65 Reasons to Be Happy, If Even for a Moment

65-0 should be enough. For me, it is.

I woke up Sunday morning—one day after our beloved Florida Gators dismantled Eastern Michigan—and took to Twitter. There was plenty of positivity in Gator Nation and, for the most part, fans were happy. But there were still the few. Those that have to find the flaw in the win. Those that may finally be happy at an undefeated season and a national championship. Those that may never be pleased.

Kelvin Taylor - Florida Gators

That’s their right. Every fan has that right. Cheer when you want; critique when you feel the need. The type of fan a person chooses to be is a choice they stand by and I’m not here to tell them they’re wrong. All I’m here to do is to say that I’m happy and that happiness will last for more than just one moment.

EMU was far from an SEC opponent. They were not a world-class team. The Gators should have beaten them 65-0. But here’s the thing: one season ago, Florida didn’t beat the teams they were supposed to beat. The Gators lost to Georgia Southern at home. Go back one season further and you find a narrow win over Louisiana. Lately, Florida hasn’t been taking care of business against the teams they’re heavily favored against. Saturday was different; be happy.

To start, we saw football. The game wasn’t delayed. There wasn’t one play hours after the scheduled kickoff. There wasn’t a postponement that turned into a cancellation. Instead, there was football. Good football at that. For 60 minutes, it felt like the orange and blue channeled the teams of old. 65 points, 655 yards, and big plays. Oh those big plays. I grew up in the PlayStation generation. Video game offenses didn’t exist in real life, but they could get close. Steve Spurrier kept scoring. The brakes were never applied. That was Saturday. When your backup quarterback—a true freshman making his first appearance in The Swamp at that—goes deep on his first pass attempt (AND COMPLETES IT FOR A 70-YARD TOUCHDOWN!!!) you aren’t letting up.

Let’s stop there for a second and look at Treon Harris’s line:

2 completions, 2 pass attempts, 148 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1,051.6 rating.

Read that last stat again. The highest rating a college quarterback can possibly achieve is 1,261.6. To do so, he would have to have every pass attempt result in a 99-yard touchdown completion. Harris was darn close.

Yes, I know it was against a team without a great defense and he was doing so late in a blowout, but those facts do little to diminish what was a great first showing by the freshman. We may have ourselves quite the backup quarterback.

There were plenty of more good performances in the win. Jeff Driskel was solid and looked calm in Kurt Roper’s offense. The running game accounted for 259 yards on the ground and the trio of Kelvin Taylor, Matt Jones, and Mack Brown averaged 8.7 yards per carry. Demarcus Robinson had 5 catches for 23 yards his freshman season; he had 6 for 123 and a touchdown on Saturday. Clay Burton led the team with 7 catches, more than doubling his career total of 3 going into the game. Andre Debose looked like the player we thought he could be all those years ago. Duke Dawson had quite the debut. Brian Poole was everywhere on defense. And the entire defense was smothering. Like I said, I’m happy.

Many will call this a warm-up game, and they would be correct in doing so. The Gators were supposed to get two warm-up games. Lightning wiped that plan away. Now, Florida will head to SEC play with one game and a big win under its belt. Kentucky has not looked like the Kentucky of old and could present a challenge, but I will gladly accept that challenge after Saturday’s showing. There are many worse ways to go into your first SEC game.

The Gators will be favored, and rightfully so, but we may not completely know what we have just yet. An explosive offense, check. A shutdown defense, check. Capable special teams, check. All looked good on Saturday and that’s enough to keep me positive, so for now I will be.

In one game, the Gators answered as many questions as a team could in only 60 minutes. There are 10 games to go, though, and Florida will be questioned going into every one. That’s fine and perfectly acceptable, but all I ask is that you try to keep that positive outlook. I’m not sure if cheering for a team is all that much fun if you go into a game seeking gloom and doom. Call it naiveté, but I enjoy hope and I’ll keep that hope going a little longer after the 65-0 win.

As for Kentucky, there’s a win streak to keep alive. We’ve seen some of those fall recently and would like the bleeding to stop. Let’s keep the Kentucky streak alive and in a few weeks extend the Tennessee streak. The Gators may not be a championship-caliber team yet, but they need to win the ones they should. Fall against the Wildcats and progress may be a dream at the moment. Handle their business against Kentucky and go into the Alabama game with two impressive wins and we’re headed in the right direction. All in all, just win. Win more then you lose. Don’t go 4-8. Becoming the orange and blue we all know they can be.

It’s hard to imagine that after just another 60 minutes, we’ll be a quarter of the way through the season. AH! MAKE IT SLOW DOWN! We were shorted a game and now that the season has started, it’s going ahead full force. 10 games to go, each one counts, blah, blah, blah. I could hype it up one hundred different ways. You don’t need me to get you hyped for the first SEC game. You know the importance. Go Gators! And again, Just Win!

Orange and Blue Debut Becomes Glorified Practice; Are the Days of a Spring ‘Game’ Gone?

The Orange and Blue Debut was more spring practice and less spring game this time around, and it may be a sign of things to come.

Jeff Driskel - Florida Gators

Under former head coach Urban Meyer, the Florida Gators’ annual spring game took on a differing look depending on the whim of the coach. In mid-game, if Meyer wanted the field goal unit to keep kicking and kicking and kicking, they did just that. Under current head coach Will Muschamp, not much has changed. Gone may be the days of a true game and here to stay may be a glorified practice designed to end the spring in front of Florida fans in The Swamp.

There were reasons for the altered format and it had mostly to do with injuries. A depleted offensive line only allowed the Gators a practice environment. Without the ability to run out two full units, Florida turned the spring game into a scrimmage at times and a practice session at others. It came down to whatever works and whatever you can do with what you have.

There’s little to take from the Gators’ spring game, and even less so if it truly becomes a practice session like it did on Saturday. For every spring star that doesn’t bring that talent with him to the fall, there is a player that is relatively quiet during the spring semester only to break out when the games that count begin. Feel free to be disappointed now or overly excited at the prospect of a breakout star, but keep most of whatever it is you are thinking bottled up until August 31.

It’s hard to gauge exactly how much quarterback Jeff Driskel has improved. The passing game has to develop; that much we know. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease may find himself looking for work elsewhere if it doesn’t. It starts and ends with Driskel as he will enter the 2013 season as the undisputed leader of the offense. That wasn’t the case before the 2012 season. An 11-2 record may have given the soon-to-be junior some confidence heading into 2013, but now he needs to make the plays to go with it. Driskel can use his running ability to his advantage, but with a talented stable of running backs, he may not need to. He needs to develop as a passer and stretch the field. We’re all waiting for the fireworks to come back to Florida’s offense. And we’re long past waiting patiently.

Speaking of the running backs, the starting job belongs to Matt Jones and that’s a good thing. Jones came on strong in limited action as a freshman, ending the 2012 regular season with his coming out party in the victory over instate rival Florida State. Jones has distanced himself from the pack during spring practice, but there’s still talent behind him. Mack Brown has stuck around and hopes to earn carries and then there’s the player we’ve all been waiting for years to see in a Gators’ uniform. Kelvin Taylor didn’t disappoint on Saturday and we all hope he has many more successful Saturdays in his future.

Like Taylor, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson enrolled early and was able to participate in spring practice. Unfortunately for Robinson, he missed eight practices due to a high-ankle sprain. Despite not being entirely healthy, the freshman was still able to show what he can bring to offense on Saturday. And fans weren’t the only ones impressed by Robinson. Muschamp is ready for Robinson to step in right away and cornerback Jaylen Watkins had the following to say:

“He got an injury and instead of backing down, he took on the challenge to go into the training room and get better and pushed out there while he was hurting. Today he was limping and still making great catches. When you see a guy like that, you know he has something great.” – Jaylen Watkins, Cornerback, Florida Gators

The spring has ended for the Gators and now the true wait begins. We have more than four months before we see the orange and blue in action again and all we have until then are the memories of the spring game that wasn’t a game at all. That leaves us plenty of time to discuss debate the good and the bad we expect to see from the Gators in the fall. It may be premature, but it feels mildly appropriate to break out the first one of these for the 2013 season now–just win.

Defining Season Begins On Saturday For Florida Gators Running Back Mack Brown

Mike Gillislee is the Florida Gators starting running back. We know this, and we’re also aware of his lofty expectations for the 2012 season. Behind him is a group of backs with very little game experience. There’s a true freshman, a converted defensive back/linebacker, and Mack Brown.

Brown came to Florida with the hype that surrounds most four-star recruits. In the two seasons since, he has 65 yards rushing on only 15 carries. Three of those carries came during a true freshman season that he was fortunate enough to get a redshirt out of. As a redshirt freshman in 2011, more was expected. The result was 12 total carries, 10 of which came in one game. To say Brown’s career hasn’t gone as expected thus far is an understatement. BUT…he has three years of eligibility left.

Gillislee is a senior, so the role of his backup is a coveted one. The Gators haven’t had a primary go-to back in…let’s not even bother to count how long…so the backups will get work. Add that to the fact that in 2013, Florida will be looking for a starter and you have quite the desirable position to be in if your Brown. He’ll compete for carries in 2012, but if he plays well enough when called upon, he may earn more in 2013.

This season could define Brown’s career as a Gator. Play well and earn more for the future. Underachieve and we’ll hear even more about Matt Jones, Chris Johnson, Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane. There’s plenty of talent at the position and more coming. One misstep and anyone of those names could find themselves buried deep down the depth chart. Brown has to prove, on the field, that he’s worthy of that No. 2 spot.

“10 Things I Want Out Of The 2012 Florida Gators Football Season” – One Eyed Willy

We spend so much time discussing what’s best for the Florida Gators; what will help the sports teams both on and off the field. From time to time, we decide to be selfish though and discuss what’s best for us. These thoughts could help the football team or they could help us as fans. We may want a certain player to succeed because he’s a vital part of the roster or just because we like his jersey number. Whatever the case, these are the things we want out of the Gators’ 2012 football season. Up first, One Eyed Willy.

10. Less trouble off the field. Let’s be honest…ultimately it’s what happens on the field that we all care about. If we were going 12-0 and in the BCS Championship game, few fans would have a problem with the recent “misfortunes” of our players off the field. But, being a graduate of the University of Florida, I would hope that at some point the players can start realizing that any trouble they get into will be on the cover of the next day’s sports section and will be a black eye not only on themselves, but the entire football team and the university. At some point the double-digit arrests per year have to stop – or at least slow down.

9. A big time punt returner. I still remember sitting in the stands chanting “Lito, Lito, Lito!” before #3 would take one to the house. And while our punt block team was superb last year, I am still waiting for the next Brandon James or Keiwan Ratliff to step back there are take a couple punts the distance. We have tried several different punt returners over the last few years, but none have been very impressive in my eyes and some have been downright awful. So maybe 2012 is the year someone surprises me and becomes another weapon to compliment those 10 guys up front who have certainly been holding their own.

8. Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. As a self-proclaimed recuitnik, I realize that recruiting is a 365-day process. The 2013 recruiting class is off to a great start – probably the best start that we have ever had – but we are to the point now where we don’t just need great recruits, we need great recruits to fill some great big holes we have in the roster. Priority #1A and #1B is to find several highly rated wide receivers and offensive lineman. With our defensive line being stacked as much as I remember it being in the recent past, it’s time to focus on the offensive side of the ball and attract some guys that can not only play right away, but help this team win sooner rather than later.

7. More Matt Elam. I don’t care where he is on the field or what he is doing…I want to see more Matt Elam! Even though Elam is only a junior next year, there is a good chance that this could be our last time seeing him wear the Gator orange and blue. Elam is the heart and soul of this defense and we live or die by how much he gets involved in the game. So let Elam throw a couple of passes. Let him play running back some. Hell, let the guy punt or placekick. I really don’t care. Just put Matt Elam in a position to make plays and let’s see what happens.

6. Beat Texas A&M in Week 2. I talk more about wins in general further down my list, but I truly believe that this is a big game for the Gators. Not only are we playing a good team in week 2 (something we don’t often do), but we are playing at their stadium (one of the tougher places to play in the country) and against a team that will be playing in their very first SEC game. The Aggies would like nothing more than to send a message to the entire league that they have arrived by knocking one of the big boys off the first chance they get. We cannot let that happen. In order for the 2012 season not to be over before it really even starts, we must take care of business in College Station.

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Josh Shaw And Lynden Trail Transfer From Florida: Gators’ Depth Takes Another Hit

You know what Florida really needed? More players transferring. That’s a great way to build depth.

Those would be the extremely sarcastic words of Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army. It’s also what nearly every fan of the Florida Gators thought to themselves when they head the news on Tuesday that defensive back Josh Shaw and defensive end Lynden Trail would transfer.

The Gators’ 2010 recruiting class was one of legend. Ronald Powell, Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley topped the list of star recruits who signed with Florida and then head coach Urban Meyer. Nearly two full seasons later and that 27-man class has lost nine of its members. Transfers are expected when you lose a coach and his staff; one-third may be more than even a worst-case scenario (and, oh yeah, some think Mack Brown and/or Tyler Murphy may not be far behind). Did going 14-11 over the last two seasons have something to do with it? It’s possible, but in the case of Shaw and Trail, it probably had more to due with playing time.

Shaw was one of the nation’s best coming out of high school. The Palmdale, CA cornerback was rated the no. 28 player in the country by Rivals.com. Moved around the defensive backfield, Shaw never found a home and never was able to find consistency in his play. Despite injuries in the secondary, Shaw wasn’t able to take command of a position during practice and playing time was limited in 2011. Rumors of his impending transfer have been swirling for nearly a year now. At first glance, Shaw may not appear to be a immediate loss, but how many times have we heard little from a player early in his career, only to watch him grow into an important part of the team in later years?

Trail – and Booker T. Washington teammate Quinton Dunbar – also joined the Gators as part of the 2010 class. The nation’s no. 7 weakside defensive end in high school, Trail was a tall defender almost in the mold of Jarvis Moss. His path to playing time appeared to be a longer one and, in the end, he wasn’t willing to wait.

With depth continuing to take hit after hit, 2012 is shaping up to be a building year. It doesn’t help that rumors continue regarding additional transfers. Keep your fingers crossed for a growing 2012 recruiting class and a stop to a shrinking roster. We may be in one of those dreaded “things have to appear worse, before they get better” times. Let’s hope it all ends quickly.

The Offense: Florida Gators 39 – UAB Blazers 0

The longer this recapbecame, the more I realized I needed to split it up. So here’s the offense. Twomore parts – the defense and special teams/other – to come today as well.
Game two has come and gone and as expected, Florida is 2-0. That’s not a surprise,but what might be is the Gators play so far. It hasn’t been spectacular justyet, but it has been very good in areas, good in others, and improved in thefinal few. Fans will keep pointing to 2010 and say “it has been better so far this season,” but maybe it’s time tomove on. After two games it has been better, but 2010 no longer matters. 2011does. The SEC schedule begins in six days when Florida hosts Tennessee. Another win has fansconfident and ready to attack the rest of the schedule. For now we do look back,but less than 24 hours back at the 39-0 win over UAB.
The offense is still a work inprogress, but one we’re all excited to see grow. The playbook hasn’t beenentirely opened just yet and that’s just fine. Charlie Weis is known to play to his opponent. After the win over FAU, the use of screens and dump offswere excessive, but they worked. Against UAB, they were used again, but theyworked. The first thought is that they won’t work against bigger, faster,stronger SEC defenses, and that’s true for the most part, but what we don’t knowis what we don’t know. Yes, that makes sense. There’s more to Weis’ playbookthan screens. He’ll use what he needs when he needs it. So far he’s had littleneed for much more than the basics.
John Brantley wasn’t asked to throw the ball as much against UAB ashe did against FAU, but he was more efficient and got the ball down the fieldmore. The game’s first offensive play was exciting even if it didn’t run assmoothly as you’d like (trickeration isn’t always perfect). A 40-yard gain is a40-yard gain I guess. Overall, Brantley passed for 195 yards on only 12completions, compared to 229 on 21 in the first game of the season. Whenworking the middle of the field, he looked more confident and on several playsstood in the pocket, surveyed the field, and fired the ball to his receivers. Brantleyhasn’t been great yet, but he hasn’t needed to be. What he has been isconfident and that should mean something heading into the Tennessee game. Onthe season, Brantley is completing over 67% of his passes, but that 1-2touchdown-to-interception ratio is still a little bit cringe-worthy. Thepassing game needs to be a threat to opposing defenses moving forward and itneeds to not only create scoring opportunities, but actually score.
While the Gators only attempted 20passes against the Blazers, they were pounding the ball away while establishingthe run game. On the night, Florida running backs carried the ball 49 times andBrantley and backup quarterback JeffDriskel added three additional carries. The goal was to keep the focalpoint on the run game and it worked. ChrisRainey was his dynamic self totaling 119 yards on 16 carries. Jeff Demps only carried the ball twicebefore going out with what looked like a minor injury. We’ll definitely behoping it remains minor. The plus of the night was the backups. Against FAU, Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown totaled five carries and 19 yards (all were Gillislee’s),but against UAB, they combined for 115 yards on 21 runs. It was very importantto get the backups more carries especially in situations where Demps was unableto go. We’re now a little more confident in what Gillislee and Brown offergoing forward. Trey Burton and Hunter Joyer got into the action aswell. Those two along with Rainey and Gillislee all had rushing touchdowns. Twogames in and five different Gators have scored on the ground.
With only 12 completions, you’regoing to come away with low numbers among the wide receivers, but we still needto know who’s going to step up. Rainey led the way again with three receptions –only half of his total against FAU. Next up were receivers Andre Debose, Quinton Dunbar,and Deonte Thompson with two each.The main reason was the use of screens, but we still have to wonder what we’llsee going forward. After two games, the leading receivers that are actually WRsare Debose and Thompson with five catches and Dunbar with 82 yards. This goesback to the “if you don’t need it, don’topen it up yet” theory, but what happens when Florida needs to rely on adeeper passing game? We just don’t know yet. Brantley looked good hittingreceivers over the middle of the field for good gains, but it was limited.Tennessee will tell us much more and hopefully tell us who the top receiverswill be.
Finally, the offensive line. Ah,the offensive line. The line has talent; we’ve said that for a while now.Plenty of talent across all positions, but also uncertainty. The main reason isa lack of consistency so far. There were a handful of plays where the linelooked phenomenal. The times Brantley worked the middle of the field were goodexamples, but the prime one was the hole they opened for Rainey on histouchdown run. The line parted and took the entire UAB defense with it. It wasa relatively short touchdown run, but if that same play had happened furtherback down the field, it could have been a huge gain. Those are the types ofplays we need to see more of. The line was improved over week one, but stillhas some work to do. The screens were designed, but many of the dump offs werebecause of the quick pressure Brantley faced. This line can be good (and in2012, possibly great), but they need to do so play after play after play. Andthe penalties have to go.
There’s the offense. Defense to come.

Florida Gators Running Backs & Fullbacks – 2010 vs. 2011

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?

Florida Gators Football Jersey Numbers Are In For 2011

I have mentioned my unhealthy obsession with jersey numbers before. I have a love of jerseys and jersey-related news. Jersey numbers are much too important to me and I do not have a good explanation as to why, but with the release of the 2011 Florida media guide, the Gators numbers for the upcoming season are out and I am very excited (it also means my NCAA Football ’12 roster will be as accurate as accurate can be; this is very important for yet another reason I cannot put my finger on).

I will not cover every jersey number here (you can find them in the aforementioned media guide), but will go over some the changes and incoming players.
1 – Chris Rainey, RB – Rainey has become the Gators version of Chris Simms. With his third number, it will be hard for historians to verify pictures of Rainey years into the future. The no. 1 jersey has developed its own unofficial tradition in recent years of being acquired by players already in the program. Reggie Nelson wore no. 32 before settling into the no. 1 jersey. Percy Harvin started with no. 8 – much like Rainey. And Janoris Jenkins was originally no. 29.
2 – Dominique Easley, DT/4 – Sharrif Floyd, DT – The big boys decided to go small; very small. I chuckled a little the first time I saw Carlos Dunlap sporting the no. 8 jersey. I snickered when Jaye Howard went with no. 6. It is not making fun of these defensive linemen so much as it is just that they are huge and their numbers are oh so small. Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army has his own thoughts regarding the switch. I just think the equipment manager might have to double the size of their jersey numbers.
3 – Jelani Jenkins, LB – While Jenkins is not small, the single digits definitely look better on linebackers than they do on linemen. This is a good move for Jenkins. He wore no. 3 in high school. Hopefully it will be a boost for him and turn him into the field general/monster he was projected to be.
5 – Marcus Roberson, CB – I feel like people are forgetting about Roberson already. Clearly one of the most talented of the newcomers, Roberson could have a big impact very early on. Giving him the no. 5 will immediately have fans thinking of the last great defensive back to wear the number – Joe Haden. Roberson has that potential. Please try not to forget about him.
7 – Robert Clark, WR – Not necessarily news regarding the change (this one was known before the media guide came out), but still a change. This is almost a reverse of the big man situation already discussed. Clark will look good with a single digit.
9 – Josh Shaw, S – Shaw becomes the second defensive back in recent years to walk away from the no. 29 jersey. I almost want (or need) someone great to come along, take no. 29 as a freshman, and put together an All-SEC career with it.
15 – Loucheiz Purifoy, CBUrban Meyer is gone and the no. 15 has been given out. It remains to be seen if Meyer would have eventually presented someone else with Tim Tebow’s jersey number, but odds are he would have help out for a while. Purifoy becomes to first to wear it after the great one. Luckily, he is not a quarterback. The pressure should be minimal.
16 – Jeff Driskel, QB/17 – Jacoby Brissett, QB – The new quarterbacks do have their numbers though and they sit right above where Tebow once resided.
33 – Mack Brown, RB/33 – Chris Johnson, S/33 – Minch Minchin, LB – We have seen plenty of jersey numbers occupied by two individuals. One is usually an offensive player and one typically on defense. Occasionally, you will get two on the same side of the ball because one of those two is never going to see the field. This is the first time I remember seeing three and I have to give it up for Minchin and whatever he contributes during practice because I hate to say it, but I do not think we will be seeing him during games. But that does not mean we do not still love him as we do all Gators. And of course there is his oh so easy to remember name.
35 – Chris Martin, DE/LB – Martin transferred, but the media guide was already printed. It is probably not worth noting that Martin was listed at no. 23 last year so this is technically a change. Funnier, well to me, is that Martin’s profile on page 41 of the guide does not include a picture, but instead the Gators logo.
55 – Graham Stewart, LB – As One Eyed Willy said to me when we were discussing the new jersey numbers: “is there a better number, especially for a linebacker, than 55?” No, there is not.
63 – Trip Thurman, G/65 – Tommy Jordan, G – The new big uglies have their numbers and while they are not exciting, we love offensive linemen around these parts. Good luck to both Trip and Tommy in their orange and blue duds.
80 – Ja’Juan Story, WR – We all hope Story is given the chance to do as many interviews as possible during his Gators career. He is interview gold. No platinum. NO TITANIUM!!!
97 – Tevin Westbrook, DE – I have this feeling that Westbrook is a diamond in the rough. I cannot explain it, but I feel there is an underrated possibility here.

Will Muschamp on John Brantley, Chris Dunkley, and CEO Coaches

Florida head coach Will Muschamp is making the rounds from Lakeland, FL to Bristol, CT and has plenty to say about the Gators and his role as leader of the orange and blue.  In Lakeland, Muschamp spoke with a local Gator club.  And in Bristol, it was ESPN (were you expecting me to say someone else?).  Here’s a recap of some of what he talked about (you can visit Alligator Army and Only Gators for more) and of course my thoughts:

• Muschamp supports John Brantley and reminds us that the quarterback position will always receive criticism.  If things go well, you’re the one that made them so.  If things go bad, it’s your fault and no one else’s.  This is true for the most part, but what else do we honestly expect Muschamp to say?  He’s not going to attack a kid who looked like he had confidence problems during his first season as a starter.  Muschamp has to play the role of not just coach, but motivator and supporter for Brantley.  #12 was in a tough position before last season and his performance throughout 2010 didn’t make anything easier for him.  To be honest, no one has any idea what the Gators have at the quarterback position until we all see it with our own eyes during the first game.  This is going to be the main topic of discussion for Florida fans and followers up until and even through the 2011 season.  The “issue” (that’s a nice way of saying problem) isn’t going away and as many guesses as we throw at it, none of us can predict what will happen.  We all just have to keep our fingers crossed for improvement of any kind.
• After the announcement was made that wide receiver Chris Dunkley would transfer, speculation regarding his destination immediately started.  Muschamp has said Florida will not restrict where he can transfer to in any way.  I’m a supporter of this.  Sure, I don’t want to see Dunkley (or Javares McRoy) leave, but it happens.  Losing such a small number during a coaching change might actually be a positive.  Florida isn’t for everyone.  Sometimes things just don’t work out.  You can’t expect every kid to come in and love everything about the school they choose.  For Dunkley, this is what happened.  For whatever reason, it didn’t end up being the place for him.  Things might have been different if he had been eligible for the spring, but he wasn’t and so he’s moving on.  Good for Muschamp for allowing him to try to find the place that’s best for him with no restrictions.
• The big quote from Muschamp from today (which Andy Hutchins expands on here) was “I don’t want to be a CEO head coach.”  Instead of taking it as a statement of what Muschamp is or isn’t, it was immediately seen as a shot at either his former boss at Texas, Mack Brown, or former Gator head man Urban Meyer.  Every coach has a different style.  No two are alike, but it sounds like Muschamp doesn’t want the business-like, running a corporation approach.  You could read what he said as him wanting to just be a football coach.  Not wanting to worry about interviews, etc., but wanting to coach his team.  Muschamp loves being on the field, it doesn’t sound like he relishes some of the other stuff off of it.  He just wants to be himself and he seems to be doing that just fine so far.  It’s hard to question too much of what he’s done since being named a head coach for the first time and if you’re intent on hunting for jabs he might be throwing at others, keep searching.  Methinks he meant exactly what he said and was merely pointing out what he is and what he isn’t.  If it’s a shot at anyone in particular, so be it, but let’s not begin this sort of talk before he coaches his first game.  This was far from a Lane Kiffin-like shot fired.  As for what he said regarding Aubrey Hill and Miami, well…

New Florida Gators Jersey Numbers for 2010

Florida released their full roster for the 2010 season last week and along with it came the newest jersey numbers.  We already knew about some of the freshman – those that have been around since the spring – but now the rest have numbers as well.  Don’t think these are definitely what they will wear once they hit the field one day (jersey numbers have been known to change), but for most of them, this is it.
And for fun I’ve added some memorable former Gators that have worn those numbers. Well, memorable according to my standards. You may have a different view entirely.
7 – Ronald Powell – DE – Jesse Palmer, Danny Wuerffel, Lorenzo Hampton, John Reaves
8 – Adrian Coxson – WR – Carlos Dunlap, Chad Jackson, Rex Grossman, Don Gaffney
10 – Tyler Murphy – QB – Jabar Gaffney, John Capel, Eric Kresser, Monty Grow, Chan Gailey
13 – Trey Burton – QB – Alex Brown, Ray Criswell
14 – Jaylen Watkins – CB – Bart Edmiston, Shayne Edge, Ernie Mills, Bruce Bennett
22 – Matt Elam – S – Terry Jackson, Willie Jackson Jr., Emmitt Smith, John L. Williams, Willie Jackson Sr., Steve Tannen
25 – Gideon Ajagbe – LB – Brandon James, Elijah Williams, Stacey Simmons, Lee McGriff
27 – Chris Dunkley – WR – Neal Anderson
29 – Joshua Shaw – CB – Mike Peterson
30 – Jonathan Dowling – S – Earl Everett, James Jones
31 – Cody Riggs – CB – Johnny Lamar, Carlton Miles
32 – Gerald Christian – TE – Dustin Doe, Eugene McCaslin
33 – Mack Brown – RB – Kestahn Moore, Ran Carthon, Teako Brown, Errict Rhett, Larry Smith
37 – Brandon Sanders – CB – Reggie Davis
38 – Phillip Bellino – RB – Matt Piotrowicz
39 – Jordan Haden – S – Chris Hetland
48 – Neiron Ball – NT – Dexter Daniels
49 – Darrin Kitchens – LB – Jermaine Cunningham, Jeff Chandler
51 – Michael Taylor – LB – Brandon Spikes, David Little
58 – Dominique Easley – DT – Johnny Rutledge
68 – Leon Orr – DT – Mike Degory, Rhondy Weston
73 – Sharrif Floyd – DT – David Williams
75 – Chaz Green – OL – Phil Trautwein, Shannon Snell, Donnie Young, Lomas Brown
77 – Ian Silberman – OL – Max Starks, Cheston Blackshear
81 – Robert Clark – WR – Aaron Hernandez, Dallas Baker
83 – Solomon Patton – WR – Dwayne Dixon
84 – Quinton Dunbar – WR – Ben Troupe, Harrison Houston
85 – Lynden Trail – DE – David Galloway
88 – Michael McFarland – TE – Kirk Kirkpatrick, Wilber Marshall, Jim Yarbrough
An interesting number assignment to note: Dunkley.  The receiver has been rumored to be getting #5, but is listed at #27.  No one on the roster is currently listed at #5, so Dunkley could still get it, but as of right now he has something else.