SEC Beakdown Day 12: Florida Gators

The day we’ve all been waiting for! Day 12…the last day in my segment which culminates with; The University of Florida Gators. Very appropriate that SEC Media Days opens in Hoover, Alabama today.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…the last six years for the Gator football program under the direction of head coach Urban Meyer have been mostly the first. Last season however saw his youngsters finish an uncharacteristic 8-5 campaign that left many wondering just where the direction of this team was headed. Coaches could not decide between one of three quarterbacks and the passing game was a struggle with every snap. This was the 10th best offense in the SEC. The times they are a changin’…and how. Urban Meyer resigned and an entirely new coaching staff has been hired.

So what exactly changes in The Swamp on Saturdays?

After the Spring Game there were alot of questions.

The Gators played a spring game, with little positives to talk about. It was kind of ugly. Quarterback John Brantley was 4-14 for just 45 yards and started the game with five straight incomplete passes.

Brantley threw a gorgeous deep ball early in the game that was dropped by Quinton Dunbar, in which after, Brantley dropped his head and walked back to the huddle. If Brantley wants to be successful he has to gain more of a leader’s confidence.

Running back Chris Rainey had some explosive plays and freshman tight end A.C. Leonard had two nice catches. Redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy started the game for the orange team and went 7-11 for 68 yards and threw one touchdown and one interception that was tipped by a receiver.

I think I speak for most who were present like myself that the best part of the day was probably at halftime, when the Gators honored the three Heisman trophy winners Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow.

The blue team went on to defeat the orange team with a un-inspired score of 13-10.

For those following recruiting, clamoring how much top-tier talent resides on this roster is just stating the obvious. Florida will be better than last year talent wise but it’s also still exceedingly young.

The offense has to improve.

Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weis has installed a true pro-style offense. Senior John Brantley will line up under center while seniors Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps take the majority of the handoffs from deep in the backfield giving the running backs more time to read the gaps and plan cutback lanes. There will be plenty of play action, a concentration on throwing the ball deep and much more use out of tight end Jordan Reed, one of last year’s rotating quarterbacks.

The new coaching staff will be implementing new schematics in an effort to overcome the shortcomings in the Gators passing attack. Consistency and dropped balls routinely handcuffed this offense last year. The new pro-style offense will call on bigger receivers. Five of the seniors in this unit are all 5’11 or shorter. In Meyer’s spread offense these smaller types were often utilized. That won’t be the case with Weis, at least on the outside, so look for a few of the younger guys to take advantage of this situation.

While sophomore Quinton Dunbar has been making a splash as a big playmaker, junior Frankie Hammond is proving to be the most consistent. Both possess great speed. Kick return specialist Andre Debose has talent to be a factor if he can stay healthy and absorb the playbook.

With key losses on the Offensive Line with the departure of All-American, Mike Pouncey and OT Marcus Gilbert. Guys like Xavier Nixon, Jonotthan Harrison, James Wilson, and Jon Halapio will have to step up and fill some big shoes.

Nixon was a part-time starter a year ago but supposedly has dropped about 30 pounds this off-season. He will need to gain that weight back before summer ends. Halapio and Harrison have the most secure staring jobs at this point. The rest could be anyone’s guess.

This year’s Gators defense is interesting.

With the loss of All-American cornerback Janoris Jenkins, there is only one senior on the defensive starting depth chart.

All the players in defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s defense say he and Will Muschamp, who was previously the defensive coordinator at Texas, have been swapping back and forth between the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes early and often. The versatility of the Gators’ personnel makes it easy for the defense to have its two faces. Essentially, the switch between a three-man front and a four-man front can be as simple as linebacker/defensive end Ronald Powell walking up to the line and putting his hand down. Fortunately for this Gator team, the defensive line is utterly stacked with future NFL Pro Bowl talent, yes a reach of a prediction but nonetheless quite logical given the accolades of these sophomore studs up front. Easley, Floyd and Powell…for those that have not heard these names yet, you soon will.

After being one of the first Gators to lose his stripe as a true freshman, it has been a relatively quiet career for William Green.

Now, as a senior, there is no Jermaine Cunningham, Carlos Dunlap, Justin Trattou or Duke Lemmens in front of the 6’4″, 245-pound Green on the depth chart. And with Chris Martin’s recent departure, that worry also no longer exists.

But it definitely is a season where Green needs to show up and prove himself.

The defense is full of high school All-Americans who are young and have yet to prove they can dominate in college like they did on the prep level.

But the potential definitely is there. Remember, prior to the 2010 season, who really had heard of Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley?

Is there a Fairley or two (or three or four…) on the Florida roster? We will definitely find out.

The schedule doesn’t set up well for the Gators, with that October stretch that includes Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia four times in a row with only the Alabama game being played at The Swamp. The non-conference schedule outside of normal rival Florida State is a breeze. But that’s the Gator calling card when addressing the difficulty of the SEC grind stone and who can blame them? Considering that Florida failed to finish in the Top 25 a year ago makes it impossible to hand them their usual Top 5 or even Top 10 ranking to start.

If the Gators do in fact finish the season 10-2, there is no question they will be in the Georgia Dome playing for the SEC title. The hire of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was huge, and I think it will pay dividends not only this season but for years to come.

I don’t think a BCS bowl game is expected this year but it could very well happen in a very sub-par SEC East. I believe in the end, that Florida goes 9-3 in the regular season and misses out on the SEC championship game to a very good South Carolina team.

Regardless of the final record, the Gators are a team that is moving in the right direction and should be a national championship contender once again in no time. “I say it’s Great to Be a Florida Gator!”

Grade: B+

 

My SEC Championship predictions:

LSU vs. South Carolina

LSU wins 28-24

 

3 thoughts on “SEC Beakdown Day 12: Florida Gators

  1. This upcoming season will be very interesting to say the least. There are so many questions and very few answers. But I agree that they’ll have a better year and that they’ll finish with a 9-3 record.
    On a side note, what self respecting Gator fan doesn’t know about Powell, Floyd, or Easley? Those guy’s are monsters and they will enforce their will upon opposing O-lines.
    Seriously, if you don’t know who these guy’s are then you might as well stop following UF football.

  2. Great article man, I agree with a 3 lose season. Muschamp running the D and Weis running the offense should be a receipt for multiple championships down the road. I’m still not drinking the Brantley kool-aid, I think that was part of the deal Muschamp took that Brantley has to be the starter because who his family is. I just think its funny how Muschamp said no position is given you must earn it, I’m still waiting on Ol Johnny boy to show us something besides in practice.

  3. I also agree that the Muschamp/Weis combination will yield championships, but it’s not going to be this year. As long as we don’t lose to GA or FL State, I’ll be a happy camper.

    I’ve never been one to subscribe to the “Brantley Kool-Aid”. He’s never really impressed me all that much. I know that the spread is probably partially to blame, and it’s hard to stand out when you’ve got Tebow as your competition, but I don’t know…I’ve never been a huge Brantley fan. I hope he proves me wrong this year.

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