Will Hill Fighting To Make New York Giants Regular Season Roster

The 2012 NFL regular season is still months away, but that’s exactly where former Florida Gators safety Will Hill hopes to be this year. Hill – undrafted after declaring for the 2011 NFL Draft after his junior season at Florida – is currently with the New York Giants and battling to extend his stay.

When mentioning Hill, the word “bust” comes into play more often than not. He never lived up to his enormous potential at Florida, but there were many reasons for it. Initially, he couldn’t crack the lineup full-time; then there was the trouble and suspension. None of it went as expected for either party and Hill parted ways with one season of eligibility remaining.

NFL teams would pass over Hill and he wound up in the Arena Football League with the Arizona Rattlers. One season later, he’s getting another chance to play in the NFL.

The Giants like Hill’s potential, but need to see more. With a number of other safeties competing for roster spots, Hill will need to be better than he ever was with the Gators. He’ll need to prove he can perform at high levels consistently and that any past trouble is behind him. It’s an uphill battle for Hill, but he’s getting another chance. It’s up to him what he does with it.

For starters, he should focus on delivering hits in the field of play.

Former Florida Gators Safety Will Hill Signs With New York Giants

Former Florida Gators’ safety Will Hill has signed with the New York Giants. Hill left Florida with one season of eligibility remaining after the 2010 season, but wasn’t selected in the 2011 NFL Draft. He spent time with the Arizona Rattlers of the AFL before recently signing with New York.

Hill holds a place in Gators’ history, although it’s not always a favorable one for Florida fans. Coming out of high school, he was one of the nation’s top recruits, but his talents never seemed to show up with him. From not becoming the superstar fans wanted him to be to questions regarding his desire, Hill struggled with consistently performing on the field. His signature moment as a Gator was in 2010 against the Georgia Bulldogs when he intercepted Aaron Murray (his second of the game) in overtime. Other than that key play though, this is the moment many fans remember Hill for the most:

Hill now has a chance to resurrect his career and finally bring his talents and abilities to good use. If he can keep his head on straight and dedicate himself to the game of football and not all of the outside influences that may come along with it, he’ll have a chance to make a career out of the game. It will be a tough road for Hill, but finally finding a team is a start.

Florida Gators Defensive Backs – 2010 vs. 2011

The Bull Gator and I finish up the defense. To read past installments, click each position: quarterbacks, running backs and fullbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers.
2010: Ahmad Black – SR, Moses Jenkins – RJR, Will Hill – JR, Janoris Jenkins – JR, Jeremy Brown – RSO, Josh Evans – SO, Matt Elam – FR, Cody Riggs – FR, Josh Shaw – FR, Jaylen Watkins – FR
Preseason Rating: B
Postseason Rating: C
Although I believe that the potential was there for them to be an above-average group, when looking back on the defensive backfield for the Gators in 2010, I decided to give the unit an overall grade of C. But really you could look at this unit as a tale of two stories with one half of the unit being outstanding and the other half being downright pitiful.
First, let’s start with the good, namely safety Ahmad Black and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. To say that these two guys deserve a grade of A would be an understatement as to how good they really were. Black had the most tackles on the team (108), the most interceptions (5), the most forced fumbles (3) and the most fumble recoveries (2). He also had twice as many unassisted tackles (73) than all but one other Gator (Jelani Jenkins – 41). Not to mention the leadership that he provided both on the field and in the locker room truly was immeasurable.
In 2008, the Gators won the national championship thanks in part to a freshman CB who found his way into the starting lineup on day 1 of the season and never looked back. By doing so, Janoris Jenkins became just the second true freshman in school history to start at CB on opening day. The stats for Janoris in 2010 may not be that overwhelming: 44 tackles, 8 pass breakups, 3 interceptions and 1 sack, but his presence on the field made the entire defense better. Opposing quarterbacks were hesitant to go to his side of the field, and more often than not, when they did he was there to make a big play.
Then you have the other guys. The combination of Will Hill and Josh Evans at the other safety position left much to be desired. I could go on-and-on about just how disappointing of a season/career Hill had, but I think we have all been down that road before. And the revolving door of Moses Jenkins, Jeremy Brown and Cody Riggs at the cornerback position opposite of Janoris (for the most part) was, to be nice, less than stellar.
With that said, we did see glimpses of hope in 2010, including Brown, Riggs and Matt Elam showing that they have the potential to be stars for the Gators somewhere down the line, but for the most part, when one half of your defensive backfield fails to live up to the hype while the other half struggles to make up for their teammates’ mistakes, you know you are in for a rough year.
2011: Moses Jenkins – RSR, Jeremy Brown – RJR, Josh Evans – JR, Matt Elam – SO, Cody Riggs – SO, Jaylen Watkins – SO, Josh Shaw – RFR, Jabari Gorman – FR, Chris Johnson – FR, Loucheiz Purifoy – FR, Marcus Roberson – FR, De’Ante Saunders – FR, Valdez Showers – FR
Preseason Rating: C
If you would of told me a few months/years ago that starting in 2011, the defensive backfield of UF would be Janoris Jenkins, Will Hill, Matt Elam and a second cornerback of your choosing, I probably would have said, “sign me up!” Unfortunately that won’t be the case for two major reasons. First, Hill thought he was going to get drafted into the NFL. Well, he didn’t. But this actually might be a positive for the Gators given Hill’s lack of production on the field. And second, Jenkins really liked to smoke pot. I mean really liked to! Therefore, he will have to finish his college career in the beautiful city of Florence. No, not that Florence, but the one in northern Alabama.
So what are we left with? Well, if you ask me (which you didn’t), I say we are left with a group of guys who have yet to prove themselves on the collegiate level, but who have all the talent in the world to be great players.
At the safety position, Elam is the only guy at this point that I can say is definitely a starter. I think Elam will have a great season, but I am really basing that more on hearsay and hopes than on actual on-the-field production. The other safety position is up for grabs right now. Some think that it’s Evans’ spot to lose. Others believe that Josh Shaw or Jaylen Watkins may sneak up and take the position. And recently, there have been discussions of De’Ante “Pop” Saunders moving from cornerback to safety in order to lock down that spot. Unfortunately all of these guys have fairly limited (or no) playing time at the college level and therefore the second safety spot could be a significant point of weakness for the Gators’ defense in 2011.
As far as cornerback is concerned, I have been shouting from the rooftops one name these past couple of months and I’m not going to stop now: Marcus Roberson!!! Look for Roberson to join Joe Haden and the aforementioned Janoris Jenkins as freshmen starters at the cornerback position for the Gators. Roberson may struggle in the beginning, but he will be very good, very soon. The second CB position has the chance to be reminiscent of last year in which there are a couple of guys rotating in and out at that position. Guys like Brown, Riggs, Moses Jenkins and freshman Loucheiz Puriofy all have a chance to play at that spot and could be called on periodically throughout the season to step up.
To grade the defensive backfield going into this season is almost impossible to do. There are too many variables, too many open spots still, and too many guys with talent but no experience. I truly think that we could look back a few months from now and easily give this unit an A and just as easily give this unit a F. But with the former defensive back Will Muschamp at the helm teaching these guys on a day-in and day-out basis, I think we might all be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Undrafted Gators Start To Sign Free Agent Deals

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)

A Preview: Florida Gators at Vanderbilt Commodores

Ahmad Black 2It’s an interesting and undesirable situation to be in. To have the Vanderbilt game be the first chance for Florida to become bowl eligible. Some programs just expect to go bowling. They don’t make getting to a bowl game a goal because it’s just assumed. The Gators will play in a bowl game. That much is guaranteed. Hope was that it had already been secured at this point in the season.

The actual goal is – and always has been – Atlanta. Fans seem to forget that. Spoiled by the recent and overwhelming success Florida football has experienced, anything less than greatness is utterly unacceptable. I have that feeling at times too, but realize what you are watching. College sports are cyclical. Players come and go. Coaches do too. As much as we may hate to see it, the Gators will have three-loss (and, gulp, even worse) seasons from time to time. But 2010 is far from lost.

Florida is 120 minutes away from a return to Atlanta. The number one goal was always to get to the SEC Championship Game. Even an “off” season can be considered a reasonable success if the orange and blue make a trip to Georgia in early December. The Gators still have that dream very much alive. Not the success of 13-1, but there are much worse alternatives (no one envies where Tennessee currently sits in the SEC East standings).

It all starts with a trip to Vanderbilt and what should be an easily winnable game. But little has been easy this season. Florida struggled mightily in losses to Alabama and Mississippi State and dropped a tough one to LSU. Even against lesser opponents, the Gators have played the part of shooting themselves in the foot. Last week, in the overtime win over Georgia, Florida started strong only to let the Bulldogs get back into the game late. This time the result was different – a win – but parts still felt eerily similar.

Now the Gators face a team they are always expected to beat. A team that has pushed Florida to the limit at times. The Gators continue to triumph, but there have been a few matchups with the Commodores that ended much too close for comfort. If there’s a season during which a scare could come, it’s this one.

Against Georgia, Florida was able to move the ball much better than in the previous three games. That was a good thing and should give hope of a larger victory against Vanderbilt. The two-quarterback system finally rolled and overall the offense seemed more comfortable even if it was odd at times. It’s hard to say what we’ll see when they take on the Commodores, but spirits should be up.

Throughout the ups and downs one thing has remained constant. The Gators still control their destiny in the SEC East. It really is hard to imagine, but only those 120 minutes remain. The first 60 on Saturday.

If Atlanta truly is a goal, the team needs leaders to drive the team. And not just the typical leaders. Not just the Ahmad Blacks and Mike Pounceys. They need unconventional ones as well. Chris Rainey can be more than just the dynamic playmaker he was in his return. John Brantley can still take control of the team. Will Hill can erase doubts of his desire. Trey Burton and Ronald Powell can set the foundation for the future. This is a team full of leadership potential. The time when “potential” should have been removed from that sentence is long past due.

Florida Gators 34 – Georgia Bulldogs 31 (OT)

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 30: Trey Burton  of the Florida Gators celebrates following a touchdown during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field on October 30, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)A win.  A glorious win.  You need every win in college football, but some seem bigger than others.  When you’ve already lost three games and those three came in the last three, a victory is huge.  It seems almost unattainable.  Facing a team on a hot streak when you are the underdog, it’s a tough road.  Needing a victory to not fall out of the SEC Championship Game race, the odds seem stacked against you.  But you won.  You came out on top.  You beat a rival.  In overtime.  In a game when your offense put up yards and scored points.  Parts were beautiful.  Parts weren’t pretty.  34-31 may be all that mattered.

With the overtime victory over Georgia, Florida moved to 5-3 (3-3) on the season.  It’s not a great record and definitely not a desirable one, but the Gators are two wins away from returning to the SEC Championship Game for the third consecutive season and fourth time in five years.  There are still 120 minutes of football to be played before that’s determined, but it’s nice to know you’re still in the hunt.  Vanderbilt on the road and South Carolina at home is all that’s between you and Atlanta.  A goal every season that’s still within reach.

Let’s start with the pretty.  Florida piled up 450 yards of offense and reached the end zone four times.  The run game wore out the Georgia defense as it accounted for 231 yards on 50 carries.  There were a few gorgeous plays: Chris Rainey’s 20-yard touchdown run, Deonte Thompson’s catch, Trey Burton’s scamper.  The defense forced turnovers and at times made key stops when absolutely needed.  One of the nation’s most dangerous weapons – A.J. Green – was also held in check for most of the game.

A few things were less than pretty, but you’re given permission to bask in the glory for a few moments before reflecting on those.  The Bulldogs got back in the game thanks to three fourth-quarter touchdowns as the Gator defense started to wear down.  What seemed like a game Florida had control of early turned into one that was decided in overtime.  And the offensive playcalling was once again interesting to say the least.  Let’s start there.

I’m all for creativity.  I think most of us are.  You need to keep defenses guessing and going vanilla 100% of the time isn’t going to cut it, but is having John Brantley on the field for as many Burton snaps as he was really the best way to do it?  Having Brantley out wide on occasion and motioning him into the backfield to take the snap at the last possible second from time to time was a nice wrinkle that kept Georgia guessing, but that much?  Since the game was won, it might not be questioned, but if it had gone the other way, it would be the first thing we’d be looking at.

Burton did get the chance to throw the ball, twice.  That’s a good, not great, addition.  That threat must be there, but having Brantley on the field for as many plays as he was is essentially taking away an option.  I get the plus of having to make less personnel adjustments if both he and Burton are on the field, but a blocker out there could have helped.  The Gators aren’t going away from the two-quarterback system (and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s how they need to run the offense this season), but there are still some adjustments that can be made.

The run game may have benefitted the most from the “new” offense.  Burton went for over 100 yards and Rainey looked good in his return.  Each player that had nine or more carries – those two and Jeff Demps – managed over four yards per carry.  If Florida can continue to move the ball on the ground, they’ll be successful.  And that’s where the passing game can open up.

Brantley wasn’t perfect, but he was efficient enough.  Despite not throwing a touchdown pass for the fourth consecutive game, Brantley recorded his highest rating since the win over Kentucky.  He may not be spectacular, but if he can manage the pass game and keep mistakes limited, drives will continue.  There’s still an accuracy worry (open receivers were greatly overthrown on two short outs), but in this one Brantley seemed calmer than he had in a while.  If he can get out of his own head and keep the nerves down, he can be a solid quarterback.

You never want to go into overtime.  As a coach, player, or fan, it’s not a desire.  Maybe if you’re the team that mounted a fourth-quarter comeback, but even then overtime is a momentum changer, or halter.  Georgia had that momentum heading in and one long Will Hill interception runback changed everything.  Although Hill didn’t get in, Florida got a spark and a few plays later won the game on a Chas Henry field goal.  A great punter who was struggling with field goal accuracy got a chance to redeem himself and did.

A feel-good story for Henry, but one that is short-lived.  Just like that another game is over, this time with the Gators on the winning side of the scoreboard.  On to the next one and the continued hope for Atlanta.

(And there’s more good news: we don’t have to see those hideous uniforms again. One and done.)

10 for 2010: Florida Gators

10 things to know about Florida heading into the 2010 season.

1. Anytime you have a schedule in which you could find yourself facing the defending national champions not once, but twice, it’s a tough year.  Life in the SEC is never easy, but 2010 could be rougher than usual for the Gators.  October 2 has been circled since about two minutes into the second half of last year’s SEC Championship Game.  And if the experts are right, December 4 might be too.  Florida and Alabama could meet twice.  Facing a team like the Crimson Tide once is tough enough.  Facing them twice, well, that’s the SEC.  Only one week after that first matchup with Bama, the Gators host LSU in what is sure to be another battle for Florida.  This feeling toward the schedule is nothing new though.  Year after year we discuss the schedule and year after year we believe the Gators will have a difficult road ahead of them.  But year after year they perform – to the tune of 48-7 over the past four years and 26-2 over the last two.  The schedule will be hard.  Florida will be ready for it.
2. Welcome to the John Brantley show.  It’ll be a good one.  You won’t want to miss an episode and will probably be so pleased with it that you’ll ask for the DVD in your stocking at Christmas.  I don’t want to tell Florida fans to forget Tim Tebow, but forget Tim Tebow.  In two days, #12 takes the field as the starter and one of the team’s leaders.  He has the talent, but has yet to get the chance to showcase it when it mattered.  Now is Brantley’s time.  He’s admitted to being a little nervous, but also said that’s a good thing.  If that logic is good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.
3. Oh so many glorious weapons.  Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Andre Debose.  I could name more, but those three stand out as being the biggest threats in multiple areas.  In Demps you have a guy with world-class speed (literally) who not only will be the primary ball carrier, but will also get a shot at returning kicks.  In Rainey you get a receiver who can go into motion and suddenly take handoffs out of the backfield.  And in Debose you get…well…you don’t know what you get, but you’re all sorts of giddy about it.  You hear the phrase “he’s a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball” a lot.  With these three, that couldn’t be truer.  They are the dynamic, exciting, explosive, game-changing parts of the Florida offense.
4. I spoke about it in my 100 Thoughts about the 2010 College Football Season piece (shameless plug), but I really do believe we’re looking at possibly the best collection of talent across the entire offensive line that the Gators have ever assembled.  Then again, you could argue that based on that statement, last year was the best collection of talent since it was essentially this year’s unit plus Maurkice Pouncey.  But anyway.  The line will be one of Florida’s greatest strengths and should keep Brantley upright and open truck-sized holes for the running backs.
5. How do you have a season preview (if that’s what this really is) and not mention the nation’s top freshman?  The answer is you don’t.  How can you not be excited for Ronald Powell to hit the field?  There are plenty of great new Gators that will get playing time this season, but Powell is the one everyone will be watching.  The last time Florida got the nation’s top high school player was in 2006.  It was some guy that went by the name Percy Harvin.  It sure worked out all right for both the Gators and Harvin.  Three years and two national titles later he was a first-round draft pick.  I’ll take the same from Powell thank you very much.
6. The “starter” battle between Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins has been interesting and all, but let’s not for one second think it mattered.  Both are too talented and valuable to the defense to be kept off the field for extended periods of time.  They each have their strengths and will contribute to the package which caters most to those strengths.  When you have two potential future All-SECers, you get them on the field.  You don’t start one and sit the other indefinitely.  One may start, but both will play a lot.  All of the linebackers have been working out at each position to ensure they’re each ready to play whenever needed.  Expect to see plenty of both Bostic and Jenkins in 2010.
7. Entering his junior year, it’s finally Will Hill’s time.  Hill has seen the field more than most “backups” during his time at Florida.  For two straight seasons, the Gators basically had three fully capable safeties to play in any situation, but Hill was number three.  He may have the most natural talent among all of the safeties on the depth chart, but Ahmad Black and Major Wright played too well to give up too much playing time to Hill.  With Wright bolting for the NFL, Hill will get as much time he wants…MAYBE.  Like Hill did for the last two years, Matt Elam will be breathing down the necks of the starters.  All three will play.  All three will excel.
8. Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Chas Henry is the best punter in the nation.  Someone once told me that if you read something 17 times, you’ll have it memorized.  I have no idea if that’s true, but it’s worth a shot.
9. Don’t expect Urban Meyer’s health to be an issue of any kind.  Meyer has done what doctors have told him and is living much more of a reserved lifestyle (at least in comparison to the past).  He’s still the head coach of the Gators and will be for some time, but he has pulled himself back from certain areas and hopefully certain stretches.  Sorry fans of other schools, Meyer remains.  And for those of you haters out there, keep trying to convince the rest of us that you wouldn’t trade your coach for Meyer in a second.  Unless you‘re among only a handful of other schools, you’re kidding yourself.
10. Sometimes it’s nice not being expected to rule the world.  Think about it.  The pressure isn’t on Florida in 2010.  It rests squarely on the shoulders of Alabama.  The Gators are expected to lose to the Tide in October and then again in December.  They aren’t expected to play for the national title.  Not having those expectations to live up to is a good thing.  A very good thing.  Let Bama deal with that while the Gators do their thing and turn themselves into a true championship contender.

Do Five-Star Recruits Become Five-Star Performers?

This time of year the college football world goes into a recruiting frenzy.  The season has ended.  Spring games are still months away.  Fall practice seems like it may never get here.  So every fan (at least every diehard) focuses on recruiting.
If you’re like the rest of us fanatics, you want to know anything and everything about the recruits your school is after.  And if you cheer for a big program, five-star prospects offer bragging rights.  Remember that movie with Shaq?  No, not Kazaam.  That other one in which he played (and it was a stretch) a basketball player?  Blue Chips.  That’s what the five-star recruits are.  Blue chips.  They are considered the cream of the crop.  And you want as many of them as scholarships your school has available.
For Florida, the Army All-American Game was a big moment.  Huge in the recruiting world.  The Gators went from having not one five-star prospect committed to have three (according to Rivals.com) in only a matter of a few hours.  And if the Under Armour All-American Game the week before was a barometer of those who may get that elusive fifth star in the coming weeks, Florida may end up with five or six when all is said and done.
Since 2002 (and not including the current recruiting class), Florida has signed 22 five-star prospects.  Looking back over the 22, you can see some definite success stories and some definite misses.  Due to this, a few friends (One Eyed Willy, KP, and Vanilla Bear) and I decided to perform a little exercise and rate each player from one to five stars based on how they played or the potential they now present.  In the end, we only rated 19 of the 22, leaving off the three from the 2009 recruiting class (Gary Brown, Andre Debose, and Jelani Jenkins) due to redshirting and lack of anything to accurately rate them on.  Our goal was to determine who lived up to the hype and who went in the other direction.  And here are the results:
5.00 Stars – Derrick Harvey, Percy Harvin, Jarvis Moss, Brandon Spikes, Tim Tebow – These are the guys that met the hype head on, ran it over, and never looked back.  It was unanimous that each one of them lived up to their five-star status.  It’s no coincidence the three of the five that have been drafted all went in the first-round and the remaining two most likely will.  These were definitely the men among boys.
4.75-4.50 Stars – Andre Caldwell, Carlos Dunlap, Chad Jackson – Two receivers that came in together and a stud defensive lineman.  Caldwell left Florida as the career leader in receptions and Jackson left with the single-season record.  Dunlap will test the NFL waters after a dominant junior year.
4.25-4.00 Stars – Ciatrick Fason, Will Hill, Matt Patchan – Fason might have had a chance at a place higher in the rankings had he not left after his junior year and Hill and Patchan are still fighting hard to realize greatness.  Hill’s only knock is having to split playing time, but five-star status may be in sight as he gets on the field more in 2010.  If Patchan is left at one position, he could still blossom into a star.
3.75-3.50 Stars – Omar Hunter, Dee Webb – Realistically, Hunter gets an incomplete at this stage in his career.  With years still ahead of him, he will have plenty of chances to shine.  Webb was another one of those that could have cashed in on greatness with one more year.  As it was, he was consistent, but rarely spectacular for three seasons.
3.25-3.00 Stars – Joe Cohen, Carl Johnson – There was talk for a while at trying Cohen out as a power back, so that may have slowed his development, but in the end he was an important part of the defense, just never a true star.  Johnson has one final year to pull it all together.  He’s been good, but not great just yet.
2.75-2.50 Stars – Torrey Davis – Davis probably gets more credit than he deserves for one spectacular play.  In the end, he left Florida after never becoming the player he was expected to be and spending most of his time in the doghouse.
2.25-2.00 Stars – Carl Moore, Cameron Newton, James Wilson – Moore and Wilson still have a chance to prove themselves, but they may not become more than solid athletes.  Newton on the other hand still has a chance to be great, but if he does, it will be while wearing the orange and blue of a different SEC school.

Game Preview: Tennessee Volunteers @ Florida Gators – 3:30

Tomorrow brings a world of excitement. Not only for the game, but for the thoughts of a glorious tailgate followed by copious amounts of football. If I were you, I might not want to be near me between the hours of 3:00 PM and, let’s say. 3:00 AM. I’ll be a treat. Luckily the people I’ll be with tolerate my behavior and the things that come out of my mouth post a case of Busch Light. Of course the game is what everything revolves around and it’s what makes everything happen, so here are 10 things I’d like to see in Florida’s battle with the Volunteers from Tennessee

1. A blowout. Let’s be honest, every Gator fan, and every non-Vol SEC fan, wants Florida to absolutely annihilate Tennessee. The 59-20 drubbing in 2007 was good, but allowing 20 points in unacceptable. In 2008, holding the Vols to six points was what we wanted, but scoring 30 wasn’t enough. This year, we all want a little of both. 59-6 would be perfection. Offense and defense running on all cylinders. Oh and don’t forget the special teams. I don’t want this to be a good game. I don’t want it to be close past the opening kickoff. I’m a Florida fan and I want a blowout.

2. Maintain the ridiculously high yards per carry. Florida averages 8.4 yards on the ground. Jeffery Demps leads the way with 14.7, Chris Rainey is notching 12.4 a clip, and Emmanuel Moody comes in at 9.8. Basically, give the ball to anyone of those guys and odds are your getting a first down.

3. Get Omarius Hines on the field. Yes the competition hasn’t been ideal, but Hines has performed admirably. He’s currently third on the team in receptions and yards. Hines has earned his shot and should get time as the fourth or even third receiver if the opportunity presents itself.

4. Go to Deonte Thompson. I’ve kept #4 the same from last week. Thompson dropped another pass early in the game against Troy, but rebounded with two touchdown catches. Regardless of the two scores, Thompson’s involvement is less than ideal so far. Two catches in two games is not what you want from a guy who was supposed to be the go-to receiver.

5. Work in anyone else at tight end. If Gator coaches are so worried about the possibility of Aaron Hernandez getting hurt, then they need to work someone else into the rotation somehow. Now’s the time to do it.

6. Limit the big play. To expect Jonathan Crompton to lead more than one multiple-play, clock-eating drives, is like expecting an earthquake to swallow The Swamp whole on Saturday. If Tennessee is going to stay in it, they will need big plays. They seem to have the talent to break a big run or two and Florida knows it. Come tomorrow, they’ll need to stop it.

7. The Brandon Spikes coming out party. Spikes has been relatively quiet so far this year. It’s okay at this point because the Gators haven’t needed him. But this is SEC play and it’s time for the real Spikes to come out. The defense feeds off of Spikes’ enthusiasm. I’m sure he’ll be up for this one.

8. Big hits. Spikes, Will Hill, Major Wright. Florida has some big hitters and now it’s time to unleash them. Don’t think Vol receivers won’t be given a message when coming across the middle or looking up for the ball. This will be a classic slobber knocker.

9. Interceptions. Crompton likes to pass to the other team. He’ll hit Gator defensive backs at least once and most likely twice or even thrice. Florida’s secondary needs to be ready because they can singlehandedly put this out of reach.

10. Brandon James. James likes playing against Tennessee. Tennessee doesn’t like playing against James.

Conference play is here. Go Gators!

TBG’s MVPs: Florida Special Teams

TBG’s MVPs??? You stopped doing those weeks ago??? What’s going on around here??? I’m getting organized, that’s what. At least I’m attempting to. The season is less than two weeks away and I’m getting ready. I’m catching up on pieces I never finished and delivering them to you – the people who couldn’t care less. So read if you like. Pass over it if you prefer. But here is the final group of TBG’s MVPs for Florida

Brandon James – 9 pts. (3 first-place votes)

Not that anyone would’ve beaten out James’ unanimous win anyway, but because “kickers don’t count” we had some interesting results. Thanks KP! Anyway, James is the easy pick and may have been the last few seasons as well. The Gators have had some dynamic returners over the years, but James could be the most explosive. Willy makes a great point below. Despite his small stature, James isn’t afraid of anything.

One-Eyed Willy: “He is everything you want in a kick/punt returner. Sure-handed. Fast as lightning. Not scared to run up and grab the ball in traffic rather than letting it bounce forwards another 20 yards.”

2. Chas Henry/Jonathan Phillips – 3
3. Will Hill – 2
4. Carlos Dunlap – 1

And for 2009…

Brandon James – 9 (3)

A moment of silence for 2010, when #25 will no longer be returning kicks for the Gators.

2. Chas Henry – 4
3. Will Hill/Jonathan Phillips – 2
4. Carlos Dunlap – 1