“10 Things I Want Out Of The Florida Gators 2012 Football Season” – The Bull Gator

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. One Eyed Willy was up first; now it’s my turn.

10. The return of The Swamp. I get that it’s a rough time for our country and the economy isn’t what it used to be, but that won’t stop me from longing for the return of a packed house. I want it to be hard for me to get tickets when I want to make the drive to Gainesville. I want the place to be full for each and every home game regardless of who the Gators are playing. I want to feel the energy I did during 1997 against Florida State and 2006 against South Carolina. I don’t want anyone but Gators to get out alive. Bring back the intimidation factor and that feeling of fear put into opponents when they walk out of the visitor’s tunnel.

9. Quinton Dunbar. The spring star needs to do the same on Saturdays in the fall. This one is dedicated to Dunbar because of his jersey number. Florida needs a star wide receiver and realistically it’s up for grabs. I honestly wouldn’t care if it were Andre Debose or Ja’Juan Story or anyone on the roster, but I’m going with Dunbar because, for whatever reason, he’s the one I want to see break out. If Dunbar can translate his spring success to the fall, good things will come for the Gators just as they did in 2006 when Dallas Baker put it all together.

8. On that note, I want offensive fireworks. I’ll even narrow it down to the passing game. Remember Danny Wuerffel? What about Rex Grossman? Tim Tebow’s final game? Whatever happened in 2010 and 2011 was a kick back to the dark ages. The passing game needs to return and Brent Pease can lead it. Will Muschamp mentioned keeping the offense the same, but not even he knows what that offense is. However it works out, it better include short passes, long passes, and every other pass in between.

7. Success for Ronald Powell. Another one chosen for the jersey number of the player mentioned. I don’t just want Powell to be average. I don’t just want him to be good. I want Powell to absolutely dominate. His first two seasons in Gainesville have been rough. He’s had as many ups and downs on the field as anyone, but every so often we get a glimpse. We see the talent and dream of the potential. Powell will be a junior this fall and it’s time for him to live up to that No. 1 overall recruit billing.

6. Jarvis Williams. Louis Oliver. Lawrence Wright. Reggie Nelson. Major Wright. You know what’s coming next. Matt Elam. Like homeruns, big hits can completely change whatever direction momentum may have been headed. It doesn’t have to be Elam that lowers the boom, but he’s the likely candidate. We revere that group of former Gators for more than just the big hits, but the big hits are what we remember first. Elam is well on his way to being a great defensive back; let’s see him make a few of those game changing plays.


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.

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

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

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

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

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

The Offense: Florida Gators 33 – Tennessee Volunteers 23

As with last week, the game recap comes in parts. Offense up first, defense next, special teams after that, and then some final thoughts.

The Florida offense isn’t on any sort of torrid pace with fireworks at every turn, but so far it has been consistently solid. In the 33-23 win over Tennessee, the Gators put up 347 total yards. That’s not overly impressive. Instead, it could be called average, but it was enough. Enough for Florida to not only win its third-straight game, but to jump out to 1-0 in SEC play. That puts the Gators a game clear of SEC East rivals Tennessee and Georgia early in the season. These are the wins that mean the most.

Although finishing them was tough, Florida put together a number of successful drives to get out to an early lead. The Gators scored on their first four drives to lead 16-0 in the second quarter. The Vols, on the other, hand, weren’t able to score until their fifth drive of the game. Florida would do some of the same in the second half, finding the end zone on their first two drives to go up 30-7. Although Tennessee made the score closer late, the Vols were out of it thanks to timely scoring by the Gators’ offense. If the red zone offense had clicked, the score could have gotten out of hand. That aspect to the offense definitely left something to be desired, but chances are it’ll be one of the things worked on most during the week.

In his second season as the starter, John Brantley has already looked much more comfortable as a quarterback. It’s still early in the season, but Brantley has raised his rating by more than 30 points over 2010. Against Tennessee, he registered his highest rating of the season at 167.4. With two touchdowns and no interceptions, Brantley appeared ready to run Charlie Weis’ offense against SEC opponents. His stats won’t awe you, but they don’t have to. Weis has turned Brantley into a game manager and so far so good. When he has to make throws he can. His touchdown pass that wasn’t a catch because Deonte Thompson’s right foot hit out of bounds just before his left foot came down was one of the better throws we’ve seen from Brantley. For now, he’s making the right decisions and helping the Gators’ offense move the ball. He – and the entire offense – will need to improve play in the red zone, but that can come. Let’s rephrase that, it needs to come. Less than two weeks from now, Brantley will face Alabama’s defense. Enough said.

The run game wasn’t as explosive as it had been, but it was nearly as efficient. Weis stuck with the starters against Tennessee and gave 35 carries to Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps and Trey Burton. Rainey led the way with 108 yards on 21 carries for a good, but modest for him, 5.1 yards per carry. Demps added 48 on 10. The long of the day was only 28 yards, but sometimes that’s alright. The offense moved the ball and did what it had to when it needed to. It was good to see tough yards gained and Rainey carry such a load. There was a point where exhaustion seemed to overtake no. 1, but he came back from it and pressed on. Rainey may have to get used to being the focal point of the offense; he’s suddenly one of the better offensive weapons in the nation. After three games, Rainey is only three rushes and 60 yards from matching last season’s totals and he’s nearly halfway to his career-best 652 rushing yards he posted in 2008. As a running back, Rainey is no longer a change-of-pace type. He’s become an every-down back in Weis’ offense.

As mentioned above, the passing game was efficient, but not dynamic. Unfortunately, a wide receiver hasn’t stepped up and that’s mostly because they still haven’t been used all that much. Brantley only completed 14 passes, but just three went to receivers. Thompson had two for 26 yards and Quinton Dunbar had one for one. Those aren’t great numbers. The backs are making up for the lack of a go-to receiver and look great doing so, but we still don’t know what we’ll see when Florida needs to stretch the field. Rainey broke the Vols’ back on his 83-yard touchdown scamper and Burton and Demps each had four receptions, but add in the tight ends and all non-backs had four total catches. That will need to change. The offense is working for now, but all dimensions of it will need to be running almost flawlessly for the rest of the schedule.

The offensive line continues to improve and seems to have its starting five set. Chaz Green, Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison, Xavier Nixon and Dan Wenger have started every game and are beginning to come together as a cohesive unit. Tennessee only managed one sack and one other hit on Brantley. That’s a plus for the line and a definite step in the right direction. Facing a better defense, the line played well and opened holes for the running game. Short yardage can still be worked on and overall the line still has room to grow, but a step forward is not a step backward. That’s about as obvious as obvious can be, but it’s worth pointing out that this unit is improving.

Coming up next: the defense.

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.

Last-Minute Thoughts: UAB Blazers @ Florida Gators

When I have the opportunity to do this an hour before Florida games, I will. When I don’t, I won’t. Seems simple enough. These are a few last minute thoughts that may have been covered in the preview, or they may have been missed entirely. Those of you not tailgating like a champion today can add any of your own. Then again, those of you that are out there enjoying all the glory of the tailgate can as well.

1. John Brantley and the deep ball. Okay, I don’t even need the deep ball. I’d even like the intermediate ball. Either way, let’s see more of it. Florida needs it in the arsenal before the SEC schedule.

2. The Chris Rainey Show with The Jeff Demps Band. Stay healthy gentlemen; you are the keys to the offense. This is your year.

3. A superstar at wide receiver. Deonte Thompson? Quinton Dunbar? Andre Debose? A star is out there. One will eventually have to step up and we’re all waiting to find out who it will be.

4. Offensive line consistency. It’s needed, for an entire 60 minutes. Protect Brantley and open lanes up the middle for the running backs.

5. Sharrif Floyd. So he won’t play, but fans will chant. Whether it’s “Sharrif Floyd” or “Free Sharrif,” it’ll happen and it’ll be glorious.

6. Lerentee McCray’s coming out party. McCray was better than many expected against FAU. The position is his to lose now. This is his second test.

7. In the stolen-from-the-preview department: love Marcus Roberson, have an unhealthy man-crush on Matt Elam, like Jaylen Watkins more and more every day.

8. From Eric Wilbur to Chas Henry to ??? The Gators haven’t punted yet, but sooner or later they will have to. Don’t be worried; history says it’ll be simply amazing.

9. Will Muschamp, Game 2. The new head coach has an excellent win percentage so far. He’ll keep it up there a little while longer. Game two should be as smooth as game one. Not a step back, but another step forward.

10. No looking ahead. The SEC schedule starts NEXT WEEK with Tennessee. Not this week; NEXT WEEK.

BONUS. Go Gators!

Florida Gators Wide Receivers – 2010 vs. 2011

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

Chris Dunkley to Transfer from Florida

Not long after hearing the news about Javares McRoy, we’re now hearing that wide receiver Chris Dunkley will also transfer from Florida. Dunkley had been suspended from spring activities due to not fulfilling certain academic requirements.

Much was expected of Dunkley when he committed to the Gators. The receiver was rated as one of the nation’s best and even made the Rivals 100 list as the #77 overall player in 2010. From Pahokee (Pahokee, FL), Dunkley had a lethal combination of speed and agility and his hands were second-to-none.

But he struggled in the academic arena and was quickly losing time to other receivers on the roster. The suspension for the spring was probably the last straw for a player who had yet to make an impact at Florida. His loss, along with McRoy’s, drops the number of scholarship wide receivers to a precarious level. The Gators still have talent at the position, but most of it is unproven. A few injuries could spell doom for the Florida passing game in 2011. If Quinton Dunbar is the real deal, he needs to prove it even more so now in the fall.

There is no word yet on where Dunkley could end up.

A Review of the Orange and Blue Game

I don’t do rhyming.  At least not when it’s out of its normal comfort zone.  Anything outside of music and the occasional children’s poem is outside of that zone in my opinion.  This is one of the reasons I’ve never been a fan of “The Foundation for the Gator Nation” and also why I can’t bring myself to refer to the annual Florida spring game as the Orange and Blue Debut.

The game, which took place on Saturday and again on Sunday for those of you that happily turned on the television to see Breakfast with the Gators back, was about exactly what you would expect from a spring game.  Some things worked, most looked sloppy, many key contributors watched from the sidelines, and all in all it tells you very little about what to expect from the fall.
The first takeaway is an important one: the orange team wore orange.  We saw Florida break out the orange jerseys against LSU last season and although the game ended in a Gator loss, those of us who remember Florida football 25 years ago smiled when we saw them (even if they did look a little bright in high definition).  Having the orange jerseys reproduced for last season and then seeing them again in the spring makes one think we’ll also get a look at them in the fall.  Florida is a Nike school (see the swoosh on the Tim Tebow statue?) and Nike likes money.  There’s a reason the Gators wore four different jerseys in 2010.  We’ll set the early over/under at 3.5 for 2011 with three almost being guaranteed.
Speaking of the statues, they were a nice touch and if you’re going to honor individuals, those are the three you probably start with, but I can’t help but bring up that Tebow is so recently a member of the Florida football team that you half expect him to still run out of the tunnel on Saturdays.  He will always be considered one of the Gator greats – and not one on the list of 25 or 50, but one you count on one hand – but we’re just over one year removed from #15 playing in Gainesville and we have a sign inside the stadium, the speech has been immortalized, and now a statue.  Not saying he doesn’t deserve it, but can we give it a little more time?  It took Steve Spurrier 45 years and Danny Wuerffel 15.  Again, Tebow deserves it as well, but it’s okay to give it some time.  For another interesting take on the statues, check out Alligator Army where a great point is brought up – what about the back-to-back National Champion basketball teams?
In addition to jerseys and statues, there was a game played.  One that further promoted Quinton Dunbar’s coming out party.  There are two thoughts here: 1) wow, the practice reports were right; and 2) please don’t be Dallas Baker 2.0.  Before anyone gets all uppity about that last comment, that’s not a shot at Baker who ended up putting it all together his final season.  But before that, Baker was one of the spring game stars who struggled when the contests mattered in the fall.  He ended up making his mark during a National Championship season so all is forgotten, but I’m already hoping the same doesn’t happen to Dunbar.  He has a legitimate shot at playing time this fall and if he can keep doing what he’s doing now, there’s reason to be excited.  Not only does it look like Dunbar has good hands and a solid understanding of the offense, he knows how to block.  It’s not every day you find a college wide receiver with blocking skills.  Dunbar has them and showed them to Darren Kitchens who may have gotten up clapping, but definitely didn’t see the hit coming.  It’s not too late to join the Dunbar bandwagon although it’s pretty full already.
Sticking with the offense, the quarterbacks looked shaky.  It’s hard to sugarcoat it because that’s exactly how they looked.  It’s the spring so this happens and this is really the biggest area you can’t take anything from.  Last spring, they looked much better and we all remember the 2010 season.  What is most concerning though is the decision making.  A good amount of the incompletions were so because they were thrown into heavy coverage.  Deep balls weren’t always necessarily off the mark, but were thrown regardless of two defenders being in the immediate area.  You want an incompletion to have virtually no chance of getting intercepted.  Those are throws that can’t be made during the fall.  Although it’s John Brantley’s job to lose, it’s hard to say any of the quarterbacks that played looked ready to go on Saturday.  Plenty of needed time until September.
The defense looked like the more prepared of the two, but still wasn’t quite there yet.  It was evident however that this is a unit with a lot of young talent and plenty of depth.  Players may be starters in name only during the fall because plenty of fresh athletes will be rotated in.  One of those athletes that looked good on Saturday was Josh Shaw.  Shaw is competing with Josh Evans for a safety spot and showed flashes of Reggie Nelson with his ability to cover great distances in only a few seconds.  Shaw still has some growing to do, but looks like he could be one to take a leap from his first year to his second one.  If you’re not excited about seeing him and Matt Elam on the field together, you don’t have a pulse.
Again, don’t take too much out of these games.  Things could look very different by the time September rolls around.  Those missing will be healthy, hopefully a quarterback will find his accuracy, and schemes will be fully installed.  For now, it’s fun to speculate, but that’s all it is.

The Debose and Dunkley Dilemma

Dilemma was as close as I could get.  It’s not a debacle by any means.  There’s still plenty of time to keep it away from that, but it’s not a delight just yet either.  Two high-rated wide receivers have now been in the Florida program for three combined years and yet we haven’t seen anything close to the potential Andre Debose and Chris Dunkley have to offer.

There have been setbacks.  Debose was forced to take a redshirt during what would have been his true freshman season due to an injury that many were worried could derail his entire career.  When Debose was ready to go during the 2010 season, he struggled to find his way within the offense while possibly securing a place on special teams.  Dunkley is currently not participating in spring drills and practices due to a suspension because of poor academic standing.
Currently, we’re hearing much of the same about Debose – that he’s not grasping the playbook.  Reports say he’s had trouble understanding the offense and that could be the reason he hasn’t seen as much time as fans – and Debose himself – would like.  His talent is undeniable, but if he’s not on the field, we’ll barely see it.  He did show some spark on kick returns in 2010, but that’s not the only place he should excel on the field.
Dunkley came in with nearly as much hype as Debose only a year later.  After redshirting during his true freshman season, many expect him to see the field during 2011, but he has to get his academic standing in order.  With reports of classmate Quinton Dunbar making a serious push for playing time, Dunkley is getting even further behind.  The Gators have plenty of young receivers ready to get an opportunity to play.  Dunkley needs to get “off the field” in order so he can participate “on the field” before he is an afterthought.
Neither of these players is past the point of no return.  The both have the talent and time to live up to their enormous potential.  It isn’t easy being a top prospect.  People expect you to come in and not only play right away, but succeed right away.  They see true freshman do it all the time.  Joe Haden, Percy Harvin, Janoris Jenkins – just a few athletic players who contributed heavily from day one.  Debose and Dunkley were unfairly expected to do the same.  Some players take time to develop and even though both still have it, that time is ultimately limited.
Both have the ability and both of the major dilemmas they are facing can be overcome.  It’s not that they can’t play; it’s understanding of the playbook and academics that are keeping them from really contributing.  Basically, both need to study and study hard.  Regardless of what happens on the field for Debose and Dunkley during 2011, what happens off the field will shape their futures.