The Gator 'Bate: Examining Florida's 2009-10 Season
Last year, the Florida Gators were an incredibly dominant force.
Except for losing by one point to Ole Miss, the Gators bit ferociously into their competition and didn't let go.
They won every other regular season game by at least 20 points, and secured the national title 24-14 against Oklahoma in the 2008-2009 BCS National Championship Game.
Despite losing the incredibly talented WR Percy Harvin, who skipped out early for the NFL, as well as WR Louis Murphy, OT Phil Trautwein, and OT Jason Watkins, there are plenty of returning leaders (QB Tim Tebow, TE Aaron Hernandez, LB Brandon Spikes, DE Carlos Dunlap, and S Ahmad Black) that will guide the team to another SEC championship and quite possibly their second BCS championship in a row.
What factors will play into the chances of the Gators winning back-to-back titles?
There is no "special" running back to speak of on this year's team, but they're all tremendously fast, and even better, there's a slew of young stars waiting in the wings.
Key returnee Chris Rainey will lead this year's corps of running backs, along with RBs Emmanuel Moody and Jeff Demps.
All three of them have at least another year under their belt, which bodes well for the team post-2009 future.
Obviously, after Percy Harvin left, the Gators became devoid of their best wide receiver.
Key returner Riley Cooper will be back, though, and will most likely be the role model for the other WRs. There is no real weakness in the WR depth chart, and the position will be good to go come the start of the 2009-2010 season.
Despite Tim Tebow and the prowess of the offensive line, the real gem of this Gator team is the D-line.
Among other talented players, DE Jermaine Cunningham, DT Lawrence Marsh, DT Terron Sanders, and DE Justin Trattou will be back.
There is no reason to worry about the defensive line in 2009. They will be the key to many Gator victories this season.
The special teams might be the best in America at this point.
PK Jonathan Phillips only missed one field goal last year. It would serve him well to work on his distance during the preseason, but his proven skill will help lead the Gators to victories.
New offensive coordinator Steve Addazio has been experimenting with the I-formation this offseason.
No, no, Gator fans, don't start panicking yet! Florida won't lose their spread.
However, Addazio wants to develop Tim Tebow's NFL passing ability and to get the running backs more involved.
Tight end Aaron Hernandez will get more ball time now that Harvin and Murphy are gone, and he should be an excellent player this year.
With 11 starters returning to a defense that was ninth in the nation last year and fourth in scoring, the D-line looks exceptionally strong.
Look for the less experienced Omar Hunter at tackle, playing strong on the nose and trying to knock Ahmad Black and Major Wright out of a job. It might seem far-fetched, but I think it's possible. We'll see how that shakes out.
Mark my words, if Tebow leads the Gators to another championship this year, he will be considered the greatest college QB of all time.
Look for him to shine exceptionally bright this year (can he shine any brighter?) as he tries to make his senior season a beauty, both for his Gator legacy and his NFL future.
(Didn't you love Samuel L. Jackson's what-would-Jesus-Twitter joke about Tebow at the ESPYs?)
A Perfect Season
If the Gators don't go 14-0, sadly, the season will probably be looked upon as a failure.
The tough part about being such a dominant and media-covered team is the anxiety of being expected to achieve perfection. Like a land-locked Michael Phelps, Tebow is known for nothing but greatness and will be expected to lead his team to perfection.
If you haven't seen the 2009-2010 schedule yet, I've had a glance, and it shouldn't be a difficult season for the Gators. With teams like Charleston Southern, Troy, and FIU on the menu, the only team that looks like trouble during the regular season is Georgia (on Oct. 31).
Florida must look out for the tricks the Bulldogs will try to put upon them this Halloween, for they're even better than last year.
The Gators only have one or two chances at most to goof up this season before their chances at a title are lost. If they lose to LSU, they must win against the Dawgs.
My prediction: The Gators will be focused and hungry for wins by the time the 2009-10 season begins. Look for Tebow to push extra hard in his last season in Gainesville and lead the team to a 14-0 perfect season.
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