Chris Rainey Drafted No. 159 Overall By Pittsburgh Steelers

With the 24th pick in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft (No. 159 overall) Florida Gators running back Chris Rainey was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In Pittsburgh, Rainey will join former his former Florida teammates Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert.

Rainey was expected by many to be drafted, but there was a range on exactly where he would fall. Some said the former star could go as high as the second round, while others saw him sneaking into the draft late. In the fifth round, the Steelers – who have had some success with former Gators – took a chance on the speedster.

The remainder of the draft went as expected with Rainey and defensive lineman Jaye Howard not being joined by any additional former Gators. The 2012 draft would mark the first since 1993 that the first three rounds didn’t feature a Florida athlete. We wish both Rainey and Howard the best of luck, but hope 2013 is more kind to the Gators.

Terron Sanders Works Hard To Make It In The NFL

When the class you‘re a part of also includes Riley Cooper, Jermaine Cunningham, Marcus Gilbert, Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes, and some guy named Tim Tebow, it’s easy to get lost among the stars. Terron Sanders was a member of one of the greatest recruiting classes of all time, but much may have not been expected of him.

Rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals, Sanders was hardly untalented, but those names above overshadowed many and injuries didn’t help his case. Sanders played on one game during his senior year of high school and followed that up with a number of injuries – some serious – during his time at Florida. It wasn’t easy going for the defensive tackle, but he was able to appear in 43 games for the Gators and played well when healthy.
NFL scouts may not have thought he played well enough to be drafted though, but that’s not the only path to the top league. Sanders was signed by the Baltimore Ravens and is currently working to make their roster. It will be a tough road for the former Gator, but one he’s taking and not giving up on.

Florida Gators Offensive Line – 2010 vs. 2011

One Eyed Willy and I finish up the Florida offense with the offensive line. To read past installments, click each position: quarterbacks, running backs and fullbacks, wide receivers, tight ends.

2010: Marcus Gilbert – RSR, Maurice Hurt – RSR, Carl Johnson – RSR, Mike Pouncey – SR, Matt Patchan – JR, William Steinmann – JR, James Wilson – RJR, Nick Alajajian – SO, Xavier Nixon – SO, Sam Robey – RSO, David Young – RSO, Cole Gilliam – RFR, Chaz Green – FR, Jon Halapio – RFR, Jonotthan Harrison – RFR, Kyle Koehne – RFR, Ian Silberman – FR
Preseason Rating: B
Postseason Rating: D
I’ll start this one off by saying One Eyed Willy and I don’t dislike Florida. It’s quite the opposite. We love the Gators and are as diehard as you can get. However, we’re also very realistic fans who unfortunately can come across as negative from time to time. We joke that I’m the positive side to Willy’s negative, but we can both have our moments. Keep that in mind when reading these position comparisons. We aren’t the “rah rah” types that will go blindly into the future thinking Florida can do no wrong. We love the Gators and support them until the bitter end, but we also analyze practically anything and everything and sometimes that means pointing out areas which can be (or need to be) improved. We don’t apologize for these doses of realism; we’d like you to take a look at the whole picture when discussing your team and not just the fact that you’ve been a fan as long as you can remember. That’s a prelude to saying the 2010 Florida offensive line gets a D.

Let’s start by running down the starter numbers: Mike Pouncey – 13 games, Marcus Gilbert – 13, Maurice Hurt – 11, Carl Johnson – 11, Xavier Nixon – 8, Jon Halapio – 7, Jonotthan Harrison – 1, James Wilson – 1

Look at that and things don’t seem all that bad. Four players started 11 games or more and only eight total started any games. That would make you think the Gators had a relatively stable offensive line that stayed healthy for the most part. Well, see what had happened was…
First off, Matt Patchan didn’t play and Wilson only appeared in two games. The move to center by Pouncey was a disaster at times and only average at others. Hurt and Halapio were inconsistent and the line as a whole struggled to find balance. This is yet another position that can blame its performance on a number of things. From injuries to inconsistent play to schemes, nothing seemed to, for lack of a better term, click. While John Brantley wasn’t the quarterback we all hoped he’d be during his first year as the Gators’ starter, he was given very little time to even think in many situations. The offensive line didn’t give up some jaw dropping number of sacks – 27 total on the season (and four of those came in a game in which Florida beat Vanderbilt by 41 points) – but also didn’t provide a secure pocket for the quarterbacks to work out of.
It was a rough season for the line and one that hardly got better as it progressed. 2011 needs to be a turning point for the unit or the offense may struggle to get started early in games.
2011: William Steinmann – SR, James Wilson – RSR, Dan Wenger – RSR, Xavier Nixon – JR, Matt Patchan – RJR, Sam Robey – RJR, David Young – RJR, Nick Alajajian – RSO, Cole Gilliam – RSO, Jon Halapio – RSO, Jonotthan Harrison – RSO, Kyle Koehne – RSO, Ian Silberman – SO, Chaz Green – RFR, Tommy Jordan – FR, Trip Thurman – FR
Preseason Rating: C
I hate giving a unit a C. I really do. I debated this unit for quite some time. Should I give the 2010 version a D? Should I give the 2011 one the same grade? It would have been extremely easy to give 2011 a B instead of C, but I had to go with my gut on this one.
The 2011 offensive line has potential, but must stay healthy and consistent. Yes, they get a C, but if they finished 2010 with a D, lost the only players that started more than eight games, and added nothing more than a transfer and two freshmen that are very likely to redshirt, giving them another D would have been reasonable as well. However, because of that potential, they’re bumped a grade.
There are a few keys to the line and since we like to make lists around here, I’ll go ahead and make another one:
• The returning players started a total of 17 games in 2010. That isn’t a lot. Not a lot by any means. The unit has to get through its growing pains quickly. Quickly as in the first two games of the season.
• Patchan can be great. He’s a lineman with a mean streak. Unfortunately, he just can’t stay healthy. If Patchan can stay on the field for an entire season guess is there’s one spot we don’t have to worry about.
• This is the last hurrah for Wilson. This is it. He has one last chance to prove he’s the player many thought he could be. This is it. Put up time.
Chaz Green has been said to be an absolute warrior. We’ll see him on the field for the first time this season and we may see him a lot. He could steal a position and not let it go for a few years.
• IS THERE A CENTER?!? Harrison was moved to the position and Dan Wenger transferred in. Why? Because the position is wide open and the main reason is because Sam Robey hasn’t claimed it as his own. Two years ago we heard of the possibility of the Pounceys both playing guard because of this young lineman who was doing so well in practice that he could bounce a potential All-American from the position. Today, the Pounceys are gone and Robey still hasn’t been named the starter. This will be his fourth season with the team. He’s not in the same territory as Wilson, but he’s getting dangerously close.
The line plays an unbelievably important role in the offense and is the key to allowing plays to develop. In 2010, it didn’t come together as expected despite having four seniors across it. This season, the seniors on the roster are a question mark and that will make you lose some sleep. What Charlie Weis and Frank Verducci do with the line could be one of the most important things to follow during the offseason. It won’t take us very long to see how it all went and how it will all go. This is the definitive “keep your fingers crossed” unit.

Marcus Gilbert Goes #63 Overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers

I’ve never been much of a Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan.  I’ve never felt much of anything toward the Steelers to be honest.  They fit firmly in that “meh” category reserved for most of the teams in the NFL.  But I am becoming an increasing fan of their offensive line.  First Max Starks.  Then Maurkice Pouncey.  And now Marcus Gilbert.

Gilbert went a round higher than most projected as Pittsburgh selected him in the second round.  Going #63 overall is good for Gilbert who was projected to go somewhere in the third.
This is a good place for Gilbert to end up because he probably won’t be asked to play right away.  He’ll have some time to shed the “soft” label and develop himself into a viable option at the right tackle spot.  Most teams didn’t see Gilbert as a franchise left tackle, but could picture him as a serviceable talent on the right side.
After three rounds, Florida has now sent two players to the big time.  Still plenty of Gators out there waiting to hear their names called.

(Photo: University of Florida)

Stay Off the Roads! A Gator Football Player Might Be Out There!

In case you haven’t heard by now, Florida football players have compiled 251 traffic violations from 2006 to 2009 in Alachua Country.  That’s an impressive (if you want to look at it that way) 2.61 tickets per player.  Or roughly the average number of carries a Gator not named Tim Tebow gets in a big game.
So what does this mean to you?  Well, if you’re in Gainesville, stay off the roads!  The odds of you getting run into a ditch by a hell-bent Gator on a scooter are increasingly high these days.  If danger is your middle name and you like to take risks, do yourself a favor and at least avoid the paths the following players take: Jermaine Cunningham, Markihe Anderson, Marcus Gilbert, Corey Hobbs, and Miguel Carodine.  Those speed freaks have each totaled at least 11 violations.  And we officially know which one of the twins likes to be behind the wheel.  Maurkice Pouncey came in with seven tickets of his own while Mike didn’t make the list (at least not the top of it).
Some of the charges stem from the dreaded “don’t pay your tickets and get assessed with a larger violation” problem plaguing college athletes everywhere.  Which can kinda, sorta, in a twisted way be understandable.  Your license gets suspended and you truly don’t know it until you get pulled over, yet again, for seeing if your 1977 Dodge Aspen can reach Mach 2.  But for driving without ever even having a license in the first place.  Come on Carodine and Jordan Reed!  You have to know that isn’t right.

Game Preview: Florida Gators @ LSU Tigers – 8:00

10 things for tonight’s Florida/LSU matchup…

1. Be prepared to be force fed concussion information all night. Think you heard a lot about Tim Tebow’s brain over the past two weeks, you ain’t seen nothing yet. There will be replays of the hit. Comparisons between his concussion and famous concussions of the past (Jim Leavitt started sounding like your great-grandfather when he yells after slipping on pickle juice and hitting his head on a kitchen counter…bet you didn’t know that). If Tebow doesn’t play, he’ll be shown no less than 1,000 times. If he does, 10,000. Start or not, John Brantley MCMXIV will get more TV time than LeGarrette Blount ringside at a prize fight. What concussion means (it has something to do with the effects on the mind Superman experiences when faced with kryptonite). And of course, if Timmy plays and doesn’t have the best game in the history of any college football player EVER, we’ll hear all about how he should be at home in his bunk bed snuggly under his Walker Texas Ranger sheets (Tebow sleeps on both the top and bottom bunks because he can).

2. Maybe Urban Meyer doesn’t give Emmanuel Moody as much time as a running back with over 10 yards per carry should get because he has him confused with this guy. If so, I get it. You can’t possibly carry a football with hooves. But if not, we’ll just assume the reason has something to do with the fact that Meyer can’t catch Jeffery Demps to tell him he’s not starting. In case you didn’t now, him fast.

3. Random Omarius Hines facts: Hines caught 23 touchdown passes as a high school junior and he likes Star Crunch Cosmic Snacks.

4. Deonte Thompson can catch the deep ball. Deonte Thompson will catch the deep ball. Deonte Thompson can say the deep ball. Deonte Thompson is the deep ball. Hamstring be damned. Deep ball.

5. LSU bruiser back Charles Scott rushed for more than 100 yards in four straight games before facing the lean, mean, orange and blue machine in 2008. Scott’s line: 12 carries, 35 yards, 2.9 per carry, 1 catch, 8 yards, headache, loss, disappointment. In 2009, Scott has done what he can to kill whatever draft potential he had. He has yet to have more than 95 yards in a single game and now faces the team that seems to know how to stop that train.

6. Apparently Tim Tebow has some sort of head injury. We’re not sure if it’s serious, but there’s a sick, twisted rumor out there he might not play. I blame the internet. This has to be some sort of elaborate web hoax, like, you know, global warming, the war in Iraq, or signs of intelligent life in Alabama.

7. Pouncey-Squared must take control of the offensive line. Keep Marcus Gilbert at least 10 years away from whoever quarterbacks at all times. Keep James Wilson on the field for the entire game (there’s no Matt Patchan to sub in; he caught a nasty case of the ACLs). Keep Carl Johnson knowing his job is that much more important if a right-handed QB is back there.

8. We like Ciron Black. Scratch that. We love Ciron Black. Ciron Black = good people. Tonight Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap must make Ciron Black their personal play toy. We’ll resume loving Ciron Black on Sunday morning.

9. Pray for a Brandon Spikes unsportsmanlike conduct-induced punt shank. If we see #51 booting the ball off the side of his foot as fans everywhere run for cover, it means Florida is up big and LSU’s chances of keeping alive that streak of home, night wins alive have gone the way of a Ron Zook contract extension.

10. What’s that? Tim Tebow is hurt?!? Gotta go…

Florida Gators 41 – Kentucky Wildcats 7

The story in the victory over Kentucky is of course going to be the shot Florida quarterback Tim Tebow took. A clean, hard hit looked bad enough when Tebow didn’t get up, but the replay showed it might have been much worse. As Tebow went down, he head struck offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert’s knee. Tebow was able to get up and get to the sideline, but began vomiting not long after and was taken to the hospital as a precaution. First reports are that the senior suffered a concussion. He was kept in Kentucky overnight for observation.

As for the game, the Gators came out on fire and built up a 31-0 lead after only the first quarter before slowing things down. A solid 41-7 victory over an SEC East opponent was just what Florida needed before heading into a bye week. It’s been hard to get a read on LSU – Florida’s next opponent – this season, but they are still the Tigers and always present a good matchup. The Gators needed a good win before taking the next couple of weeks to prepare for what might be the season’s biggest matchup for both squads.

After carrying the ball what many thought to be too many times against Tennessee, a heavy dose of Tebow was on the plate again against the Wildcats. Tebow carried 16 times (and might have ran more if he hadn’t been knocked out of the game) for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Tebow is now only one rushing touchdown away from tying Georgia’s Herschel Walker at the top of the SEC’s all-time list. Although the Gators only attempted 16 passes all game, Tebow also managed to throw for a score. The quarterback has passed and rushed for 11 total touchdowns in Florida’s four games this season.

The running game as a whole was a big advantage for the Gators. Florida ran for 362 yards, compared to 86 gained on the ground by Kentucky. Jeffery Demps led the way among running back with 12 carries for 97 yards and although Emmanuel Moody only carried the ball five times, I can’t really complain. Moody totaled six touches (he also caught a pass) for 75 total yards and 12.5 yards per touch. The six touches don’t seem like a lot, but Moody was on the field for a lot of this one and might be on track to seeing more playing time.

The defense was great as usual. It seems like Charlie Strong took the leash off in this one and let them go. There were blitzes, aggressive coverages, and multiple schemes. It was the defense we’re all used to. And it works. Kentucky only totaled 179 yards and 11 first downs. Most importantly, the Gator defense allowed the Wildcats to convert only three of their 16 third downs.

Despite limping off the field on more than one occasion, Brandon Spikes finally showed the talent we’ve seen for the last few years. Spikes led the team with 10 tackles and always seemed to be around the ball. The Gators got interceptions from Janoris Jenkins and Major Wright and sacked Kentucky quarterbacks three times.

When these two teams face each other in 2010, Kentucky may not want to attempt any punts. Chris Rainey was on double duty in the first quarter as he blocked a punt and fell on the ball in the end zone for the touchdown. Special teams are an important part of Florida’s success and they got the big play in this one.

Now the Gators head for their weekend off. A good thing too. Tebow gets more time to rest after the shot heard ‘round college football. And all those flu-like symptoms have plenty of opportunity to go away. The big one is up next. LSU. In Baton Rouge. At night.

Morning Reading: Big Hit Sidelines Tim Tebow; Quarterback Has Possible Concussion

A video for today’s Morning Reading. So instead of scrolling through an article, sit back, watch, and listen.

Seeing the hit in slow motion, you realize just how nasty it was. Not so much the hit itself (which was a shot, and a legal one at that), but Florida quarterback Tim Tebow’s head whipping forward after hitting the knee of teammate Marcus Gilbert on the way down. Not much is known about Tebow’s condition at this point, other than a suspected concussion. If that’s all it is, the Gator signal caller should be ready to go in two weeks against LSU.