2008 Florida Preview - Offense
Florida TE Cornelius Ingram
Florida TE Cornelius Ingram
Posted Apr 23, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Florida Gator Offense

Florida Gators

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Florida Preview | 2008 Florida Offense
- 2008 Florida Defense
| 2008 Florida Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Florida Preview
| 2006 CFN Florida Preview 

What you need to know: There are a lot of health concerns, but if and when everyone is 100%, this will be one college football's most devastating attacks. It all starts with Heisman winner Tim Tebow, who likely won't put up the stats he cranked out last year but could be a better passer as the coaching staff looks to keep its star fresh by limiting his workload. There will be more of a quarterback rotation and far more help from a four-headed monster at running back led by Kestahn Moore and USC transfer Emmanuel Moody to go along with speedsters Chris Rainey and Brandon James. Percy Harvin is one of the nation's most devastating playmakers, while the rest of the receiving corps should be unstoppable. The key will be a line with two very good, but very banged up seniors, Phil Trautwein and Jim Tartt, leading a talented group of underclassmen.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Tim Tebow
234-350, 3,286 yds, 32 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Tim Tebow
210 carries, 895 yds, 23 TD
Receiving: Percy Harvin
59 catches, 858 yds, 4TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Tim Tebow
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore OT Marcus Gilbert
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman WR Deonte Thompson
Best pro prospect: Tebow
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Tebow, 2) WR Percy Harvin, 3) OG Jim Tartt
Strength of the offense: Weapons, Tebow
Weakness of the offense: Workhorse running back, veteran offensive linemen


Projected Starters: Could Tim Tebow handle the pressure of the full-time starting job after coming to Florida as the greatest spread offense quarterback prospect? Could he really go from being a fullback/specialist relief pitcher to a leader of the attack? Uh ... yeah. All Tebow did was have the greatest statistical season for any quarterback in the history of college football and became the first player to ever run and throw for 20 touchdowns in the same season. He led the Gators in rushing with 895 yards and 23 scores, averaging 4.3 yards per carry, he led the nation in passing efficiency for a stretch (before finishing second behind Oklahoma's Sam Bradford) competing 67% of his throws for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns with six interceptions. At 6-3 and 232 pounds with a good-enough arm, tremendous accuracy, and great mobility, he has all the tools to become a top NFL draft pick whenever he comes out, but first he has to make sure he doesn't wear down and he has to start taking less of a pounding. There's a reason why he struggled in the fourth quarters of games; he was beaten up. While he's tough as nails and played through some injuries to be great late in the year, the plan is to make sure he doesn't have to do it all himself. His numbers won't be nearly as good as last year, and that's by design.

Projected Top Reserves: It's a battle for the number two job behind Superman, but both Cam Newton and John Brantley will see playing time. Unlike last year when it was Tebow, Tebow, Tebow, Urban Meyer plans on rotating quarterbacks like he did a few years ago to get the No. 2 man some meaningful work.

Newton completed five of ten passes for 40 yards in five games as a true freshman, but he ran for 103 yards and three scores. At 6-5 and 246 pounds, he's a bigger version of Tebow with excellent rushing skills and a good passing arm. As talented as he might be, he needs to be special to keep Brantley from taking over the coveted backup job. Brantley has the bigger upside.

A superstar recruit who could've gone anywhere, Brantley was blinded by his desire to play for the Gators (his dad and brother played in Gainesville and his high school coach was former UF star quarterback Kerwin Bell) and came anyway. The decision might pay off big time if Tebow leaves early for the NFL, but at the very least the redshirt freshman will see the field this year. He bulked up a bit over the last year and despite a few injury problems, most notably a shoulder issue, he should be able to take a bit more of a pounding than he would've had he played right away. He has NFL passing skills and good mobility, but he's not a runner like Tebow or Newton.

Watch Out For ... Brantley. Newton is good, really, really good, but the Brantley is a special passer with NFL potential. The idea is to make sure there's a good backup option ready in case Tebow gets hurt, and Brantley might emerge as the one to get the call, even though Newton might be the better option right away.
Tim Tebow. Some may say the statistics are misleading, but Tebow really is that good. With his character and talent, Heisman voters won't have a problem giving him another big prize if he takes his team to the SEC title.
Backup experience. Florida has the talent and the potential to win the national title, but it can't do it if Tebow isn't the quarterback. That's why the backups will get more work so they'll be more prepared, but while Newton and Brantley are excellent, they're not Tebow. They don't have the experience.
Outlook: Everything possible will be done to make sure Tebow doesn't carry the ball 210 times again. While he'll still be the fearless runner he always was, the running backs should take away more of the workload and Newton and Brantley will be in the rotation more often to get some meaningful work in. Yes, there is a drop-off from a Heisman winner to two unproven backups, but the reserves can play. There's a reason they're playing for Florida.
Rating: 10

Running Backs

Projected Starter: It's not like senior Kestahn Moore can't play. The 5-10, 206-pound veteran was third on the team with 580 yards and six touchdowns averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and he was a good receiver with 13 catches for 81 yards and a score, but the coaching staff has a hard time trusting him because of fumbling issues. After getting double-digit carries in each of the first four games, he saw his workload almost fall off the map. Even so, he was better at hanging on to the ball this spring and proved to be more dependable. He's not going to be flashy, but he'll crank out five yards a carry whenever he touches the ball.

Projected Top Reserves: Moore might be the No. 1 option, but redshirt freshman Chris Rainey is option No. 1A. There's fast, there's Florida fast, and then there's Rainey, who runs a 4.24 and knows how to use it when he has a hole to bust through. As a senior at Lakeland High in Florida he ran for 2,478 yards and 32 touchdowns. While he's only 5-9 and 167 pounds, he's tough and can handle 15 touches a game to get his wheels involved in the offensive mix. If he's not in the backfield, he could be used as a receiver from time to time.

While junior Brandon James isn't Chris Rainey fast, he has tremendous speed and will also be used in a variety of ways. The 5-6, 179-pounder was a tremendous kickoff returner averaging 28 yards per pop, and an even better punt returner averaging 18.1 yards per try with a touchdown, but he wasn't used much in the running game with just 24 carries for 133 yards and with eight catches for 69 yards. He had a few legal problems stemming from a drug issue before last season, but everything has cleared up.

Is Emmanuel Moody really any good? The USC transfer was supposed to come in and immediately provide the premier running back the Gator offense had been looking for, but the results were mixed in spring ball. The sophomore has excellent speed and 5-11, 206-pound size, but the light didn't go on throughout spring ball, even with a 111-yard day in the spring game, and he had problems putting the ball on the ground. Going into the fall, he's likely the third man in the mix behind Moore and Rainey, but that could quickly change.

Expected to become a star last year, sophomore Mon Williams instead tore up his knee and had to redshirt the season. At 6-1 and 206 pounds, he has excellent size and tremendous ability inside and out, but he has to be 100% healthy again and he has to fight through the logjam of backs in front of him.

If and when the offense ever uses a fullback, 6-1, 207-pound Steven Wilks will step in. A star high school linebacker, he was moved over to the offensive side to use his toughness and athleticism in the offense. He won't see any carries, but he could catch a pass or two.

Watch Out For ... Rainey. All eyes will be on Moody, and Moore will probably get the start, but it's Rainey who has the ability to break out and be a superstar. He won't get 25 carries a game, but he could win a game or three all by himself with a home run.
Tailback-by-committee is a good thing here. Rainey will give defenses fits, while Moore, James and Moody will all need to be gameplanned for. There are plenty of options for the coaching staff to work with. However ...
Tailback-by-committee was supposed to be a strength last year. Moore didn't get enough carries, Rainey wasn't in the mix yet, and James was used mostly as a return man. When push comes to shove, will Meyer really, really start to get the ball to his backs more? He talks a big game, but he's too used to letting his quarterbacks run it.
Outlook: What can the running backs do to help out Tim Tebow? Last year Tebow and Percy Harvin carried it 293 times; that number needs to dip to about 150, and for that to happen the running backs need to play a bigger role. Moody wasn't great in spring, but he has the skills to potentially be the workhorse back to revolve around. Rainey and James are dangerous weapons who could allow Harvin to be more of a receiver and less of a runner, while Moore needs to solve his fumbling problems and become more dependable.
Rating: 8


Projected Starters: Is Percy Harvin tough enough to be able to become a No. 1 receiver? There's no question he has the heart, but the 5-11, 178-pound junior has a hard time staying healthy with all the work he gets. Not only did he lead the Gators with 59 catches for 858 yards and four touchdowns, but he also finished second on the team with 764 yards and six scores averaging 9.2 yards per carry. While he's a tremendous receiver and there are more than enough running backs to carry the workload, the results are spectacular when the gameplan revolves around getting him carries. In the four games that Harvin ran the ball ten or more times he gained a total of 523 yards with four touchdowns averaging a whopping 10.64 yards per crack. Now he needs to get over a heel problem that plagued him this spring, and he'll have to be saved a bit for the really, really big games. He has to prove he can take a consistent pounding.

With Andre Caldwell off to the NFL, there will be more work for veteran Louis Murphy after he finished third on the team with 37 catches for 548 yards and five touchdowns. One of the stars of the 2007 off-season, the 6-1, 195-pound senior was a tremendously consistent target who was able to do a good job of taking advantage of the one-on-one coverage when everyone was paying attention to Caldwell and Harvin. He had problems with a staph infection this off-season, but when he's healthy, he'll be the team's No. 2 target.

6-3, 209-pound junior Riley Cooper caught four passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the season opening blowout of Western Kentucky, and then he caught four passes the rest of the way as a mop-up target. Now he'll be the number three man in the mix with good enough athleticism to make some deep plays, and good enough size and route running ability to be a steady short-to-midrange target.

Sophomore Aaron Hernandez is listed as the starting tight end after getting the call three times as a freshman, and now he'll be the main man with junior Cornelius Ingram, who was this close to jumping early to the NFL before changing his mind late, out. At 6-4 and 223 pounds, Ingram is a tall, lanky wide receiver who has too much athleticism for most when he lines up as a tight end. The former quarterback caught 34 passes for 508 yards and seven touchdowns, but outside of a nice day against Tennessee, he did most of his damage against the mediocre teams. Now he'll have to wait until next year as he tore up his knee and will be out for the year.

Hernandez, at 6-3 and 250 pounds, was fantastic in two tight end sets and is more than good enough to grow into a star for the passing game. He caught nine passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns as he showed off good deep athleticism, and now he should be even more of a factor in the passing attack. Considered to be the nation's top tight end recruit last year, he'll post a ton of matchup problems and will be more of a weapon.

Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman Deonte Thompson was one of the team's top recruits last year, and while Florida has no problems using first year players, he was able to redshirt. The 5-11, 188-pounder showed off this spring that he's ready to emerge as a major weapon showing off his NFL speed and ability playing behind Cooper. While he's not the fastest player on the team, he's in the team photo; he'll hit his share of home runs.

6-4, 223-pound junior Carl Moore was one of the nation's top JUCO players last season catching 73 passes for 1,068 yards and 16 touchdowns for Sierra C.C. in California. He has the speed to go along with his size, but he has to get healthy after having problems with an ankle injury this spring. He'll end up working behind Murphy and will see time in four-wide formations.

Watch Out For ... the tight ends. Ingram and Hernandez are each going to receive NFL paychecks in the near future. They're prototypes, but in different ways. Hernandez is the bigger blocker of the two, while Ingram is more of an H-Back. These two should do even more this year after combining for 43 catches.
Warp speed. This group is really, really fast. Harvin and Thompson might be two of the SEC's faster receivers, while the rest of the top targets have size to go along with their wheels. There's no shortage of top playmakers for Tebow to work with.
Health. Harvin can't take too many big shots and can't be counted on for a full season if he gets the ball in his hands 150 times. Murphy and Moore also had health problems this off-season. That's the only thing that can keep this group from exploding.
Outlook: From the speed and quickness of Harvin and Thompson, to the potential of Moore and Cooper, to the steady production of Murphy, to the talented Hernandez, this group has it all. If everyone can stay healthy, which isn't a given after already losing Ingram, this will be a devastating corps of playmakers. There are too many weapons to cover.
Rating: 9.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The left side of the line should once again be a brick wall with the return of senior Phil Trautwein at tackle to go along with Jim Tartt at guard. The 6-6, 301-pound Trautwein is an athletic pass blocker with 15 career starts and plenty of upside to grow into an All-SEC performer. The former tight end missed all of last year after suffering a broken foot, but he's expected to be 100% by the start of the season.

The 6-3, 300-pound Tartt is the star of the line, but health has always been an issue. He struggled to stay injury-free in 2006, but he managed to still start almost every game. He has 29 career starts and is dependable, and when he's 100%, he's a dominant performer. Now he has to get past a shoulder injury that limited him in spring ball and will be a concern throughout the season; he missed almost all of 2005 with shoulder problems.

6-5, 312-pound sophomore Maurkice Pouncey will take over the starting center job from Drew Miller after spending almost all of last year starting at right guard. He played stronger and better than his youth getting 11 starts as a true freshman who lived up to his prep hype. He saw just enough time in the middle to be ready to take over and be a killer for the running game. He should be an All-SEC performer for the next few years.

Next to Maurkice will be sophomore Mike Pouncey, the twin brother, who started off last year on the offensive line (and was originally considered to be the better of the two brothers) before moving over to the defensive side to boost the depth. Now the 6-5, 309-pounder will start at right guard to become a key run blocker. A superstar recruit, along with his brother, he'll become a tremendous all-around performer with a little time to grow.

Stepping in at right tackle for Carlton Medder will be 6-6, 308-pound sophomore Marcus Gilbert who got a start and was a key reserve. A physical former defensive lineman, he's in charge of dealing with Tim Tebow's blindside, and while he's athletic, he has to prove he can be as consistent in pass protection as Medder was.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-2, 319-pound sophomore Maurice Hurt got a start and was a key reserve at right guard. He'll once again be a key factor in the rotation as he pushes Pouncey for the job. He had problems with a neck injury last year, but he ended up fine and showed off some of his excellent upside. The potential is there to be a great run blocker.

With Trautwein's leg and ankle problems, 6-5, 343-pound sophomore Carl Johnson has to be ready to step in at left tackle if needed. While weight is an issue, he has the size and the NFL upside to grow into a great player if he can turn into a consistent pass blocker. He's versatile enough to see time at center if needed, while his future could be at guard.

Watch Out For ... some movement on the line depending on the health of Trautwein. Since Tebow is left-handed, he needs his blindside protected. That means Trautwein might make the move from the left side to the right.
Upside. There might be a few new starters, but the Pouncey brothers, Gilbert, Hurt and Johnson provide a core of sophomores who'll only get better. There might be some lumps taken early, but this could be a fantastic group by the end of the year.
Healthy veterans. On the projected two deep are two seniors and eight underclassmen. Trautwein and Tartt have to stay healthy all year long, which isn't a given, to provide the necessary leadership to a talented young group.
Outlook: The line was tremendous in pass protection throughout last year, made better by Tebow's mobility, and it did a better overall job than it got credit for in the running game. Now the young players who got their feet wet have to become stars. The Pounceys have to play up to their prep hype, and most importantly, the senior combination of Trautwein and Tartt have to be on the field.
Rating: 8