Before every season of college football, better than half the teams in country have loud trash talking fans. You know the type; they dominate the internet chat rooms with nothing more than irrelevant, incorrect, and downright BS posts. All they do is list names, and then give a weak explanation of why they will be awesome.
I hate that.
Having stated that just two sentences ago, I am admittedly one of those fans. The difference is, there’s real meaning to what I say.
We’re Florida. We’ve got 3 national championships and 8 SEC Championships all in the last 20 years. We are the hottest team in the nation in that span.
What does this mean?
It means we’ll always have a talented team.
As you may have heard, there was this guy- what was his name- Ryan?- that may have started some website calling for some moron’s firing because he wasn’t an adequate coach for us.
Oh, yeah. That guy was Ryan Moyer, and that moron was Steve Addazio. And one of Addazio’s faults (the 5 things that make Addazio awful) was his inability to develop talent. As Ryan said, “Carl Moore is an NFL wide receiver who is going to miss out on millions of dollars because Addazio continues to misuse him”.
That’s one of the lesser examples.
How about Tim Tebow, who if not for a mass nuclear bombing of Big Least (default) champion Cincinnati would have seen his numbers for his senior season drop lower than ever before (aside from obviously his freshman year)?
Really, think about it. Coming into his senior season, Tebow had a Heisman, two national championships, 2 SEC Championships and a slew of other awards.
Was he able to add any after the 2009 season?
No, he wasn’t.
The short answer is that Addazio blew the whole season by sending Florida into a Tide of doom by having Tebow either throw or run in 5 wide formations. One run to Demps, one to Rainey, one to James, that was all, blah blah blah we know we’ve seen this before.
But what about the rest of the season?
After Dan Mullen left, the very first thing Urban Meyer should have done was to hire the best QB mind available. Because as awesome as Tebow was- is- there were some holes in his game. I’m sure they’re familiar, but I’ll list them again.
1) Dropped the ball too low on release, carrying risk of strip.
2) Release time was too long, carrying risk of defender picking him off due to extra second of getting there.
3) Tendency to try too hard and try to do too much.
4) Never worked under center.
5) Didn’t know when to put touch on passes or when to fire bullets.
Knowing Tebow’s work ethic, and desire to do whatever it would take to win, if somebody tells him not to do these things, he wouldn’t. I think we can all agree on that.
So let’s see how many of these issues Meyer’s genius Addazio addressed.
1) A problem all season. Even though Tebow could escape pressure most of the time, and even though he had great blocking, announcers almost always pointed out that this was a problem, and could cost Florida. And it was brushed off by Addazio as a problem- “Tim’s doing great. He’s got nothing we have to fix now”. This came from the same guy who said that Mike Pouncey graded out as a champion. And a year before Champion Pouncey gave John Brantley his own personal infield practice, our 3 member all-American offensive line finally broke down (note: Addazio was our o-line coach, too), Tebow was stripped by Jake Bequette of Arkansas.
2) See the pick 6’s by Johnthan Banks if you need actual evidence. They weren’t the only evidence but they’re the epitome of this issue.
3) All season, Tebow would try to do too much. But he couldn’t keep taking hits at that rate, and two weeks after the Kentucky episode, there was Tebow going this way, then that, then back again. It worked the first time for an 8 yard gain. Not the second time, or the third. In the Tennessee game, Tebow should have taken the hint from the collapsed pocket that the chances of a successful play were slim, and thrown the ball away. But he tried to force one to Thompson, and Eric Berry picked it off. And against FSU, Tebow decided to take Nigel Bradham for a ride by his facemask. I loved it- until Greg Reid stripped him.
4) This severly limited the formations that Florida could use. It killed them against Alabama, and Tebow had to kill himself in the offseason to get used to it.
5) It wasn’t really an issue until the SEC Championship, but it was the final shot that killed UF’s title hopes. Tebow had a touchdown to Aaron Hernandez had he lobbed it but he threw a laser instead. Interception by Javier Arenas. Game over. SEC Championship dreams over. BCS Championship dreams over.
It wasn’t just Tebow, either.
There is no excuse for losing at home to a then awful Arkansas team that would eventually lose to East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl. Yet that is exactly what happened, except for the fact that the officials gave Florida some MAJOR breaks that paved the way for a win. The worst was Ramon Broadway’s phantom interference on Deonte Thompson.
Who caught a 77 yard TD pass in that game, which was more yards than he accounted for the ENTIRE REGULAR SEASON AGAINST BCS TEAMS.
Don’t believe me?
Against LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Florida State, Thompson put up 11, 19, 17, 16, 0 and 13 for a grand total of 76 yards (He did not play against Tennessee or Kentucky).
But this isn’t a rip on Thompson parade. It’s a rip on Addazio parade- in what world does the team’s #1 receiver have stats like those?
A world in which Addazio leads the team.
As much as repetitive, predictable and downright awful play-calling played a part in that, it was the misuse of Thompson all season. We all know that he’s a playmaker with questionably reliable hands. He should be running the deep patterns, and somebody ELSE should be running hitch routes.
Now go back to that link. Look at Thompson’s yardage total. Look at his longest reception. Subtract that number from his yardage total and subtract one from his reception total.
Don’t those new numbers sicken you?
Can you tell what kinds of routes Thompson was running from those new numbers?
But Thompson isn’t the only one that suffered from Addazio’s ineptitude.
Brantley, Demps, Rainey, Hammond, Debose, Hines and Mack Brown were all heavily recruited, yet they were all either mysteriously injured or busted.
Let me explain that.
Players that don’t pledge their love to the dive play pamphlet that I talked about didn’t play for Addazio. For good reason, fans get extremely pissed off when they hear this. So Addazio decreed that all players who did not use the dive play pamphlet (read: Harry Potter sized novel) as a condom would be known as “sprained ankle game time decisions”.
The exceptions to the dive play thing were Brantley and Rainey. We know what happened to Rainey, although I would not be shocked to learn that Addazio stole Rainey’s phone and sent the text himself. This would be an attempt for Addazio to maintain longer drives by killing the possibility of the home run, and we all know what he does when Florida has the ball.
He wacks off.
But with Brantley, it gets interesting. After the Kentucky game, Brantley went into Addazio’s office and demanded that he immediately purchase an Xbox 360 and Madden 2011. When Addazio asked why, Brantley told him that he should just ask Madden for every playcall. That way, Stevio’s entire playbook would not be completely finished after one drive. Addazio got pissed and purposely killed Brantley’s season by running even worse play calls and by getting him slaughtered. Thus, the Brantley option was born.
What better explanation could there possibly be?
Has this gotten you pissed off all over again?
Sorry, but that was the point.
It was to get you to realize one final time just how bad Addazio was.
Now that I’m finished hammering on that point, let’s go to our players’ point of view.
They’re loaded with talent. As in packed to the rafters with talent.
About 90% of the time, high school stars don’t pan out because of either bad coaching or injuries. Brantley could be part of that 10% but I just can’t believe that after watching high school film of him. If he gets his confidence back, he will be a terror for opposing defenses. I mean, he’s already demonstrated that he CAN do anything that Tom Brady can. He threw two beautiful deep balls against Florida International back in 2009 on his fourth and ninth passes of the game, each for TD’s to Frankie Hammond and Justin Williams. And he made an NFL throw against Georgia to Deonte Thompson this past year. We know he’s capable of being an elite Florida and NFL QB; he just has to regain his confidence, go out and do it.
We’ve got speed. Demps, Rainey, Debose and Thompson are all speed demons. They all run a sub 4.4 40 and Demps has run a 9.96 100 meter dash.
We’ve got tackle shakers. Whether it’s Rainey, Gillislee or Debose with a juke or spin, or Mack Brown with a shoulder plow, we’ve got guys that can make one defender miss and turn a minimal gain into a 20 yard pickup. Hell, even Demps can break tackles at a rate far higher than his size suggests.
We’ve got explosive receivers. Deonte Thompson is only one member of a party that includes, Hammond, Debose, Hines, Jordan Reed, Burton, AC Leonard could step up, Chris Rainey could see some time at slot receiver, it goes on and on forever.
We’ve got a young but very physical front 7. Sharrif Floyd, Ronald Powell, Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic were extremely sought after recruits, and Will Muschamp seems to be much better than Teryl Austin at developing previously unheard of players. Wait; these players ARE heard of. Let’s see if these guys become Brian Orakpos and Sergio Kindles. I know they’re every bit as talented as them.
We’ve got a very active secondary. The losses of Ahmad Black and Janoris Jenkins do sting, but not when you look and see how nicely Jeremy Brown has come along as our top corner, lessening our need for a safety. But it only lessens the need so much- and that’s where Matt Elam can step in. Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins seem just as read to step up.
And we’ve got great special teams. Andre Debose will likely return kicks along with Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, and Debose may return punts along with Rainey. These guys all excelled last year and to some degree, special teams was our best offense. They had their own playbook, and it was much better than Addazio’s napkin with three plays on it. Even their conservative play- taking a knee in the end zone- was better than Addazio’s best play. At least it gained 20 yards every time. But Meyer loved big returns more, and Florida had plenty of them to set up the nonoffense time and again in good field position. I mean, in good position for Chas Henry to nail a coffin corner bomb.
So here we are, with at least half of our roster to be future NFL players, and we have no expectations outside of Gainesville. South Carolina and Georgia are the favorites by a good percentage to win the East, and the handful of people that have Florida winning the East immediately give them zero chance to compete with the West winner.
Can you say Auburn 2004, Georgia 2007, Florida 2008 and South Carolina 2010? All of these teams had similar expectations to what this year’s Gators face along with the hidden talent. The results: SEC (and deserved national) Champions, Sugar Bowl Champions, National Champions, and SEC East Champions.
The 2011 Gators should be the next team on this list.
I’ll give you guys a full game by game breakdown soon, but right now, I think double digit wins is a perfectly reasonable goal for Year 1 under Muschamp. I’m thinking we go 5-3 in conference, win the division by default, lose the SEC Championship to Arkansas, which puts us in the Capital One Bowl where we’ll beat Nebraska.
That makes us 10-4, which, yes, is a mere two games better than last year but we get a much harder schedule this year. We start easy, as always, with FAU, UAB, Tennessee and Kentucky. The last 8 games are always the toughest, but this year, we get Alabama, then go to LSU, then go to Auburn in three straight weeks. After a bye, Georgia, cupcake Vandy, @South Carolina, cupcake Furman and then FSU.
Considering those latter two thirds, 10-4 would be very good.
Taking a deeper look at our schedule, I see four problem games- Alabama, @LSU, vs. Georgia and FSU, three trap games- @Auburn, @South Carolina and Tennessee, and five easy wins- FAU, UAB, @Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Furman.
Of our major games, the ones I have not broken down are Alabama, LSU and FSU. Those are coming up in separate posts sometime soon, but in the meantime, let’s set goals for the season, and see how many we achieve.
1) Brantley throws for 3,000 yards
A difficult, yet reachable goal for John Brantley, who needs to regain his confidence and the golden arm that won him the High School National Player of the Year. This has become a cliche for Gator fans throughout the offseason- if anybody can do it, Charlie Weis can. Ryan did a great job showing you Weis’ track record about four months ago. Now let’s see if he can add one more name to the list.
2) Team wins turnover battle by a 3:1 ratio
This looks harder than it is. Figure that the Gators force at least two against their three cupcakes, and it becomes much easier to see in sight. This lies with Brantley even more than the defense- if the nasty, heralded D that Muschamp brings in forces 3 turnovers all year but Brantley is extremely accurate and makes one bad mistake- there it is.
3) Team blocks 5 kicks
Blocked kicks are like 65+ yard interception returns assuming you get a full hand on the ball. And Muschamp will take that from Urban Meyer- use all his speed on the block team to go and get it. I would hope that these blocks come against BCS teams because with the stat that the team that blocks a kick wins 92% of the time, I’d hate to see it wasted against Furman. Oh, and the last time UF blocked a kick and didn’t win? Back in the Ron Zook days.
4) Defense must finish in top 3 in SEC and top 10 in nation in sacks
This is one stat that doesn’t even matter so much about the actual number so much. Get a reputation for getting to the QB and the opposing QB will already have some nerves as he’s walking into the stadium. Whether Florida leads the SEC with 3 or 33 doesn’t matter so much, because opposing o-line coaches go NUTS when you’re about to face a sack heavy team in the film room (at least in high school, and I would assume it’s a universal). Once you get one in the game, it can snowball into some bad decisions and some easy picks.
5) Red zone offense must score 99% of the time or better
With an offense with the talent that we will put on the field, there’s no excuse not to score when you get into the red zone. I don’t want to even hear a word about the compressed space. Because THAT’S when you run a dive play or two. THAT’S when you throw a bubble screen. Of course, that’s not to say every red zone play should be dives or screens but that’s a good time to use them. I can pardon making a mistake here or there, once or twice a season- we’re all human and we screw up. But it shouldn’t happen very often.
That’s my set of expectations.
But the teams above matched my and everybody’s expectations and beyond. Every year, there is that one team with a new coach that shoots up from nowhere and contends for the BCS Title. That new coach always has the fire, the intensity, the BOOM (but not too much like the Lame Kitten up in Knoxville). Muschamp’s already proven that he’s got the intensity towards rivals by taking a veiled but insulting shot at Miami (I could have done better… but that’s a good start, Boom. You’ll get the hang of pissing off our rivals once you start slapping the living hell out of them).
Can anybody try to explain why Florida can’t be that team in 2011?