Florida Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Florida Gators
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Florida Gators Preview 2006 - Gator Further Analysis

Insider Info Notes
By Franz Beard

1) One way the Gators will try to compensate for Chris Leak's inability to see over his linemen (Leak is listed at a generous 6-0) is to roll him out of the pocket. Leak showed outstanding accuracy and better decision making in the spring when he was throwing on the move.

2) Senior wide receiver Jemalle Cornelius was hand timed at 4.25 in the 40 and then he followed that up with a 4.35 electronic time. Cornelius and Dallas Baker (52 catches last year) will be the outside receivers in Florida's four wide sets with Bubba Caldwell (back to full speed after a broken leg in game three last year) and Cornelius Ingram starting in the slot. Ingram, a backup quarterback last year, is a 6-4, 230-pounder with outstanding speed and surprisingly good hands.

3) Florida's lack of depth and experience at cornerback will probably result in safety Reggie Nelson to move to corner in the fall. Nelson runs a sub-4.35 40 and during two-a-days last August, he showed great cover skills. The Gators have outstanding depth and experience at safety so they can afford to move Nelson.


1st and Ten – Ten to one odds, you want ‘em? – Everyone’s got a little “roll the dice” in them, right?  Definitely.  Okay, in that case, here’s the bet - will you take it?  By the end of the season, the Gators best and most productive running back will be a true freshman.  Ten to one odds, you want to take those?  C’mon, you kidding me, at a place like the University of Florida?  Absolut-freakin-lutely.  If there ever was a year when a ‘rookie’ was due to come in and take over the starting position, this might be it.  DeShawn Wynn, Markus Manson and the on-campus ‘options’ were the scourge of Urban Meyer before, during and after the 2005 season, and although the offense struggled on so many levels, Meyer felt the void in the offense was directly related to the guys handling the ball.  Others might argue that the radical change in offensive schemes, the offensive line and even four year starter Chris Leak were more the root cause of the problem, but Meyer pinpointed Wynn, et al.  The sad thing is that Wynn could be a dominating back in any offense, be it the wishbone or a spread option attack, but he hasn’t tapped into his enormous potential enough to lock him in as the Gators’ number one ball carrying option.  Balance Meyer’s fretting and fuming over the running backs with a strong crop of young running backs coming in – Mon Williams and Chevon Walker in particular – the opportunity is going to be there for Meyer to perhaps make a point and, more importantly, to find some production from that position.  Look at how Tyrell Sutton infused Northwestern’s offense.  Steve Slaton did the same at West Virginia.  Those two true freshmen guys fit themselves right into their respective spread schemes as true freshmen last year, and they won’t be the last to do it (by the way, they weren’t just good, they were tremendous).  It’s just a matter of whether Meyer and offensive coordinator Dan Mullen will pull the trigger.  Now, let’s go back to the question that kicked off this article.  Ten to one odds – a true freshman will be the Gators’ best and most productive running back this year.  Maybe it’s a crazy thought, but you want ‘em?

2nd and Seven – Mandarin Orange and Blue – Mandarin High School in Jacksonville has spit out some big-time Division 1A talent since opening a short time ago.  Fred Weary, former All-American corner, was one of the best Gator defensive backs to ever wear the orange and blue.  But, arguably, the best player to come out of Mandarin might also be the best defensive tackle in the nation - Marcus Thomas.  His first two years on the field, Thomas’s play was up and down.  He flashed tremendous potential, but he also had some undisciplined lapses as well.  However, last season, he was more consistent and even more impressive.  He finished the year with 10.5 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks and perhaps one of the biggest plays of the year – a blocked field goal against Florida State that was returned for a touchdown.  He demanded double teams throughout the year and 2006 won’t be much different.  But, he’s such a tough assignment due to his quickness and strength that sometimes he beats double teams before they can develop.  If Thomas can have another solid year, linebackers Brandon Siler and Earl Everett will reap the rewards of playing behind Mandarin’s finest.

3rd and Three – Being defensive about the offensive line – Ask the following question and you’d get a myriad of answers “Why did the offense underachieve last season?”  Answers might range from Dan Mullen to Chris Leak.  But, one reason that was evident throughout the season was the offensive line’s inability to adapt well enough to the spread scheme to give Leak time to throw or create running lanes for the running backs.  Want even more good news?  The two best Gator linemen – Mike Degory and Randy Hand – exhausted their eligibility leaving gaping holes in the line in 2006.  But, even those two struggled trying to adapt to the varied scheme that Meyer brought with him from Utah.  Starting with a bunch of newbies, basically, is news that Mullen and Meyer didn’t want to hear, but then again, the group that’ll take over will have been schooled in the spread game, or should have been.  This quintet will be the focal point for a team that has to be able to put up 430+ yards per game consistently.

4th and One – Hangin’ out on the corner – Reggie Nelson is one of the best safeties in the league – as he can do a little bit of everything and do a little bit of everything well.  Too bad he can’t play both corners at the same time.  If the Gator defense has an Achilles heel it’s got to be at the corner position.  Dee Webb decided to leave early, while Vernell Brown has graduated.  It’d have been one thing if one of the two were back, but with both of those spots open, don’t be surprised to see co-defensive coordinators Greg Mattison and Charlie Strong be more aggressive with their blitz packages.  Sure, it puts those two corners on an island, but it also gets the ball out of the QB’s hand quickly.  The corner will definitely be hot this fall; hopefully,not too hot for the Gator defense this year.

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Florida Preview 2006 - Offense
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