Florida Gators 27 – Vanderbilt Commodores 3

With each passing game it becomes harder and harder to envision tight end Aaron Hernandez in a Florida uniform in 2010.  Dude is talent.  A huge recruit coming in, Gator fans were excited when he signed with Florida.  Then came the practice reports.  Hernandez dropped A LOT of passes.  He looked lost in the offense.  People began to think maybe he’d be alright, but Hernandez probably wasn’t the player everyone once thought.  But when he put on a game uniform and got on the field it all changed.  A “wow” play here and there as a true freshman and thrust into the starting lineup as a sophomore when Cornelius Ingram went down.  What the Gators ended up with was probably the best tight end in the school’s history (yes, I just said that) and one of the stars of Florida’s 27-3 win over Vanderbilt.  Hernandez didn’t get into the end zone, but led the Gators with 7 catches for 120 yards.  Enjoy him now because in 2010 he could be playing on Sundays.
The word of the game was definitely defense in this one.  The offense was far from outstanding, but was efficient enough to put the ball in the end zone more times than needed thanks to the lights out Gator D.  Florida held Vandy to under 200 total years with almost a perfect split – 100 yards through the air and 99 on the ground.  Dustin Doe and Ryan Stamper were the stars with the Brandons watching from the sideline.  Doe led the team with 11 tackles while Stamper was second with 6 and got an interception.  That’s now 5 picks for Gator linebackers in the last 2 games.  Despite limiting Vandy to 199 total yards and only allowing the Commodores to put 3 on the scoreboard, Florida didn’t do much behind the line of scrimmage.  In fact, the Gators only managed 1 tackle for loss and no sacks on the night.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that given the final score, but against a better offense next week, there will need to be more pressure in the backfield.
On the offensive side, the story was a little different.  Vandy racked up 7 tackles for loss and 4 sacks.  Tackles for loss and sacks are going to happen from time to time given the nature of Florida’s offense, but those are numbers you don’t want to see.  Keep in mind, sacks are factored in to tackles for loss (the word “duh” comes to mind), but still.  The Gators officially have a date with Alabama in a few weeks.  Tay Cody and company will be licking their chops seeing how teams have gotten to Tim Tebow this season.  The middle of the line especially needs to tighten up.  In terms of the pass and the run game, let’s see solid protection from here on out.
Tebow had what seemed to be a rather pedestrian game, but did manage his highest completion percentage of the season (75%) and added to his career rushing total.  #15 probably still carries the ball more than many fans may want to see, but in the end we’re looking at a Florida team that’s 9-0.  It may not be pretty.  The offense may not always get going early like we’d like.  But a 24-point conference win is nothing to scoff at.  I remember only a few seasons ago when a 4 score victory over anyone in the SEC was something to get excited about.  In 2006 (one of those national championship seasons by the way), the Gators beat the Commodores by 6.  That year, fans seemed happy for the win.  This time around, if it’s not a final score of 45-10 or something along those lines, then it wasn’t a good game.  If Tebow isn’t putting up Heisman stats, then it wasn’t a good game.  If the offense doesn’t put up 500+ yards, then it wasn’t a good game.  But at this point in the season, it really is time to take each win as a win.  27-3.  9-0.  South Carolina up next.

The Long Snapper: September 8, 2009

Jermaine Cunningham should be back in the lineup for Florida after he “wasn’t ready to play” in the first game. I wasn’t ready to play either and clearly the kicking game suffered for it. You can also welcome back Lawrence Marsh, who should be mad as hell he let a little ankle keep him out of action. Super frosh Jelani Jenkins and Big Carl Johnson both suffered injuries against Charleston Southern, but are expected to play on Saturday. Dustin Doe continues to be a week-to-week decision.

Concerned about pass defense? Shoddy cornerback play got you down? Need the one man who can do the job? Janoris Jenkins is back. After serving a one game penalty for assisting law enforcement during taser testing drills, the freshman phenom returns against Troy. Beaten by receivers no more. #29 is back…as #1.

Brandon James, SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Week.

You all know about Joe Haden’s brothers Josh – a running back at Boston College – and Jordan – a high school defensive back committed to Florida, but there are two more. Jacob is 16 and Jonathan is in the eighth grade. If Josh ends up being the only one to not be a Gator, family dinners could get uncomfortable.

Scot Loeffler, quarterback coach.

Ah the Coaches Poll. USF’s Jim Leavitt dropped UNC from #12 to unranked on his ballot. All the Tar Heels did was beat The Citadel 40-6 in their first game of the season. Captain Crazy also said he would not put the Bulls in his next ballot. He held true to his word and didn’t rank USF, who he had at #18 in his preseason poll. I’ll agree with him on that one. Bulls fan or not, I’m not close to being ready to call them a top 25 team.

Jake Sims will hold his starting spot along the offensive line after a good performance in the opener against Wofford.

An interesting breakdown of why USF should be looking at a 7-5 season. And that’s WITH a win over Miami. Although I’d like to think 7-5 isn’t a possibility, it certain does make sense. I’ll keep my hopes up for 10-2. I have high hopes. Too high in most cases.

Former Gator Jarred Fayson had a decent debut for Illinois. He only rushed the ball one time for one yard, but he led all Fighting Illini receivers with four catches for 50 yards. He also returned a punt for four yards. Of course Illinois looked like the Illinois we came to love during Ron Zook’s first two years, not the Illinois of 2007 that everyone seems to expect to return for no good reason other than they have an athletic quarterback and a good receiver. It takes more than two. That’s all I’m saying. (And yes, I had the Illini winning this game. Goes to show you how much I know.)

Cincinnati, good? Rutgers, bad? You decide. The Rutgers defense took a page out of Two Teams Coming Together for a Common Purpose: The FSU and Miami Guide to Pass Coverages. Big East quarterbacks are eagerly awaiting their turn.

For those of you that missed it, the aforementioned Noles and Canes gave us their version of excitement. Either I’m going to go ahead and mark down Jacory Harris’ spot on the All-American roster or I’m going to say Mickey Andrews just may be past his prime. Let’s go with the latter. Harris was good. Very good. FSU’s secondary was bad. Very bad. Max Hall is one drooling Mormon at the moment.

Don’t worry. We’ll see Mitch Mustain being selected somewhere in the second half of an NFL Draft coming soon. As for seeing him even throw a pass in a USC game in 2009, well, don’t count your chickens. In a 56-3 blowout season opening win, the Trojan’s backup quarterback – Aaron Corp – only thru four passes. Mustain is one spot further down the depth chart.

First Three Quarters Jevan Snead won’t make it out of the SEC alive. Q1-3 Snead went 8-of-17 for 102 yards and two interceptions. Fourth Quarter Jevan Snead went 4-of-5 for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Ole Miss likes Q4 Snead. The rest of the SEC West cheers for Q1-3 Snead. I just like saying Snead.

And finally, North Alabama’s roster reads like a high school all-star game: Harrison Beck, Jamal Edwards, Courtney Harris, Preston Parker, Brandon Paul, Richie Rich, Marcus Sims. Doom will find the Lions though. This guy is on the coaching staff.

The Long Snapper: September 3, 2009

Today’s the day. It’s an odd feeling. Being excited about a South Carolina/NC State game. Of course, it’ll be much odder tomorrow night when I’m sitting down to watch Tulane host Tulsa. What can I say? I have a problem.

Florida has captains. Brandon James. Joey Sorrentino. Brandon Spikes. Ryan Stamper. Tim Tebow. Spikes, Stamper, and Tebow became on the sixth, seventh, and eighth Gators to ever be two-time captains. (H/T: One Eyed Willy)

Dustin Doe, suspended.

Doctors are still trying to determine the best course of action for true freshman Andre Debose. The longer this takes, the more serious it seems to be. Now I don’t know if that’s true, but in many situations, the injury occurs and a course is decided upon. The fact that Debose’s situation is still being evaluated has me wondering what’s up.

Matt Patchan and James Wilson are still battling it out to determine who will get the final starting spot on the offensive line. Carl Johnson will start at left guard if Patchan wins the battle and he’ll move to tackle if the last spot goes to Wilson.

Superstar freshman linebacker Jon Bostic will play against Charleston Southern. Superstar freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins probably won’t. Jenkins’ ankle is improving, but isn’t 100%. No point in pushing him into action.

Florida commit Gerald Christian flew up the Rivals100. The tight end is 51st on the most recent list after having been listed at 110th previously.

Broadcast information for the Florida/Charleston Southern game.

Most sites won’t put spreads on games where FBS teams play FCS teams, but Florida has been mentioned as a 63-point favorite over Charleston Southern. To find the last time the Gators even scored 60 or more points in a season opener, you have to go back to 2003 and year two of the Ron Zook era. Florida beat San Jose State 65-3 that day. Ingle Martin, Chris Leak, and Gavin Dickey all threw touchdown passes and Kelvin Kight was the Gators’ leading receiver. Florida would go on to finish 8-5 on the season leaving freshman Leak and Andre Caldwell probably wondering what they had gotten themselves into. Just another reason to be thankful for Urban Meyer.

ESPN pushed a Florida/Utah matchup, but it couldn’t get worked out in the end. Thus, we have Charleston Southern.

Despite been one of the more experienced members of USF’s offensive line, Jake Sims wasn’t likely to start. However, after Mark Popek’s battle with the flu, it looks like Sims will get his 11th career start.

The Bulls will be represented by Matt Grothe, Mo Plancher, George Selvie, and Kion Wilson as captains for the first game.

Keeley Dorsey – who passed away during conditioning in 2007 – would’ve been a senior this fall. To honor him, a different senior will wear #10 – his jersey number – in each game during the 2009 season. Defensive tackle Aaron Harris will wear it in the season opener against Wofford. Harris normally wears #98.

Mark Ingram and Julio Jones will play in Alabama’s season opener against Virginia Tech; on the condition they pay back the money for their fishing trip. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll never understand some of the NCAA’s regulations. It was a fishing trip. They weren’t given a fishing boat (at least not that we know of).

The Motor City Bowl has been renamed the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Be honest, you had no idea Little Caesars still existed.

The nation’s top high school receiver Kyle Prater chose to USC over Illinois. Good choice Kyle. Good choice.

As for that South Carolina/NC State game we’ll all be watching tonight, hopefully this time around things go better for Russell Wilson.

Morning Reading: The Official Dustin Doe Blog

Starting a blog was something I never saw myself doing. I always enjoyed writing and of course loved college football, but not to the point I ever saw myself doing much more than the occasional long-winded email about the sport to my friends. But then I took the plunge and I’m glad I did. For me, this is just another hobby, but definitely one I like. I’m glad I did it and actually surprised some people (even if it’s just a few) actually like reading what I write. Who would’ve thunk it?

As the blog world blew up, athletes joined in. From posting blog entries to updating their Twitter pages, fans have felt more in touch with athletes than ever before. And now we’re getting news from them on a regular basis. Sometimes, they’ve even been the ones to break it before an official team announcement.

On such an occasion Florida fans were recently informed of a player’s return to practice. Linebacker Dustin Doe posted on his Twitter page that he will be returning to practice on Friday after being held out while dealing with legal issues. It’s not rare these days to get news via Twitter and blogs and one would think Doe would be very aware of the timetable for his return, so I, for one, will take his world for it that he’ll be back tomorrow.

Now Doe has taken it one step further. The linebacker has starting his own blog. And yes, yours truly was the first one to post a comment on it. Why wouldn’t I? Like I’ve said many times before, I don’t have “sources.” I don’t know anyone inside the program. The closest I got to even a sniff of someone associated with Gator football was a few emails about a possible interview with a former player that fell through. So I’ll gladly take the opportunity to drop a line or two to Doe from time to time.

I’ll admit, I’ve been a fan of Doe’s since Florida was recruiting him and am glad to hear he’ll be back at practice soon. The Gators depth at linebacker is solid, but it never hurts to have someone with as much on-the-field experience as he does. While one of the younger guys could’ve stepped in and probably played well, it’ll be good to have Doe back and ready to play.

A Look at Depth Charts: The Florida Defense

After covering the offense, I’m moving on to the defense. Considering it returns all 11 starters, this wasn’t too difficult to put together, but there are definitely a number of second-teamers with starting experience that could make a push for serious playing time.

Players that could assume a starting role sometime during the season are in italics.

Florida’s Defense

Defensive End – Jermaine Cunningham (SR)
Defensive End – Carlos Dunlap (JR), Justin Trattou (JR)
Defensive Tackle – Lawrence Marsh (RJR)
Defensive Tackle – Terron Sanders (RJR), Omar Hunter (RFR)
Middle Linebacker – Brandon Spikes (SR)
Outside Linebacker – Brandon Hicks (JR), A.J. Jones (RJR)
Outside Linebacker – Ryan Stamper (RSR), Dustin Doe (SR)
Cornerback – Joe Haden (JR)
Cornerback – Janoris Jenkins (SO)
Safety – Ahmad Black (JR)
Safety – Major Wright (JR)
Nickel Back – Will Hill (SO)

Some notes on the defense…

Trattou actually started 13 games at defensive end during the 2008 season and could be on the field for the first snap during a number of games again in 2009. But the two most talented ends are Cunningham and Dunlap and overall, they should see the most time on the field.

Marsh and Sanders did their jobs last season, but coaches are looking for the interior linemen to make more of an impact. Those two should be the starters again when the season begins, but look for Hunter to push them. And we may even see Gary Brown get some important time as a true freshman.

A number of outside linebackers could see action this year and the Gators wouldn’t miss a beat. Doe, Hicks, Jones, and Stamper all have experience starting. Look for a number of others to also get time in 2009.

Although Hill is a monster talent, Black and Wright (especially as the season progressed) played too well to be unseated easily. However, coaches will figure out a way to get Hill on the field as much as possible. He will be a star of the special teams again and should be the primary nickel back.

TBG’s MVPs: Florida Linebackers

Sorry for the delay. I’ll be a little quicker in getting through the rest of these.

Brandon Spikes – 12 pts. (4 first-place votes)

There was absolutely no debate on this one. Florida has had a run a very good middle linebackers lately and Spikes is just the next in line. After a solid sophomore year, Spikes broke out as a junior in 2008. His inspired play led the defense to a dramatic turnaround. Surprisingly Spikes returned for his senior season, giving everyone no reason to think the defense won’t get even better.

One-Eyed Willy: “Do I really need to give any stats? Ok, I do. 93 tackles (led team), 8 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 4 INTs, 2 of which were returned for TDs (led team), 1 bone crushing hit and subsequent taunt of Mr. Knowshon Moreno, and 1 shanked punt in celebration. Nuff said.”

2. Ryan Stamper – 6
3. Brandon Hicks – 4
4. A.J. Jones – 2

As for the 2009 season…

Brandon Spikes – 12 (4)

2. Ryan Stamper – 5
3. Brandon Hicks – 3
4. Dustin Doe/A.J. Jones – 2

Up next: Defensive Backs