Florida Preview 2006

Posted Aug 8, 2006

Florida Gators Preview 2006

- Florida Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

Yeah, but does the freakin' thing actually work?

There's no more honeymoon. No more time to get everything in place. No more excuses for any sort of perceived mess left by the Ron Zook regime. Head coach Urban Meyer, who's famously known for doing wonders in his second seasons at Bowling Green and Utah, had better win a SEC title and he'd better do it yesterday.

However, this isn't a national title team, at least offensively, at least not yet, and that's the big lingering matzo ball that's still hanging out there: can this whole spread offense thingy, at least the way Meyer runs it, produce against the best of the best teams and the fastest of the fast defenses?

For all the bells and whistles in Meyer's attack, it did precisely squat against the big boys last season scoring 16 against Tennessee, 17 against LSU, and 14 against Georgia. Defense and special teams got the job done against Florida State. Oh sure, the offense cranked out 537 yards against Kentucky, 480 on Mississippi State and 448 on Vanderbilt, but it only really exploded against one good team, Iowa, and that mostly came from Chris Leak throwing the ball.

How about all the numbers Meyer's offense put up at Utah with Alex Smith running the show? That team put up 544 points with the best wins coming over defensively challenged teams that year like Texas A&M and Pitt. Ooooh, 63 points against Colorado State. The SEC defenses are a wee bit more athletic.

Head coach: Urban Meyer
2nd year: 9-3
6th year overall: 48-11
Ten Best Gator Players
1. QB Chris Leak, Sr.
2. LB Brandon Siler, Jr.
3. LB Earl Everett, Sr.
4. FS Reggie Nelson, Jr.
5. NT Marcus Thomas, Sr.
6. DE Jarvis Moss, Jr.
7. WR Dallas Baker, Sr.
8. WR Andre Caldwell, Sr.
9. DE Ray McDonald, Sr.
10. P Eric Wilbur, Sr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 Southern Miss
9/9 UCF
9/16 at Tennessee
9/23 Kentucky
9/30 Alabama
10/7 LSU
10/14 at Auburn
10/28 vs. Georgia
11/4 at Vanderbilt
11/11 South Carolina
11/18 Western Carolina
11/25 at Florida State

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record:
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 Wyoming W 32-14
9/10 Louisiana Tech W 41-3
9/17 Tennessee W 16-7
9/24 at Kentucky W 49-28
10/1 at Alabama L 31-3
10/8 Miss State W 35-9
10/15 at LSU L 21-17
10/29 vs. Georgia W 14-10
11/5 Vanderbilt W 49-42 2OT
11/12 at South Carolina L 30-22
11/26 Florida State W 34-7
1/2 Outback Bowl
Iowa W 31-24

Fine, so Leak isn't a pure spread offense quarterback like newcomer Tim Tebow is, and the spread has proven to work, in some way, shape and form, at other places, but there needs to be more of a rushing element for the thing to fly. Florida would ideally like a 50/50 split, and it got it last year finishing a whoop-dee-doo 51st in the nation in passing and 56th in rushing. For all the bashing Meyer has done about his running backs, his passing game wasn't exactly lights out.

So are the pieces starting to fit well enough for Florida to be the SEC champion and in the hunt for national title? That will be the focus all off-season as fans are waiting for the Gator offense to explode, but considering the potential issues on the offensive line and the mediocre corps of running backs, it'll be the defense that carries the team.

The D finished ninth in the nation and allowed a mere 18.8 points per game, and it should be even better if injuries don't strike early at linebacker and corner. There's enough talent on the line to fill out the All-SEC team without a problem. Brandon Siler and Earl Everett form one of the nation's best linebacking tandems, and the safeties, led by Reggie Nelson, should be fantastic.

National title dreams might have to be put on hold for a while, but that doesn't mean the Gators can't take the next step in the Urban renewal plan and win the SEC championship and get to the BCS. While Florida fans are expecting big things right now, the future looks even brighter with the tireless way Meyer and his staff recruits. Yeah, the glory days are back, and they can be even better.

The Schedule: That sound you just heard was the air being sucked out of the national title hopes. It's the toughest slate of any SEC team. Out of conference, Southern Miss is never a pushover, UCF is one of Conference USA's best teams, and the regular season ender is at Florida State after the tune-up against Western Carolina. In SEC play, the Gators have to play at Tennessee and get the three best teams from the West in Alabama, LSU, and at Auburn in a three-week stretch.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Chris Leak ... but not for this team. It's unfortunate a passer like Leak didn't get a chance to work in more of a pro-style offense over a four year span. This is the first time he's been able to work with the same offensive coordinator for the second year in a row, and he's trying to become more of a runner and turn into the type of quarterback that he's not. For all of his talent and all of his Heisman potential if he has a lights out senior year, half the crowd in The Swamp will be waiting for when Tim Tebow gets to come in. However, Leak appears to be using his mobility a bit more and be more of a passer on the move. Expect big numbers from him no matter what he does.

Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Brandon Siler and senior LB Earl Everett. These two led the team in tackles last season and should do so again. With no depth and a shaky Brian Crum at the other linebacker spot, the two stars have to stay healthy. Safety Reggie Nelson and sackmaster Jarvis Moss could quickly become the team's best defensive player.

Key player to a successful season: Junior OTs Phil Trautwein and Drew Miller. Last year's line gave up too many sacks partly because it struggled and partly because of the nature of the offense. The big focus will be on the new starting tackles. If they're not terrific, the offense won't go anywhere.

The season will be a success if ... Florida wins the SEC title. Who cares that the offense is still at least a year away from being up-to-Urban-snuff? Who cares that most teams would jump for joy to go 5-7 with Florida's schedule? Anything less than an SEC title might make the Gators this year's Tennessee.

Key game: September 16th at Tennessee. The Gators had better pull this one off or it'll be an uphill battle to win the SEC East the rest of the way. A loss means they'll have to be perfect with games against Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, and South Carolina still to be played.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Second quarter scoring: Florida 125 - Opponents 47
- Florida turnovers forced: 31 - Florida turnovers lost: 13
- Penalties: Florida 102 for 783 yards - Opponents 64 for 493 yards

The Last Time Florida…

…played in a bowl game…2005 (Outback Bowl vs. Iowa)
…missed a bowl game…1990
…pitched a shutout…2001 (Mississippi State)
…was shutout…1988 (Auburn)
…scored 50 points…2004 (Middle Tennessee)
…went undefeated…1911
…won a conference title…2000 (SEC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2004 (Chris Leak)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2004 (Ciatrick Fason)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2002 (Taylor Jacobs)
…had a first-round draft choice…2003 (QB Rex Grossman)

Related Stories
Florida Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
Florida Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
Florida Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006

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