Gators Are Feeling The Love
"Let's enjoy the greatest era, not just football of Gator athletics." - Urban Meyer.
By: BE Coleman
The jury's verdict is in; the Florida Gators are feeling the love of the college football world as spring closes, and why not. The likely consensus number one team heading into all pre-season polls should find that the "Boys from Florida" are atop the polls in August.
The Gator juggernaut is poised to make a run for a third Southeastern Conference Title, and ready for another run at a third national championship appearance. Aside from the daunting trimmings of an SEC schedule, find little else is standing in their way.
Florida returns 22 players on defense, that are the exact Num 1's and 2's from 2008.
Depth Through Maturation
The only item that Urban Meyer and D-Coordinator Charlie Strong wanted to address during spring was creating maturity among the sophomores and freshman players that dot the defense.
The maturity Strong says that he wants for his aggressive unit, is to not see the big play given up in 2009, and to become a three and out group this season. That's the goal; to not allow more than three playing downs and force more punts.
To do that, Strong will look no further than All-American, All-SEC linebacker Brandon Spikes to lead the swarming swamp defense.
Spikes, passed up a realistic first round draft choice as an early entry in last week-end's NFL Draft, will be named to every preseason All-American team for his senior season.
Number 51 has an interesting story about his chosen jersey number, which fits the protocol of position numbers exactly. In a world of the now players in the NFL, finds Spikes does not necessarily look to today's league players.
Spikes draws his inspiration from the rough and tumble days of professional football when bone jarring hits; laid players out on the field. One of those players that Spikes draws his own game aura from is Dick Butkus.
Butkus, regarded as the best linebacker that ever played the gridiron game is where Spikes number 51 is derived from. The Gator senior reflects on Butkus by noting, "He was all over the field making tackles."
Spikes molds his own stance of play from the Chicago Bears Hall of Famer based on speed and big hits all over the field. Behind his leading effort saw Florida with the conferences number one red zone defense in 2008.
Backing It Up
The Gator defenders only allowed 27 scores on 39 attempts, good for a conference leading 69.2% and only gave up eight rushing scores in fourteen games. The Gator formula held opponents to one rushing score every 7 quarters of play inside the red zone.
No Injury Off Season
After making improvement in the secondary this spring, Meyer only has to contend with no summer injuries from voluntary workouts. Last May and June Florida issued official news releases that Meyer was concerned with several starters being injured.
For those who do not receive official athletic media releases, did not understand why Meyer was concerned, need to know his philosophy. Meyer is a practice coach simply put; one that readies his player's roster positions through aggressive work.
While Meyer is a confident coach, he is also a coach with great regard concerning his depth with accumulated playing experience that is gained on the practice field. When he does not see players working, he is concerned.
This spring, both Meyer and Strong noted that two freshman defenders had drawn significant notice to help combat unforeseen injuries. Meyer thinks linebacker Jon Bostic has a real chance at playing time in 2009 to give his starters a breather.
The Gators two time national championship coach noted it is early, but likes what Bostic has shown. Another name that has popped up is redshirt Omar Hunter. The Florida D-Tackle has dropped his weight down to 305 lbs., after injuring his back in 2008. Hunter is fighting to break into the 22 man rotation.
Enjoying The Love
Meyer, who is out doing publicity work, as are all SEC Coaches the next two weeks; summed up his thoughts in Orlando last week when he said to Gator backers, "Let's enjoy the greatest era, not just football of Gator athletics."
With two national titles under his belt, a staggering two deep defense and QB Tim Tebow returning for a final run, Gator fans should be enjoying the greatest moments in Florida Athletics, that Meyer has brought forth on the gridiron of Florida Field.