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2007 Florida Preview
Posted Jul 30, 2007

Florida might be loaded with young talent, but can it come up with the same magic it had last year? Tim Tebow appears ready to shine on offense, but there are several question marks on both sides of the line for the defending national champions.

Florida Gators

Preview 2007

By Pete Fiutak

- 2007 Florida Offense Preview | 2007 Florida Defense Preview
2007 Florida Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Florida Preview 

And here’s the scary part … that was with the offense not working quite right.   

Head coach Urban Meyer and his staff proved in amazing fashion against Ohio State that they can game-plan and prepare a team as well as anyone this side of USC, but the offense that won the national title wasn’t exactly the one that made Meyer the rising superstar of coaches. Florida won with mostly Ron Zook-acquired pieces, and now, after three years of recruiting, everything appears to be there for Meyer to run the spread offense his way. In other words, here comes the running game, and here comes the real production.

Head coach: Urban Meyer
3rd year: 22-4
7th year overall: 61-12
Lettermen Returning: 38
Lettermen Lost: 25
Ten Best Gator Players
WR Percy Harvin, Soph.
2. DE Derrick Harvey, Jr.
3. QB Tim Tebow, Soph.
4. WR Andre Caldwell, Sr.
5. SS Tony Joiner, Sr.
6. OT Phil Trautwein, Sr.
7. C Drew Miller, Sr.
8. WR/TE Cornelius Ingram, Jr.
9. DE Jermaine Cunningham, Soph.
10. LB Brandon Spikes, Soph.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Sept. 1

Western Kentucky

Sept. 8


Sept. 15


Sept. 22

at Ole Miss

Sept. 29


Oct. 6

at LSU

Oct. 20

at Kentucky

Oct. 27

vs. Georgia

Nov. 3


Nov. 10

at South Carolina

Nov. 17

Florida Atlantic

Nov. 24

Florida State

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2006 Record: 13-1
Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 Southern Miss W 34-7
9/9 UCF W 42-0
9/16 at Tennessee W 21-20
9/23 Kentucky W 26-7
9/30 Alabama W 28-13
10/7 LSU W 23-10
10/14 at Auburn L 27-17
10/28 vs. Georgia W 21-14
11/4 at Vanderbilt W 25-19
11/11 South Carolina W 17-16
11/18 West. Carolina W 62-0
11/25 at Florida State W 21-14
12/2 SEC Championship
Arkansas W 38-28
1/8 BCS Championship
Ohio State W 41-14

Meyer made no secret about how he wanted more out of his tailbacks in the one-back offense over the last two seasons. The most consistently effective runner was quarterback/bulldozing fullback Tim Tebow, and now Meyer has recruited the type of home run-hitting running backs who can take advantage of the mismatches and run through the space. The spread is about getting the best players into the open, and you can do that when you have one of the fastest college football teams in America

But for all the talk about the offense and how Tebow should be the Alex Smith-type quarterback to make it roll, Florida has won under Meyer mainly because of a terrific defense that didn’t get its just due last year, even after manhandling the Buckeyes. Florida held opponents to 255 yards and less than 14 points a game, but that veteran group is almost all off to the NFL now

Of course, when you come up with some of the best recruiting classes of the last 20 years, you just replace the pro talent with other pro talent.  Florida’s new D, however, might not kick in right away and be the killer squad of the last two years. Fortunately for the Gators, the offense should even things out by being better and more dominant, with speed to burn in all areas to make up for any shortcomings.

Enjoy the ride now, Florida. Meyer will soon be handed the keys to a bank vault by some NFL team looking for an instant infusion of magic, and unlike other college coaches who made the jump, Meyer appears to be a good pro fit. But for the time being, Florida is back to the heyday of the 1990s, when Steve Spurrier’s crew was the SEC’s top dog. To the fear of the rest of the league, the Gators appear to be on the verge of being even better.

What to watch for on offense: Two words: Tim Tebow. Chris Leak, not exactly the best runner around, might not have been the right quarterback to run the spread offense, but that can be overlooked just a wee bit when you win a national title. Tebow had the luxury last season of being able to come off the bench and produce; now the offense, and the decision-making, is on him. Considered to be the prototype for the Meyer spread attack, expect Tebow to go through a few growing pains, and several mistakes, before being a machine in 2008. 

What to watch for on defense: Speed and athleticism to make up for experience. You don’t get better by losing Brandon Siler, Earl Everett, Jarvis Moss, Reggie Nelson, Ryan Smith, Reggie Lewis, Ray McDonald, and other starters from a national title defense, but the schedule is just easy enough early to get all the new players time to get their feet wet before dealing with Tennessee. Expect this group to make a ton of mistakes, but make up for them by simply outrunning everyone.

The team will be far better if … it cuts down on the penalties. In one of the great ironies of the 2006 season, the team that executed as well as anyone couldn’t stop committing sins. Florida was 118th in the nation in penalties, committing a whopping 8.3 per game, costing them 63.4 yards per game.

The Schedule: After getting through a nasty schedule to win the national title, this year’s slate will seem like a piece of cake. The Gators get Tennessee, Auburn and Florida State at home, but have to go on the road to face LSU, in what might be a preview of the SEC Championship Game. Even though things are easier than last year, there’s a nasty stretch in the back half with four of five games away from Gainesville, including sneaky-tough games at Kentucky and South Carolina along with the showdowns with LSU and Georgia. Outside of the date with FSU, the non-conference schedule is a joke, as the Gators will face Western Kentucky, Troy and Florida Atlantic.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore WR Percy Harvin. Generously listed at 5-11 and 181 pounds, Harvin is one of America’s most dangerous game-breakers as a receiver or a runner. Tebow might have provided the freshman thunder to the ground game, but Harvin was the lightning, cranking out 10.4 yards per carry, highlighted by a 67-yard dagger against Arkansas in the SEC title game. He might not be a 75-catch type of receiver, but he’ll be Tebow’s deadly number one target.

Best Defensive Player: Junior DE Derrick Harvey. While any of several Gators could’ve been the Defensive MVP of the BCS Championship Game, Harvey got the honor after coming up with three sacks and recovering a key fumble. He’s going to be one of the SEC’s better pass rushers, and if he can add a little more weight to his frame, he’ll be a top-20 pick in next year’s draft.

Key player to a successful season: Tebow. If you’re a Florida quarterback, you either win a national title, or you get a seat at the card table while Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Chris Leak are dining elsewhere. While winning the conference title is always goal number one for any SEC team, the bar has now been set higher at Florida. The tables have been turned; if Tebow doesn’t win the big games, the fans who anointed him the savior are going to wish Leak was back.

The season will be a success if ... Florida wins the SEC championship. Yeah, the expectations are set at a national title-level, but just winning the best conference in the country is impressive enough. Win the SEC, and everything else might take care of itself. The defense needs to replace too many players, and it’s asking too much to win every close game, to go unbeaten.

Key game: Oct. 6 at LSU. While this might just be round one of a two-game clash of titans, a win in Death Valley might establish the Gators as the number one team in the nation, with their national title fate in their own hands. Even a loss to LSU won’t ruin the championship run, but it can’t be a blowout and won’t allow for any other slips.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- First half scoring: Florida 230; Opponents 86
- Penalties: Florida 116 for 888 yards; Opponents 81 for 595 yards
- Rushing touchdowns: Florida 24; Opponents 8


Related Stories
2007 Florida Preview - Offense
 -by  Jul 30, 2007
2007 Florida Preview - Defense
 -by  Jul 30, 2007
2007 Florida Preview - Depth Chart
 -by  Jul 30, 2007

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