Now that the Tim Tebow era has come and gone (produced 2 National Championships) it is on to the next chapter for coach Urban Meyer and the Gators. If you’re a Gator fan, you may be a little apprehensive as to what this season holds. But, if you are a “Gator Hater” then you will be relieved not to see #15 lined up on the offensive side of the ball. However, Meyer is committed to a certain brand and style of play and that will not change even if he lost nine starters from the 2009 team, including 5 juniors who left early. It is now time to breakdown the Gators and see what the 2010 season may hold for them.
OFFENSE: John Brantley becomes the man under or behind center for the 2010 Gators; of course Brantley has played in several games either due to injury or because they were blowing some helpless team out. Brantley’s strength is a strong and accurate arm, things considered to be weaknesses for Tebow. But what Brantley can’t replicate is the heart, fire or desire Tebow played with. Brantley will have one of the fastest players in the nation lining up in the backfield with him in Jeffery Demps. Demps is a “jitterbug” with lightning speed and big play capabilities. At wide-out, Brantley will mainly be throwing to Deonte Thompson and Frankie Hammonds Jr…….who? Both of these guys have a lot of abilities but they are unproven against high caliber competition. The offensive line should be solid as all five projected starters have been starters at one point and time doing their tenure in the “Swamp”.
DEFENSE: Despite losing Tebow, it actually appears to be the Defense that took the biggest hit with the NFL Draft. Gone are CB Joe Hayden, LB Brandon Spikes, and DE Carlos Dunlap. Their replacements will have the physical skill level but will lack experience and the leadership that the 2009 defense counted on. There are no superstars on this defense but as a group, they will be fast to the ball and they will be hungry to prove themselves. However, these young Gators may also give up their share of big plays and any well balanced offense may give them fits.
SPECIAL TEAMS: This unit will be solid but not spectacular, especially in terms of punting and kicking. Of course the Gators will have speed and quickness at KR and PR but they will not have experience. The place-kicker was 22 of 30 last year and he will probably get more opportunities this year. The Gators will also come after the opposing punters with a heavy rush as another way of trying to score punts.
Schedule: This is where Florida will have an advantage over a lot of other teams, both in and out of conference. Out of 12 regular season games, they only hit the road 4 times. But out of the 4, this is where they will probably get their only two losses of the regular season. On Oct. 2, the Gators will travel to Tuscaloosa to play the defending SEC and National Champions, the Crimson Tide of Alabama. The other probable loss will come on the last game of the year when the Gators travel to Tallahassee to play their arch-rival, the Florida St. Seminoles. Outside of these two games, the Gators may receive minor or early game scares from South Florida (9/11), at Tennessee (9/18), UK (9/25) and then their is a home game against LSU that could be intriguing as well.
Overall, this Gator squad may not be up to par with the squads of the last four years but the schedule is a very favorable one. On top of that, people tend to forget that Urban Meyer is a real good football coach and not just a coach living solely off of the talent that hits the field. One thing to keep an eye on is Coach Meyer’s health and how relaxed or uptight he gets this season. A 10-2 record is very likely with 9-3 or 11-1 being other options depending on an upset either way (the Gators will be underdogs against both the Tide and the Noles while they will be favorites in every other game). Expect the Gators to play for the SEC Championship in December though who their opponent will be is not quite so clear.