Thursday, September 04, 2008
Get To Know Your Gators
TLOS Preview: 4 Florida
By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent
(Starting August 1st, The Love of Sports began featuring one college football program each day, breaking down their offense, defense and - most importantly - their food, beverage, cheerleaders, tailgating prowess and all-around campus life! That's because those are the things we value here the most. College football is all about the atmosphere, and that's exactly what we'll give you all season long!)
Today's Preview - Florida Gators
TLOS Preseason Rank: 4
TLOS Predicted Record: 11-2
2007 Record: 9-4
I'm not exactly the biggest college football nut in the world. I'm not gonna lie to you.
You see, the football team from my alma mater, Cornell University, probably couldn't crack the high school Top 25, not to mention the Division I college rankings.
So, I enlisted the biggest UF fan in the world, Mike "I'd go gay for Tebow" Geezy to help me drop some Gator knowledge on the masses.
It wasn't hard to convince him, especially since I guaranteed him a Top 5 spot in the rankings if he did it. Seems only fair.
Last year, UF quarterback Tim Tebow became the first sophomore in history to win the Heisman Trophy. The guy was automatic, finishing second in the nation in pass efficiency while becoming the first major college player ever to throw for 20+ touchdowns and rush for 20+ touchdowns in the same season.
Geezy's take: "Basically, the guy walks on water. If I came home one day and found him in bed with my wife, I wouldn't even be mad."
Tebow won't have to do it all himself. Florida's returning some talented targets, too. Versatile junior WR (and sometime tailback) Percy Harvin is recovering well from offseason surgery for a nagging injury to his heel bone and, if back in prime condition, could battle Tebow for the Heisman this year. One of the most explosive players in the nation, he totaled 1,622 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, becoming the first receiver in school history to have over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in a career.
Geezy's Take: "Harvin is the Devin Hester of college football. Absolutely untackleable (yeah, I just made up that word), 4.2 speed and can cut on a dime. Simply put, he's the most dangerous playmaker in the nation."
Other playmakers include tight end standout Cornelius Ingram and a stable of solid RBs. Kestahn Moore will likely be the starter, but the Gators are counting on a big year from Emmanuel Moody, a five-star recruit out of high school who sat last year after transferring from USC. Redshirt freshman Chris Rainey might just be the breakout player of the year for the Gators. The diminutive scatback could be a huge difference-maker for UF.
Geezy's Take: "Rainey is basically a human highlight reel. He's far and away the best 'quote' on the team, too - constantly cracking jokes and speaking his mind, no matter how it may sound. Oh yeah, and UF also has Jeffrey Demps, who just a couple months ago ran the fastest 100 meters by a high schooler EVER ... but he could very well redshirt this year, because they're so deep at the position."
The skill positions may be sexy, but the O-line is the heart of the Gators. Their top offensive lineman, Phil Trautwein, missed all of last year with a stress fracture, but he'll be back at left tackle and ready to lead UF's best O-line in years.
Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who was voted preseason First-Team All-SEC, is the leader of what looks to be a very mediocre Gators defense. DE Carlos Dunlap will have big shoes to fill, taking over for the eighth overall pick in last year's NFL Draft, Derrick Harvey. Corner Joe Haden and free safety Major Wright both started all last season as true freshman, a testament to UF's lack of depth. Their secondary was atrocious, but should be better now that those two have a year of experience under their belts. Starting strong safety Dorian Munroe is out for the year after tearing his ACL, and much beloved co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison left UF for the Baltimore Ravens. There are two solid guys on the D-Line, Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap, but after those two, things get messy. Bottom line: UF's offense will have to carry this team.
Geezy's Take: "Spikes is rated as one of the best MLB in the country by many, but I think he could stand to improve A LOT. True freshman Will "The Thrill" Hill has a chance to start at safety, but will have to compete with Ahmad Black, who had a great spring. Hill's drawn numerous comparisons to maybe my favorite Gator of all time, Reggie Nelson, or as Gator fans call him, RFN (can you guess what the F stands for?)"
After a rebuilding year that saw UF go a disappointing 9-4 last season, hopes are high for coach Urban Meyer's squad. While the Gators are probably another year away from being championship caliber, if everything fits into place they've got a chance to go all the way this season.
The three main rivals are Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State, but one of the biggest games of the year will be against a team they haven't beaten since 1985, the Miami Hurricanes. While they don't play Miami every year, the 'Canes dominance in recent years has made them the team to beat.
Geezy's (honest) Take: "I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them. Pieces of s*** scum, their thug nation will invade Gainesville and get spanked. Bitches."
The Old Ball Coach
Of course, any time UF faces their former Heisman Trophy-winning QB, national title-winning "Head Ball Coach" and basically the face of the program, Steve Spurrier, things get serious. Spurrier's Gamecocks will return to the Swamp on the opposing sideline for the first time since 2006, when Jarvis Moss blocked a chip shot field goal with no time left to preserve a Gators win and their national title hopes.
Geezy's Take: "When Spurrier returns it might be the first time in college football history that both the opposing coach (Spurrier) and a current QB (Tebow) face off in a stadium that already has both of their names and numbers painted on the walls."
The game of the year for UF will be against the Georgia Bulldogs - an annual event dubbed "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." Last year, the entire 'Dawgs squad stormed the field and danced in the Gator endzone after scoring the game's opening touchdown. The move so angered UF coach Urban Meyer he slammed the Bulldogs in his new book, vowing to get revenge.
Geezy's Take: "In my opinion, this will be THE best football game of the entire year, in the entire country. We have a bone to pick with Georgia after that chickens*** move they pulled last year. Did I mention that we've won 15 of the last 18 matchups?"
The 2009 Princeton Review just named UF the 1 Party School in the nation, an "honor" that's no surprise to the school's alumni. Gainesville's got it all: the food, the Southern charm, the tailgating and, of course, the girls. (Seriously, even I can appreciate the kind of women that result from uninterrupted sunshine and an all-year-long bikini season). The Swamp holds over 90,000 people and is widely viewed as the loudest, most intimidating stadium in all of college football. One of the most chill-inducing traditions for Gator fans comes at the end of the 3rd quarter, when the entire crowd locks arms and sways in unison to "We are the Boys." When Meyer was hired, he put in place a few new traditions. One, The Gator Walk, is when the entire team, dressed in suits and ties, walks through a pack of cheering fans, giving high-fives on their way into the stadium. Another is the serenade that follows every game--a team-wide singing of UF's alma mater and fight song in the corner of the field facing the student section.
Geezy's Take: "Don't forget Mr. 2 Bits. I'd try and explain who he is, but it'd be too long-winded. Google him. Hes a legend."
--Steve Spurrier, Former Florida head coach, NFL 1 draft pick
--Emmitt Smith, NFL Hall of Famer, game's all-time leading rusher
--Cris Collinsworth, All-Pro WR, NBC and Showtime broadcaster
--Fred Taylor, All-Pro NFL running back
--Heather Mitts, World Cup & Olympic soccer player
--Erin Andrews, ESPN broadcaster and blog icon
--Jesse Palmer, The Bachelor, former Giants backup QB, curent ESPN broadcaster
--Joakim Noah, Sideshow Bob of the sports world
--Bill France, Jr., Former president of NASCAR
--Tom Petty, OK, he was never technically a student, but was born and raised in Gainesville and actually used to work for the UF grounds crew - no kidding
--Joe Scarborough, Host of Morning Joe on MSNBC
--Jonathan Demme, Academy Award-winning Director, Silence of the Lambs
--Faye Dunaway, Academy Award-winning actress, Network
--Stephen Stills, Musician - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young