It’s Gator Time Again
By the way the GatorNation is carrying on, you’d think Florida was Virginia Tech. Hand-wringing seems to be the neurotic behavior du jour.
The poor children have had quite a run of success: two national championships and a 57-10 record over the last 5 seasons – the Urban Meyer regime. Poor, poor children.
But, a new dawn has cast its light of change and uncertainty on Gainesville. The Loss of leader Tim Tebow – and the likes of players including WR Riley Cooper, TE Aaron Hernandez, C Maurkice Pouncey, DE’s Carols Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Joe Haden, and S Major Wright – had Florida fandom a bit tender-footed about the 2010 campaign, not to mention coach Urban Meyer’s resignation/comeback.
The rest of the SEC East felt that upward mobility was a real possibility with that kind of talent moving on to another level of football. And, the rest of the SEC East after the Gators’ first two games is even more optimistic.
Florida opened this season with two non-conference tilts: hosting Miami (Ohio) and South Florida (USF). In the opener against Miami, the Gators accumulated 26 yards of offense in the first three quarters. Senior center Mike Pouncey was flinging snaps toward new QB John Brantley that were either into the ground, over Brantley’s head, or off to the left or right of the target. Made some of us think of Chuck Knoblauch, Rick Ankiel, and Steve Sax. And, the new QB’s passing display wasn’t exactly making the faithful forget about Tim Tebow.
In all, the Gators suffered through 13 bad snaps and eight fumbles in their version of Ugly Ball. But when the fourth quarter rolled around, Gator RB Jeffrey Demps ran for a 70+ yard TD, CB Janoris Jenkins ran an INT back 67 yards for a score, and WR Chris “Time to Die” Rainey scored on a reception, leading to a comfortable 34-12 win.
Last week, the Gators had another troublesome start against USF. An inept offense had Florida down 7-0 at the end of the opening quarter and could only muster a 14-7 lead at the half. But the Gators finished strong, as they had done the previous week, scoring 31 points to win 38-14. RB Jeffrey Demps rushed for 139 yards including a 62-yard TD run, and piled up 255 all-purpose yards. Center Mike Pouncey had apparently cured his yips on snaps, QB John Brantley was a fairly good 18-for-31, 172 yards and 2 TDs. The defense had 4 INTs and a fumble recovery.
The mistake too obvious to make would be to develop overconfidence as an opponent by looking at Florida’s team national stats: 50th in rushing offense, 104th in passing offense, 92nd in total offense, 57th in rushing defense, 28th in passing defense, and 28th in total defense. And, all of these ordinary numbers were compiled against Miami (Ohio) and USF.
This program still has massive talent, returning 6 starters on the offense and 5 on the defense. There is terrific power and speed in the backfield with Jeffrey Demps and Emmanual Moody. Deonte Thompson is a dangerous WR. Brandon Hicks (LB), Janoris Jenkins (CB), and Ahmad Black (S) are the cornerstones of the defense. With 8 INTs in only two games (two of them returned for TDs), the pass defense is especially dangerous, with Will Hill and Matt Elam joining Black at safety; and Janoris Jenkins and Jeremy Brown shoring up the corners.
But the public focus is not on the pluses, but rather on the unknown quantities, especially QB John Brantley. It seemed like his predecessor Tim Tebow was in Gainesville for 10 years because of the magnitude of his leadership and the prowess of his play on the field. Pressure? The red-shirt junior Brantley is not the same style QB as Tebow – he’s more of a standard pocket passer, pro-style. Thus, he’s likely to be thought of as sub-standard because of his relative lack of versatility compared with Tebow.
Winning conference games will begin to calm the restless natives, and the real season starts Saturday. The mistake-filled, inept performances of the first two games notwithstanding, this year’s Gators will surely be soon humming with powerful and fast runners, a strong-armed passer, wide receivers that can catch and gain ground, and a pass defense that has a penchant for the big play. So, there is no good reason to bury the lizards before they’ve had a chance to find themselves.
But until they do, poking fun is in order. Chris “Time to Die” Rainey on the field (though he may not play on Saturday due to his texting talents). Pastor Terry Jones off the field. Indeed, that’s Florida. Wanna see more? Let the great Muddy Waters take you deep down in Florida…