 80-yard touchdown run: This was just great. The Tennessee guy took an awful angle, though.

Florida Gators Video Of The Day: The Gator Grind – Day In The Life

It’s the summer break. While that doesn’t mean much besides warmer air and more annoying kids outside for all of you year-long workers, summer means more free time for students. We hope that you will be spending more time reading The Bull Gator, as I will be spending more time posting at it. That means it’s time for a new series at TBG. The Gators Video of the Day (GVOD for short) will feature, you guessed it, videos relating to the Florida Gators. They could be Gators athletes or homemade videos made by fans like ourselves. And if you have any suggestions for GVOD, email me at evandagator@gmail.com or TBG at onegameback@gmail.com. We will try our best to live up to the “of the day” part of the title.

So we’re no longer alone. We’re now in a world where not only do we, the Gators’ fans, blog about Gators’ sports, but the athletes do too. Yes, you heard that right. The Florida athletes now have a blog called The Gator Grind, which consists of 35 student-athletes/writers that post some of the many experiences of the life of a Gator.

In addition to their creative blog, they also produced this astounding video that’s supposed to represent the life of the Gator student-athletes.

In the video are: Patric Young, Megan Pak, Brian Howell, Taylor Travis, Haley Reeb, Jo Dragotta, Trey Burton, Sam Robey, Frankie Hammond, Jr., Michelle Moultrie, Zane Breakiron.

Pretty cool, huh? Does it help you appreciate the work these athletes are putting in on and off the field? What do you think about their blogging?

Will Muschamp to the Wide Receivers: "You Got to Get Open."

The Florida wide receivers have been a topic of discussion all season long. After 10 games, the Gators’ leading pass catchers are a running back – Chris Rainey with 335 yards – and tight end – Jordan Reed with 24 receptions. To make matters worse, the leaders at the wide receiver position are Andre Debose with 272 yards and Deonte Thompson with 17 receptions. 10 games have passed; you can do the quick math to figure out the somewhat pitiful averages.

Blame has been placed everywhere at this point. We’ve discussed the offensive line at length throughout the season and we’ve also mentioned the quarterbacks’ inability to get the ball to the receivers. But what about those wide receivers themselves? What can they do to become part of the offensive attack? Will Muschamp thinks the answer is right in front of them: they have to get open.

During Wednesday’s SEC press conference, Muschamp mentioned the receivers and a need for consistency from the unit. He also keyed in on two points: getting open and making catches. Muschamp discussed the need for the receivers to get seperation from man-to-man coverage and put themselves in a position to make plays. He said drops have hurt the Gators and he went back to the one word that could end up defining Florida’s season – inconsistency.

Maybe Muschamp is right; he is the head coach after all. The offensive line does need to hold up and the quarterbacks do need to get the ball out quicker, but without the wide receivers putting themselves in the position to make plays, it’s all for naught. Youth is not an excuse. Thompson, Frankie Hammond, Omarius Hines and even Debose have been around for long enough regardless of a new system. Quinton Dunbar is the youth, but much more was expected from the redshirt freshman. Inexperience can’t be blamed. It’s past the time for the receivers to step up; that was months ago. It’s now time for them to make a quick leap and a big one. With two games left – and possibly a third – eight wins can’t even be whispered in passing without this unit making plays. Seven may even be a stretch.

Florida Gators Wide Receivers – 2010 vs. 2011

Part three in a series where One Eyed Willy and I go over the Florida roster differences position by position from this season to last and what to expect in 2011. Check out the quarterbacks here and the running backs here.
2010: Carl Moore – RSR, Justin Williams – RSR, Chris Rainey – RJR, Deonte Thompson – RJR, Frankie Hammond – RSO, Omarius Hines – RSO, Josh Postell – RSO, Stephen Alli – RFR, Andre Debose – RFR, Robert Clark – FR, Quinton Dunbar – FR, Chris Dunkley – FR, Solomon Patton – FR
Preseason Rating: B
Postseason Rating: D
Going into the 2010 season, you would have been excited to see what this unit could do. You had a senior that was a highly-touted recruit coming out of junior college, a junior moving into the role of receiver in hopes of sparking a Percy Harvin-like transformation, two sophomores who would get a chance to really make a difference, and five freshman – all of which brought something special to the game.
13 games later you would have let out a sigh and looked forward to the 2011. We will go ahead and run through the numbers:
12 – The total number of passing touchdowns.
9 – The number caught by wide receivers.
1 – Wide receivers with more than 27 receptions.
38 – The number of receptions Deonte Thompson had to lead the team.
1 – Wide receivers with more than 349 yards on the season.
570 – The numbers of yards Thompson had to lead the team.
10 – Receptions on the season for all-world prospect Andre Debose.
5 – The number of games “slash” player Chris Rainey missed due to…well…you know.
3 – The number of wide receivers that appeared in every game.
51 – The longest reception on the season.
15.0 – Highest yards per catch average on the team by, you guessed it, Thompson.
1 – 100-yard receiving games by wide receivers. It was Thompson.
And just for fun:
40 – The number of receptions Harvin had in 2008 to lead the team. We will give the wide receivers a pass that season though. After all, they were part of a national championship team.
2003 – The last year a Florida team did not have a single pass catcher with at least 40 catches. This team was coached by Ron Zook. What does that tell you?
1989 – The last Florida team to have a leading receiver with less than the 38 receptions Thompson had in 2010. This was the last team before Steve Spurrier arrived. What does that tell you?
It all tells you 2010 was not kind to the Gators wide receivers. A great deal of it had to do with two things beyond their control: shaky play calling and inconsistent quarterback play. Still, that does not change the fact that from a group of very talented players, no one stepped up. Rainey actually set a pace that, if eligible to play in every game, would have made him the receptions leader. And that is from a player who split his time at running back.
2010 is over and that is a very good thing. This is a program that saw eight-straight seasons with at least one 1,000-yard receiver during Spurrier’s time at the helm. Since that time, there have only been two 900-yard receivers. Despite bringing two national championships to Florida, Urban Meyer never had a single receiver with over 920 yards. That could be attributed to Meyer’s desire to have a large numbers of receivers on the roster, but it also never truly allowed any one to shine. That is not such a bad thing when you are going 13-1. When you are going 8-5, it is a very different story.
2011: Deonte Thompson – RSR, Frankie Hammond – RJR, Omarius Hines – RJR, Stephen Alli – RSO, Andre Debose – RSO, Robert Clark – SO, Quinton Dunbar – SO, Solomon Patton – SO, Ja’Juan Story – FR
Preseason Rating: C
As much as I hate to give another unit a C, I just have to do it. And it is because of the promise of a Charlie Weis offense that I even give them that. There are three reasons:
1. The offense is new to the program.
2. Until we see different with our own eyes, we have to expect the same inconsistent quarterback play.
3. This unit lost three bodies completely, two more to position changes and only gained one – Ja’Juan Story.
Therefore, it is very hard to expect much out of this unit. It all hinges on the first two of those items above. How long will it take for the offense to click? And how will whichever quarterback turns out to be the right one adapt? If a passer can get the ball to the receivers more often and on longer routes, we may no longer be talking about low receptions and yardage numbers. If the Gators can consistently move the ball up and down the field, we may see one wide receiver haul in nine touchdowns, not the entire unit collectively.
There is plenty to hope for when it comes to the wide receivers, but we not seen it yet out of any on the roster. Omarius Hines had flashes, but only totaled six catches over the last five games. Thompson’s best day was against Florida’s weakest opponent – Appalachian State. Debose was rumored to have problems with the playbook and was rarely seen on offense. That cannot happen again in 2011. Thompson is the lone senior and the time is now for Frankie Hammond and Hines to no longer have just “potential.” Debose needs to become a big part of the offense and Quinton Dunbar needs to live up to the hype he generated in the spring.
The talent is there. The performance has yet to be seen. Every single member of this unit needs to step up in 2011.

“Goodbye Canes, Hello Gators.” – Willie Bailey

That quote was not obtained from Hallandale (Hallandale, FL) cornerback Willie Bailey although he could have said it.  The 6’1”, 165 lb. CB has dropped his verbal commitment to Miami and has declared for Florida.

Committed to the Hurricanes since last September, Bailey pulled the switch after being at Florida for the Florida Relays.  Also a track star, the defensive back decided the Gators were his best choice.  Bailey loved everything Florida had to offer and pulled the trigger to become a Gator.  The opportunity to play football and run track for high-caliber programs helped his choice and so did Florida wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. who went to high school with Bailey and remains a close friend.
Bailey’s height makes him the type of cornerback Will Muschamp gravitates toward.  Muschamp has always liked tall corners, although he’ll take anyone with the talent to play big-time college football.  What Bailey has to do now is bulk up.  There’s always the possibility of him moving to safety due to his overall size potential, but for now Florida seems to want him as a corner.
Don’t expect Bailey’s recruitment to be over.  With 10 months until National Signing Day, the Canes won’t give up on him all together.  Miami will push hard until he’s signed his Letter of Intent.  It’s fair game until then and the Gator coaching staff will need to convince him he made the right choice by making the switch.

FSU Seminoles 31 – Florida Gators 7

TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 27: Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer talks with players during a timeout during a game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)The streak is over. It had to come to an end eventually. These things don’t go on forever. In a rivalry of this magnitude eventually the tide will shift. With two programs of relatively equal talent one team can’t dominate for that long. There are cycles, ups and down. We all had to know that one day Florida would lose to FSU. Those of us Gator fans didn’t want to see it end. We hoped it could keep going and going and going. We definitely didn’t want it to end the way it did.

A close game turned into a blowout in one quarter. In the first quarter, neither team looked great on the offensive side of the ball, but both looked good enough. The struggles we expected to see were present in both cases, but the teams were moving the ball. The game looked like it would be a hard fought battle as the Gators took a 7-3 lead into the second quarter. And then it all turned. The Seminoles scored touchdowns on three straight drives to take a 24-7 lead into the locker room. Florida’s offense started to stall and turnovers helped FSU pull away.

The fake punt call was questionable, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad decision at that point in the game. What was tough to swallow was that it was called to the short side of the field. Chas Henry really didn’t stand a chance of getting the first down as several Noles had sniffed it out. The interception? Well, that’s another story.

John Brantley was the quarterback for the Gators’ first third down of the game. He hit Robert Clark for a 20-yard touchdown. The second third down was a six-yard completion from Brantley to Trey Burton to give Florida a first down. The next two were Gator first downs via a personal foul and a long Jeff Demps’ run. Then the second quarter happened. Here’s the result of the third downs: Brantley hits Chris Rainey (who fumbled) for one yard on third and three, Brantley incomplete to Frankie Hammond, Brantley incomplete. On to the third quarter and more third downs: Brantley sacked, Jordan Reed converts on the ground, Brantley sacked and called for intentional grounding, Brantley hits Rainey for a first down. Fourth quarter: Rainey runs for a first, a pass interference call gives Florida another first, Brantley incomplete. So let’s sum up Brantley on third down:

One touchdown, two completions for first downs, a completion that didn’t result in a first down, three incompletions, and two sacks.

That’s 33%. One third of the third downs in which Brantley attempted a pass or dropped back to pass did something positive come out of it. For the game the Gators went six for 12. That means Florida converted all three of the third downs in which Brantley wasn’t asked to use his arm.

Look, Brantley is the most experienced quarterback on the roster and overall he may have the most talent. What Brantley doesn’t have is “it.” He doesn’t wow and after 12 games has yet to make you stop and say “what a play!” Even on some long completions over the course of the season, Brantley threw the ball short and it was the receiver who made the adjustment to make the play. I’m sure he’s a great individual. To be able to handle all of this as well as he has is remarkable. That aside, he isn’t the answer at quarterback for the Florida Gators.

There was a point in the game where it appeared as if FSU was going to run away with it. That point was when the Noles were up 24-7. It was also a point where Brantley had been given his chance. The offense was starting to sputter and it was time for the Gators to go a different direction. And they did, momentarily. Reed 11 yards. Rainey 13 yards. Reed incomplete. Reed 16. Rainey 18. Reed 2. The Gators had moved the ball very quickly all the way to the FSU 20-yard line. Then Brantley was put in and threw an interception.

I don’t mean to make this all about Brantley. The loss was hardly his fault and shouldn’t be put on his shoulders, but he has struggled all season to fit into the system (whatever that might be) and just as a quarterback in general. It has been far from the ideal situation for #12. In the 12th game of the regular season with a 7-4 record and down 24-7 to your instate rival, he shouldn’t have been in the game. Florida needed a spark and unfortunately for Brantley and for all of us all year who have hoped he would finally have that great game (yes, I’m among those), he wasn’t going to provide it. And now the questions have already begun about Brantley and his role in the offense in 2011. It’s probably been a rougher year for Brantley than for anyone else. On Saturday, it didn’t get any easier.

Despite being down big early, the Gators only attempted six passes in the second half. Only two in the final quarter. 16 pass attempts for the game. The Florida run game – fumbles aside – ran the ball well, but well enough to only put the ball in the air 16 times? No, not that well.

There are a number of things wrong with this offense and you can bet we’ll see numerous changes in 2011. The pass game needs to be completely overhauled. From protections and blocking to route running and who will be throwing the ball. In four of the five Gator losses (including this one), Florida’s offense put up seven points or less. That’s 27 TOTAL offensive points in four games. The passing game had a lot to do with that. It needs to be the first thing addressed in the offseason. But not the last.

Now the Gators stumble toward a bowl game. There are still fans. Plenty of them. Still lots of us who want to see Florida go out on a high note. We criticize because we can’t stand to lose and we HATE to lose in that way. We aren’t “haters” or “bandwagon jumpers.” We are passionate college football fans who just want better for our team.

The Long Snapper (7/23/10)

College football.  James Smith.  Pageant contestants.
In honor of this week’s announcement of a very important game time, it’s an all Bulls and Gators Long Snapper.
USF at Florida.  September 11, 2010.  12:21.  HOT!
Friday Night Lights is a very productive event for Florida.  Many of the top prospects attend and the Gators usually get more than a couple commitments out of it.  This year, it may have started early.  Florida has received a commitment from Dover (Dover, DE) offensive lineman Trip Thurman.  The 6’6”, 310-pound Thurman chose the Gators over Boston College and South Carolina.  With Thurman’s commitment, the flood gates may have opened.
Florida has dished out its punishment to Frankie Hammond in response to the wide receiver’s arrest.  Hammond has lost his scholarship and will have to earn his way back.  Urban Meyer has said Hammond will have to pay his own way and could earn a spot again, but if he steps out of line, he will be booted off the team entirely.  Hammond needs to get it all together quickly.  With a good group of young receivers, any lost time will push him too far down the depth chart to climb back from.
Thomas Goldkamp of Gatorbait.net put together a great piece on the top five defining games of Urban Meyer’s career.  One game missing that leaves me scratching my head though is the national championship game win over Oklahoma.  Although I will say I’m not sure which of Goldkamp’s five I would remove for it.  Maybe the list needs to be six then because that championship game gave every fan a new respect for the Gator defense under Meyer.  Holding one of the best offensive teams in the history of college football to only 14 points is something that will be remembered long after Meyer has coached his last game.  I’d imagine it was hard to leave this one off the list.
Skip Holtz plans to have USF’s roster set by Monday.  That means any losses to the team as well as any additions should be finalized and announced the public (hopefully…actual announcements could come later).  The two biggest questions marks come in the form of former Colorado running back Darrell Scott and former NC State wide receiver Donald Bowens.  I’m not ashamed to say Scott was one of my man-crushes during that recruiting cycle and I was pulling heavily for him to end up at Florida.  He didn’t obviously, but now appears to be headed to the Bulls.  Scott said he had a great visit to USF and we could know something on August 4.  Let’s hope for a roster leak before that.
Another interesting situation to keep an eye on is that of Glen Stanley.  Stanley is hoping to get a release from USC, but at this point has had to appeal the Trojans’ denial to the NCAA.  The defensive end/linebacker has mentioned both FSU and USF and will end up at one of the two.  This really could be the year of the transfer for the Bulls.

The Long Snapper (6/14/10)

College football.  Quick and to the point.
The next time I receive a text message from a friend that says “check out the mug shots on Gainesville.com I’m ignoring it.  In fact, I’m deleting it and pretending I never saw it.  Yesterday morning I followed through with the request and to my surprise found Frankie Hammond.  The Florida wide receiver was arrested on Sunday morning on charges of DUI and liquor possession.  Hammond was pulled over after driving recklessly.  In his car, police found two open bottles of Crown Royal (keep it classy Frankie).  Hammond’s blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit.  This is a solid four out of five on the UGH! meter.
Switching to the positive side of the Gator wide receivers coin, Florida added another member to their 2011 recruiting class in the form of Lakeland (Lakeland, FL) wide receiver Javares McRoy.  McRoy was originally committed to Texas Tech – where he had hoped to play with his brother – but pulled the trigger on a switch to the Gators citing a desire to stay close to home.  McRoy is a legitimate star and is rated at the 148th-best prospect in the nation according to Rivals.com.  Although getting the opportunity to carry the ball a great deal in Lakeland’s offense, McRoy will use his speed at receiver at Florida.
With USC in a heap of trouble (Lane Kiffin…hehe), speculation will continue to build over where some of their better players may end up.  While upperclassmen can be contacted by other schools, underclassman cannot.  They are free to transfer if they wish, but would have to sit out a year before being eligible to play.  One of the bigger names in USC’s 2010 signing class is claiming he has been contacted by five schools all attempting to recruit him.  Dillon Baxter – who the Gators did indeed recruit previously – is claiming Florida is one of the schools after him again.  Baxter informed the Trojan’s director of compliance that he had received phone calls from the schools which of course would be against the rules (something USC might know a little something about).  Florida denies they made any such contact.
If the Big 12 does crumble (which after today’s rumors might not be as sure of a happening as it was late last week), where do the remaining teams go?  One thought is the Big East.  Depending on where all of this ends, Kansas and Missouri may be looking for new homes.  The Big East may be able to provide them a pretty good one.  The conference really has no idea what it is doing at this exact moment and may have to wait until the dust settles to finally make a move.  Making a play for the Jayhawks and Tigers might not be a bad idea.  Both add to the Big East’s television reach and both provide solid programs that should fit in fairly well.  And USF would get to consistently play the team it has one of its program’s defining wins over.

Introducing the 2011 National Champion Florida Gators

2010. A season expected by many to be a step back for Florida. A rebuilding season if you will.  But a season in which an SEC Championship Game berth and an appearance in a BCS bowl is still very much in reach.  Those expecting 2010 to be a return to the 2007 season are in for an awakening.  The Gators are light years beyond that squad in terms of overall depth and experience.  It’ll show in 2010.  And it’ll really show in 2011.
ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach recently gazed into the future and gave some predictions for the decade ahead.  Among those were a few Florida-specific visions: Urban Meyer will lead the Gators to at least one more National Championship before retiring for good, Florida will win the SEC East in 2010, and John Brantley will take home the Heisman Trophy in 2011.  We choose to ignore Schlabach’s other prediction of Bobby Petrino taking over for Meyer one day.
The stars align in 2011.  During 2010, you’ll see that Brantley is much better than you think.  He’s the passing quarterback.  The one with the rocket arm.  The one that has a realistic chance to be one of the top quarterbacks taken in the 2012 NFL Draft.  He’ll make wide receivers better.  He’ll improve the running game because opponents will spend too much time attempting to defend the pass.  He’ll definitely lead the Gators to his share of wins in the two years he has left in orange and blue.  Fans will never love a Florida player more than they loved Tim Tebow, but Brantley will get more than his fair share of admiration.  And so will the rest of the 2011 squad.*
*This is where you get the “assuming the about-to-be-mentioned players return for 2011” disclosure. There will be no attempt to predict who may declare early for the 2011 NFL Draft until we at least get within a year of the event. Guessing at this time is pointless.
Pint-sized speed backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey will be seniors along with Brantley.  One or both will lead the running game and provide game changing runs like they’ve been doing since they both came to Florida.  Mike Gillislee – who we’ve seen flashes of already – will be a junior and firmly planted as an integral cog in the offense.  And assuming Mack Brown sticks with his commitment – which he seems to be doing – we’ll see him on the field quite a bit as well.
Deonte Thompson, Frankie Hammond, Omarius Hines, and T.J. Lawrence will all still be around.  Andre Debose will be in his third year in the system and second on the field and should be a star by then.  Stephen Alli, Quinton Dunbar, Chris Dunkley, Solomon Patton, and another recruit the Gators could receive a commitment from very soon will all have time in the offense under their belts and be ready to contribute consistently.  And don’t forget the biggest question unit of 2010.  The tight ends.  In 2011, Gerald Christian, Michael McFarland, and Desmond Parks should all have enough experience to line up in the Florida version of the TE.
The offensive line appears to be set for the future.  Big names like Xavier Nixon, Matt Patchan, and James Wilson should anchor the line in 2011.  Florida coaches actually considered playing Sam Robey at center in 2009 because he was that good.  Expect him to be one of the nation’s best over the course of the next few years.  Depth is definitely a priority and the Gators appear to be set in that department.
Go to the other side of the ball and directly across the line and you get what could have the most star power on the entire team.  Defensive line is nothing to worry about anytime soon.  There are those already on the roster: Gary Brown, William Green, Jaye Howard, Omar Hunter, Earl Okine.  And there are those about to arrive.  If you’ve had a pulse over the last month, you’ve seen Florida get commitments from three of the Rivals100’s top seven players: #1 Ronald Powell, #4 Sharrif Floyd, #7 Dominique Easley.  Oh yeah, all three are defensive linemen.  And all three could play right away.  Take a moment to wipe the drool off your face.
The linebacker position also has its share of big names.  Brendan Beal has caught the injury bug big time since his arrival, but if he can stay healthy, he’ll be an important contributor.  We’ve already seen moments from Jon Bostic that lead us to believe he’ll be a great one.  And Jelani Jenkins has All-American and future top 15 draft pick written all over him.  With Dee Finley making the move to LB from safety, there’s another body the Gators can rely on.  Add Michael Taylor – one of the MVPs of the Under Armour All-American Game – and Gideon Ajagbe – one of the most underrated recruits in recent memory – to the mix and depth will be good in 2011 as well.
Do we really have to even go over the secondary?  The current commitment list of those expected to be part of the 2010 recruiting class is a who’s who of the nation’s best defensive backs.  The current roster is no different.  In 2011, Janoris Jenkins could be starting at cornerback for the fourth straight year and Will Hill should be one the defensive leaders.  Good luck passing on the Gators that season.
The special teams should continue to be a strength with players like Demps, Rainey, Dunkley, and Robert Clark all being perfectly capable returners.  Caleb Sturgis will still have one of the strongest legs in the game and should have the control and accuracy to go along with it.  The biggest concern in 2011 could actually be at punter.  Since 2003, the Gators have not had to worry about the position in the least.  Eric Wilbur and Chas Henry were and are among the nation’s best.  In 2011, Henry will be gone and who knows who will take over the position, but if history is any indicator, Florida has nothing to worry about.
Most importantly, Meyer will still be the head coach.  There was no resignation.  At this point, there isn’t even a true leave of absence.  Meyer has announced he will coach spring practice.  All that means he will continue to be on the short list of the country’s best head coaches.  So despite assistant coaching changes (expect that when you’re a premier program), the leader will remain constant.  Think nine-win seasons are acceptable to Meyer?  Think again.  He has put Florida in a position to see at least 10 victories a year for the foreseeable future.  2011 will be more like 13 or 14 though.  Introducing the 2011 National Champion Florida Gators.

Game Preview: Florida Gators @ Kentucky Wildcats – 6:00

Is this the defining game for Florida? It’s hard to tell, but after last week’s win that wasn’t enough for most people, it sure seems that way. If the Gators come out and do anything similar to what they did to Kentucky last season, suddenly faith is restored and the #1 team is truly the #1 team. If the offense struggles and just does what it needs to do and nothing more, then the questions will keep coming. Anyway, here are 10 things I’d like to see today…

1. A convincing win. Last week I wanted a blowout. It didn’t happen, but it’s time to move on. That game is in the rearview mirror. So this week, I’m not calling for an absolute annihilation. I don’t need a 58-point win like last season. Something in the 35-7 range would be good. 45-17? Sure. Just get out there and get it done. It doesn’t need to flashy, but it damn sure can’t be ugly either.

2. Less Tim Tebow. That sounds blasphemous, but Tebow shouldn’t be carrying to ball 20+ times a game. He shouldn’t. Florida has too many weapons to be putting Tebow in that situation. There are other options. Use them. Which brings me to…

3. PLAY EMMANUEL MOODY! There’s news Tebow wasn’t feeling well and traveled to Kentucky on a plane with Major Wright and Joe Haden in order to pay special attention to the players with flu-like symptoms. It appears as if it’s not serious, but let’s use the other “power” back. It’s time to get Moody involved. 10-12 carries. Blocking in the backfield. Set up the outside runs by the speed backs by pounding away with Moody down the middle.

4. A receiver stepping up. Deonte Thompson isn’t 100%. Riley Cooper still struggles with foot problems. We might not see Carl Moore all season. So give one of the other receivers a shot. Let’s see Frankie Hammond show the speed he did in fall practice. Get the ball to Omarius Hines over the middle. Keep throwing to David Nelson and let him make plays. Basically, stop complaining about a lack of depth at receiver and use the ones you have. It’ll be much harder to work these guys into the first-team offense a month from now. It’s time today.

5. Stop the blitz. The offensive line has been less than spectacular this season, but part of it has to do with blitzing defenses. The linemen may have their assignments, but there’s very rarely anyone in the backfield to block blitzing defenders. Something needs to change to give Tebow more time than he had against Tennessee.

6. Stay focused. You never know what can happen when you go on the road. Never. Stranger things have happened than a conference road loss. The Gators need to stay focused from the second they enter that stadium until the final whistle. Florida is the #1 team in the nation. It’s time to take that ranking on the road and come home with a convincing win.

7. Blitz. This is a good defense. This is a great defense. Charlie Strong has created a disciplined unit that thrives on the sure tackle and the turnover. Now let’s unleash them. Bring the heat and force Kentucky into mistakes. Playing it safe is all good and well, but Florida has the talent to bring the blitz and make something happen.

8. Big hits. A repeat from last week, but where’s the intensity? The biggest hits we’ve seen this season have been from Tebow on a defender, Janoris Jenkins on a teammate, and Steve Addazio on an unsuspecting Riley Cooper. Let’s see some excitement and some hits. Run the Wildcats over.

9. Special teams. A kick return. A punt return. A block. Anything. One of Florida’s biggest strengths needs to be seen.

10. The starters on the field. There are a number of players hurt or under the weather. There are a number of various reports about who has gotten better and who has not. I want to see a game with everyone going full speed and contributing. Get on the field and make it happen.