Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tebow's Health and Defense Key to Gators Season



SEC East #2 Florida Gators

2007 Results and Offseason
The Gators started out 4-0 until they were stunned by unranked Auburn in the Swamp for HC Urban Meyer's first home loss. QB Tim Tebow had a record setting year on the way to becoming the first sophomore to win the Heisman trophy. Meyer brought in another stellar recruiting class heavy on the lines and the secondary where the Gators struggled last season. The injury bug has hit the Gators though in fall practice with five players out with ACL injuries.
2007 Record: 9-4, 5-3
Ret. Starters: 15
Ret. Lettermen: 51
Off PPG 38.1 (1st) RYPG 186.1 (3rd) PYPG 250.4 (3rd)
Def PPG 28.0 (7th) RYPG 114.6 (1st) PYPG 256.6 (11th)

Offense (7RS 23RL)
Meyer's offense revolves around Tebow and his ability to run and pass the ball. To be as effective this year though, Tebow has to stay healthy and limit the blows he takes. Look for backup Cam Newton to get a lot more snaps than last year to spell the Heisman trophy winner and save his body for the grueling SEC schedule. The Gators have not an every down back under Meyer and hope that changes this year with USC transfer Emmanuel Moody now available. RFr Chris Rainey impressed during the spring game as well and will see action. Soph Mon Williams, coming off knee surgery in '07, and senior Kestahn Moore provide depth here. Percy Harvin is listed as a WR but he was Florida's second leading rusher last season behind Tebow. The junior may miss early season action as he is coming off heel surgery in the spring. RFr Deonte Thompson could fill Harvin's role early on as a quick, playmaker. Other leading receivers should be senior Louis Murphy who caught 37 balls and JC transfer Carl Moore. TE Cornelius Ingram went down with an ACL injury this fall. Soph Aaron Hernandez will take over. The o-line returns three starters from last season and gets Phil Trautwein back who was a 2nd Team All SEC in '06. If you couldn't tell from reading this, Florida is absolutely loaded on Offense from a team that finished #1 in PPG in SEC play last season.

Defense (8 RS 26RL)
The D-line must replace two starters but Meyer is hoping his recruiting efforts the last two seasons will pay off here. DE Jermaine Cunningham will be the leader of this group of talented, but less experienced starters. The linebackers return all three starters from last year and will be led by junior Brandon Spikes. Spikes led the Gators in tackles a year ago with 131 and also had 14.5 TFL and 7 pass break ups. Joining him will be fellow junior Dustin Doe who finished second in tackles a year ago. True frosh Brandon Beal was expected to contribute but tore his ACL in fall practice. The secondary was the weak spot of Florida last season as they finished 11th in pass defense in SEC play. Two starters are back and Major Wright moves from corner to FS this year. Joe Haden is the best of the corners and he had 12 pass break ups last year. Meyer really concentrated his recruiting efforts here and brought one of the best in the nation in Will Hill who hopefully can contribute right away. This Florida defense will be the determining factor for the Gators national title hopes this season.

Special Teams
The Gators will have a new kicker this season and it might be a true freshmen, Caleb Sturgis. Chas Henry is back at punter and had a great 38.7 net avg last season. Returner Brandon James is very dangerous on punts and kicks.

Schedule

Florida opens the season with home games against a much tamer Hawaii and in state rival Miami. The Gators have not had much success against Miami in recent times. From the West they host LSU and Ole Miss and travel to Arkansas. The big games will be @Tennessee on Sept 20 and Georgia on Nov1. The winner of the Georgia-Florida game will most likely be playing in the SECCG and could be playing in the BCS Championship Game. You cannot understate the importance of this game this year.

Recruiting - Link

Final Thoughts
Florida has the most talented offense in the nation and returns the Heisman winner at QB. It is paramount that Meyer can find an alternative on the ground to Tebow. The junior cannot withstand the same punishment he did last year. The secondary needs to improve as well and we should have a good read after they play pass happy Hawaii in game 1. Florida has the easier SEC schedule than Georgia, but until they can find a proven second runner I have to put them just behind Georgia.


Prediction
Likely Wins: vHawaii, vOle Miss, vKent, @Vand, vCitadel, @Ark
Likely Losses: None
11-1, 7-1

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