One of Reggie Nelson’s lasting images as a Gator was picking off John Parker Wilson and taking it 70 yards to the house to seal the 28-13 win over Alabama in 2006- and had dozens of other big time pass breakups in his final year at Florida.
Of course, Percy Harvin was a human highlight reel during his time at Florida, but especially in his last two years when he got more touches.
For two years, Janoris Jenkins locked down on some of the best young receivers (or future receivers) in the NFL, such as Julio Jones, Alshon Jeffrey, Brandon LaFell, and AJ Green.
Last year, Chris Rainey was unquestionably the Gators most explosive player, consistently breaking tackles and turning nothing into something.
What do all these guys have in common?
They all wore the number 1 on their jerseys once they really matured into excellent players.
Or, in some cases, when the coaches thought they needed to provide some spark in a player to make them really break out the way they envisioned when they recruited them.
Since I really started following Gator football at the rate I do now in 2006, it’s worked every time.
Wideout Quinton Dunbar and linebacker Jonathan Bostic have been issued number 1 for offense and defense, respectively. Issuing number 1 for somebody on the Gators (and I’m sure for a bunch of other teams too) is similar to naming the player captain. It means the coach has high expectations or high trust in the player, and usually both. The difference between an actual captain and somebody that wears 1 is the physical ability of the player wearing 1 (obviously, exceptions are made for guys like Tim Tebow or Joe Haden).
Captains usually are appointed for leadership reasons- going the extra set of reps in the weight room, on the practice field, or encouraging the teammate that just missed a tackle or fumbled the ball away. Sure, Tebow was a beast, but if he had a poor attitude he might not have been named captain. The number 1 is given out to players that have tremendous physical ability AND is willing to go that extra mile to get the absolute most he can out of his talent.
But numbers are issued in spring practice (at least with Will Muschamp they are), and he has basically sent a message to his team that Dunbar and Bostic are going to lead by example and that he expects greatness out of both of them.
Credit Urban Meyer for this. This was his idea. Muschamp merely retained it as part of his winning formula- give number 1 to guys who you really have faith in.
Just like the guys before Dunbar and Bostic, these two have shown flashes of immense talent, but (especially for Dunbar) these moments have been few and far between.
Something that might help Dunbar get more action is the agreement of former Gator wide receiver Omarious Hines to play running back (and wear number 20) in his senior season. This is part of Brent Pease’s new offense- crazy packages that confuse defenses to the point of busted assignments- but I’ll get into that tomorrow. Hines switching positions clears the way for Dunbar to shine alongside Andre Debose, who has already proven to be not only a great receiver, but a legitimate threat to score from anywhere on the field if you mess around. And even if you don’t mess around, he might still score.
As for Bostic, he has actually proven himself already. He co-anchored a defense that finished in the top 10 in the nation. Unfortunately for Florida, the offense sucked so much that holding Auburn, Georgia, FSU and South Carolina to 79 combined points ultimately meant nothing. With an offense, and wins in those four games, Florida is 10-2, in Atlanta, and Bostic gets some recognition.
But that’s why these guys were given #1 anyway- to prove their worth.
And hopefully their worth will guide the Gators back to glory.
Muschamp seems to think that’s exactly what will happen.
So let’s join him.