Thursday, August 26, 2010

Florida Gators Preview: Can Urban Meyer Lead Florida Back To An SEC Championship?

The past 12 months for the Florida Gator program has been full of highs and lows. From they hype of a unanimous preseason #1 ranking to the loss in the SEC Championship Game and Urban Meyer's brief retirement it was quite a whirlwind in 2009.

Turning the page into 2010, Florida must replace one of the greatest ever in Tim Tebow and replace four assistants on the staff including Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong.

Will new QB John Brantley remind fans of Chris Leak? How does the defense look after under the new coordinator? And can the Gators get back to the top of the SEC?

To get more insight on the Gators I contacted Alligator Army.

Q: Which concerns the Gator Nation more: Urban Meyer's health or four new assistants on the staff?

A: Urban’s health, mainly because we don’t trust offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, unless Meyer is there to overrule him.

Q: How does John Brantley compare with Chris Leak, who also a drop back passer?

A: Brantley was born to play quarterback at Florida, which means he will have a lot more ownership over the position. Also, Leak was screwed by having multiple coordinators and an incompetent asshole as his head coach for his first two seasons.

Q: Who steps up and becomes Brantley's go to target as a pass catcher?

A: Andre Debose. What Percy Harvin was to Tim Tebow, Debose will be to Brantley. Not only will he be the top receiver, Debose and the Gators running game will take the burden off Brantley. Deonte Thompson will also be a prime target and I’m personally hoping for Omarius Hines, who has the legs of an Olympic speedskater.

Q: How will the blocking schemes of the o-line change with Brantley back there? How smooth is that transition going?

A: Nothing is changing. Mike Pouncey moves to center for brother Maurkice, but that has caused little difference. The guards and right tackle are set, with the big position battle at left tackle. There, incumbent Xavier Nixon might get the start with Matt Patchan as a backup. The change is that Brantley is right handed and will get rid of the ball quicker, than lefty Tebow who would try to read a book before leaving the pocket last season.

Q: How will new Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin's style differ from Charlie Strong?

A: Austin comes from an NFL background, so there might be an added level of sophistication to the defense. Strong’s strength was using UF’s depth to create multiple packages, which I’m sure Austin will do, too.

Q: Who fills the shoes of the departed Brandon Spikes in the middle at LB?

A: Jelani Jenkins should be the starter with Jon Bostic also seeing time. Jenkins is extremely fast and will be helped by seniors A.J. Jones and Brandon Hicks flanking him.

Q: Who are some of the freshman that are likely to contribute?

A: RB Mack Brown, DB Matt Elam, and defensive linemen Shariff Floyd, Dominique “I realized in 9th grade I liked hitting people” Easley, and Ronald Powell.

Q: Who do Gator fans see as their biggest rival? Is it UGA, FSU, or a new team like Alabama?

A: Florida State. The rivalry with FSU is not just football, but cultural. Younger UF fans hate FSU more than anything else, with Tennessee a distant second. We don’t look at them as a cousin (like the rest of the SEC) but as the guy who lives on your street who speeds through the neighborhood when the kids are out playing, kicks the dog he leaves on a chain and complains about taxes when he hasn’t paid taxes in years.

I root for Tennessee or Georgia when they play out-of-conference. FSU could have Jesus Christ on their team and I wouldn’t root for them.

Q: Describe a successful season. Describe a disappointing one.

A: Successful is beating FSU and winning the SEC. Disappointing is losing multiple home games, losing at FSU and losing the bowl game.

Q: What is your prediction for this season?

A: I know we lose at Alabama and possibly to Georgia. Plus, since these are road games, I worry about Tennessee and FSU. I think we go 10-2 (Alabama and a random loss) in the best case scenario and lose to Bama in the SEC Championship Game. As of right now, the only game UF would not be favored in would be at Bama.

I think that still might be the case during the season, but more as a function of the relative weakness of UF’s divisional opponents than how good UF is.

My Take on Florida...
I want to put a big asterisk by my prediction because it would swing based on how Meyer does during the season. Right now, nobody knows (including Meyer) how he might handle a loss or the pressure if the Gators go undefeated. But we'll go on the idea he is going to be around.

I think the offense has a chance to be more multiple in its ways to move the ball. They may actually be tougher to scheme for this season. But obviously if things break down there isn't that safety valve named Battleship Tebow to find your way out anymore.

Florida has recruited so well on the defensive side of the ball I don't expect a huge drop off. It will be interesting to see what the new coordinator brings from the NFL. Sometimes that works out great, other times not because the games are different. But having a lot talent sure does help.
The schedule is more difficult than most years because of Alabama and FSU looks to be on the rebound. Even with a loss in Tuscaloosa, all the Gators have to do to get a rematch is to beat everyone in the East where they should be favored in every game.

For once, I am going to be over on my win total than the team site.

11-1, 1st in SEC East

Thanks again to Alligator Army for their wonderful insight.

(FSU Preview for interested Gator fans)

Previous SEC Previews:
Ole Miss
Mississippi State

South Carolina

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