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2008 Florida Preview - Offense
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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
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
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman WR Deonte
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
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.
Strength: 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.
Weakness: 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
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.
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
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.
Strength: 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 ...
Weakness: 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.
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
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
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
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.
Strength: 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
Weakness: 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
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.
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
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
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.
Strength: 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
Weakness: 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.