As the end of the year draws near, Gator fans must also say goodbye to the most productive decade in Florida Gators history.
Two national championships and three SEC championships later, the Gators can hold their heads high.
This is a tribute to the good times and the bad times of the 2000s: the best wins and the worst losses, the best players, plays, seasons, teams, and coaches and everything else that made the 2000s the decade to remember for the Gators.
So without further ado, I present to you the Gators All-Decade Team and Other Awards from the 2000s.
First Team: Tim Tebow
Lets just jump right into it. Everyone knows it's coming, so I'll get it out of the way first. Tim Tebow was the easiest selection of all, but not because his competition was weak. Tebow is just that good.
No matter how far back I stretched this, he'd still be my choice for Gators QB. Grossman and Leak were excellent college QBs, but neither came close to knocking Tebow off of the first team selection.
Take a look at these numbers:
7,921 passing yards, 78 TDs Career pass efficiency: 170.35 (second in nation)
2,615 rushing yards, 52 TDs
Add to that a host of awards and honors and you have a strong case for one of the greatest, most decorated collegiate players ever.
2nd Team: Chris Leak
Leak was one of the best disappointments ever. Somehow he got lambasted during his senior year despite breaking the all–time passing yards record.
Part of that is because of who was playing behind him, number 15. The rest was ignorance.
He had more yards, a higher completion percentage, and a similar TDs–INTs ratio to the Runner up, Rex Grossman. Leak was good, no matter how quickly he was forgotten.
Honorable Mention: Rex Grossman
Don't Mention: Brock Berlin, NFL success
First Team: Earnest Graham
2411 Yards, 28 TDs (2000s only) 4.9 ypc
53 receptions, 365 yards
This was probably the hardest decision of the piece for multiple reasons. First, I didn't want Tebow to be first team at two positions. His numbers are far better than Graham's.
Second, I couldn't decide where to put Percy Harvin (I settled at WR, more on this later). Third, Graham was a leftover from the 90s. Finally, Ciatrick Fason, had a more explosive, but far shorter playing career.
Ultimately, I stuck with Graham. I felt like I had to pick the 2000s' most productive RB, regardless of how many other ways I could have gone with this selection.
Second Team: Ciatrick Fason
1850 yards, 18 TDs, 6 ypc
46 receptions, 406 yds, 5 TDs
I nearly chose Fason over Graham, and might have thanks to his more gaudy numbers if his bowl performances had been more impressive. He didn't get much of a shot against Iowa and against Miami he couldn't break out. Ultimately, that put Graham's larger but less explosive play on top.
Honorable Mention: Deshawn Wynn
Don't Mention: Ankle Twisting, Skyler Thornton
First Team: Jabar Gaffney
138 receptions, 2375 yds, 27 TDs
Another throwback to the 90s. Gaffney did some serious work in the 2000s. 14 of his 23 games this decade were over 100 yards receiving.
Two of the other nine were over 90 yds. Tim Tebow would kill for this kind of production.
He leads the Gators receivers in yards and TDs this decade.
Second Team: Dallas Baker (The Touchdown Maker)
151 receptions, 2236 yds, 21 TDs
Baker was one of the Gators' most consistent receiving options.
In his final two years he had at least one catch in every game, and during the Gators' 2006 title run he had a touchdown grab in nine games including one in the national championship.
Honorable Mentions: Louis Murphy, Chad Jackson
Don't Mention: Chad Jackson leaving early, ruining one of the best WR groups the Gators would have ever had
First Team: Percy Harvin
133 Receptions, 1929 yds, 13 TDs
194 Rushes, 1905 yds, 19 TDs
Ok, I'll admit; I cheated a little. Technically, Percy should be a Running back, but as explosive as he was, he didn't carry the ball enough to qualify as the first team RB in my eyes, and I felt that Percy had to be on the First Team.
I'm sure most would agree. Plus, he's a receiver for the Vikings, isn't he?
Anyway, it's hard to make a case against Percy for either position, and he's probably the second best Gator of the decade.
First team WR shouldn't warrant too much complaining. Then again, I'm talking to the fanbase that boo'ed Chris Leak.
2nd Team: Reche Caldwell
114 catches, 1819 yds, 16 TDs
Caldwell and Gaffney both went over 1000 yards in 2000, and may be the Gators' best receiving duo so far.
If his on field production wasn't enough, his little brother was impressed enough with big bro's alma mater to join the Gator Nation in 2003.
Honorable Mention: Andre Caldwell
Don't Mention: the 2009 Gators (one receiver over 200 yards through 9 games)
First Team: Aaron Hernandez
86 receptions, 1073 yds, 9 TDs
Another tight race. All three choices were pretty close statistically, but the one who means the most to his team has to be Hernandez.
He's not just leading the Gators as a receiver, he's single-handedly carrying them.
Without Hernandez, Tebow only has one guy to throw to and that guy doesn't have the best hands (amazing one–handed, falling out of the endzone grab notwithstanding).
Second Team: Ben Troupe
64 receptions, 958 yards 7TDs
Deciding on a first teamer made the second team selection even harder. Ultimately it was Troupe's big game performances that put him over Ingram.
Troupe's best games came against Tennessee and FSU. Ingram's best games came against Troy and FAU.
Honorable Mention: Cornelius Ingram
Don't Mention: That these guys aren't No. 1 Receivers. Troupe and Hernandez led their teams in receptions and yards for one season each.
Disclaimer: I'm lazy and I don't feel like going back through all the linemen over the years to pick the best ones.
It's hard to remember individual performances for guys who don't get individual stats. I'd rather just rate these guys as units.
First Unit: 2008
16 Sacks allowed, #15 total offense, 445 yds/game
While the 2008 unit wasn't perfect (Ole Miss), they were more dominant than a great 2007 squad. Also, they won a national championship or something, I think.
The 2008 Gators may not have had a 1000 yard rusher, but they had four 600 yard guys, which may be the most impressive stat I give in this slide show.
Second Unit: 2007
13 sacks allowed, No. 14 total offense, 457 yds/game
Well, the stats look more impressive, so why are they second? For one, the Gators won the national championship the next year with virtually the same unit.
Before you say the offense wasn't the problem there, I know that. I also know that the rushing attack was far more balanced in 2008 which kept Tebow healthy all year. That was thanks to the offensive line maturing.
Honorable Mention: 2001: 527 yds/game offense! (not a balanced team or they would have been 1 or 2)
Don't Mention: 2009 (23 sacks so far), 2005 (35 sacks, 1 billion penalties adjusting to the spread)
First Team: Jarvis Moss
15 sacks, 24 tackles for loss, 81 tackles, 2 blocked kicks
Jarvis Moss will always be my hero. His final blocked kick against South Carolina in 2006 is one of the biggest plays in Gator football history.
I remember everything about that play, from the absolute silence right at the snap, to the loudest cheer in Gainesville history and the random guy leaping into my arms almost knocking us both down 57 rows of concrete and metal.
It was epic, the best thing I witnessed in my four years in Gainesville, and it was all thanks to Jarvis Moss.
Second Team: Carlos Dunlap
16.5 sacks, 26 tackles for loss, 76 tackles, 4 blocked kicks
He's not the leading tackler or the leading sacker (sacker? sacksman?) of the decade, but Dunlap's the best at putting the whole package together.
Plus, he's got four blocked kicks. That's a stat usually reserved for the fast guys, but Dunlap just blows people up.
Honorable mention: Jeremy Mincey
First team: Alex Brown
The Gators' alltime sack leader with 33, also sixth best with 47 tackles for loss.
I don't know how many TFLs came after the new millennium, but I do know he recorded 23.5 sacks in his final two years, good enough for first team honors.
Second team: Derrick Harvey
20.5 sacks, 35 tackles for loss
Harvey was the most explosive Gators' pass rusher since Alex Brown. He had his way with Auburn and demolished Ohio State with seven sacks in the three meetings against those two teams.
First Team: Gerard Warren
76 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 12 Tackles for loss, All American 2000
He only played one season in the 2000s but it was a great one. On top of the numbers above Warren led the Gators in QB pressures, with 23.
Second Team: Ian Scott
121 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss
During his three seasons with the Gators, Scott put up some impressive numbers. He was also second team All–SEC in 2001.
Honorable mention: Justin Trattou
Don't mention: Marcus Thomas
First Team: Brandon Spikes
281 tackles, 36 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks
5 INTs, 3 TDs
The best linebacker of the last ten years also happens to be the one who currently starts for the Gators.
He's a two-time All-SEC selection and a 2008 All-American. Also, he won a Predator look–a–like competition.
Spikes is the complete package. He's the prototypical do everything middle linebacker who can cover backs and tight ends, stop the run, make open field tackles, or pass rush. Just don't ask him to punt the ball.
Second Team: Brandon Siler
141 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 7 sacks
The man who started the Brandon trend. Since Siler, Brandon Spikes, Brandon Hicks, and Brendan Beal have followed at linebacker. Siler was more than just another Brandon, though. He was the leader of a great 2006 defense.
Honorable mention: none
Don't mention: Eye gouging
First Team: Channing Crowder
179 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 4 sacks
First team All SEC in 2004. In 2003, Crowder set the record for most starts at linebacker for a Gators' freshman gaining SEC defensive freshman of the year honors in the process.
Second Team: Andra Davis
107 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries
Andra's only season this decade was the 2001 season as a redshirt senior. He had a great year though, netting first team All–SEC honors.
Honorable Mentions: none
Don't Mention: Crowder's late-night activities
First team: Earl Everett
157 tackles, 10 for loss, 3.5 sacks
Add to that, one huge, helmetless hit on Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith. Everett played in an outstanding 50 games for the Gators.
Add to that, all-SEC honors and you've got a pretty solid outside linebacker.
Second team: Ryan Stamper
124 tackles, 13 for loss, 2 INTs
Stamper's not a big stats guy, but he has stepped up this year and is the team's leading tackler. He made 13 tackles against Mississippi State while Spikes was sidelined. Also, he's finally got a couple of interceptions. So much for "too slow."
Honorable mention: AJ Jones
Don't Mention: Dustin Doe's touchdown
First Team: Joe Haden
194 tackles, 6 INTs, 29 passes defensed
Joe Haden is the best corner since Lito Sheppard and the best currently in football. If there's one sure thing on the Gators it's that Joe Haden will make the tackle.
Mark Ingram just got to the outside and he only has one man to beat? No problem, that one guy's Joe Haden.
Don't believe me? Do you think I'm exaggerating and displaying way too much Florida homerism? Chew on this, 138 of his tackles have been solo tackles.
He's pretty damn good in coverage too, despite the low INT numbers. Those are so low because his coverage on deep passes is about as tight as you can get.
Second Team: Will Hill
77 tackles, 2 INTs
Hill is the biggest reason that the Gators switched to a 3–3–5 this year. He's athletic enough to cover the two and three receivers and he can stop the run as well as most linebackers.
While his stats aren't as impressive as many of the other Gators' DBs, his physical playing style is a major reason that the Gators have such a stout defense.
First Team: Keiwan Ratliff
12 INTs, 2 Fumble rec, 5 TDs
Ratliff is the ballhawkingest ballhawk in Gators history. Ok, a bit of an exaggeration, but he did snag nine picks in one season, tied for third in the NCAA, and took two back to the house, earning him 2003 SEC defensive player of the year honors as well as multiple first team All American lists.
Second Team: Ryan Smith
8 INTs, 54 tackles
Smith only played one year at UF, but he made a lot of noise. His eight picks were tied for third in FBS football and was fourth in the SEC in passes defensed. Smith was awarded third team All-American honors.
Honorable mention: Janoris Jenkins
Don't mention: 2007
First Team: Lito Sheppard
8 INTs, 1 TD
Sheppard finished the 2000 season with six picks for 179 yards and one TD. Good for 16th in the nation in interceptions and 4th in the nation in interception return yards.
Sheppard was a bit of an Ed Reed type once he got the ball in his hands. He seemed to know how to play offense better than the receivers could play defense, which is always a plus in a ball hawking DB.
His lockdown nature in 2001 kept him from repeating the gaudy stats of 2000, but the voters still recognized his game changing ability voting him an All–American in both seasons.
Second Team: Dee Webb
118 tackles, 24 pass deflections
Not a ball hawking corner like the first teamer, but a solid player anyway.
He graded out as the best DB on the team in 2004 and 2005 and earned All SEC honors in 2005. Webb was a bit closer to a Joe Haden–lite than anything else.
First Team: Reggie Nelson
7 INTs, 97 tackles, 1 TD
These stats don't exactly jump off the page until you realize that almost all of them came during the 2006 season.
Nelson might have been the top DB in the nation in 2006 although the voters selected Aaron Ross for the Thorpe Award.
He was an Ed Reed style safety who could make big hits and cover defenders; right now he's the measuring stick for all Florida DBs.
Second Team: Major Wright
8 INTs, 145 tackles
I can't remember a player ever stepping into a predecessor's shoes so comfortably.
After Reggie Nelson declared for the draft (an inevitability if you watched the 2006 season), the Gators were left with a very shallow secondary.
Enter, Major Wright, "The Eraser 2.0". I've also heard him called "Wright Out." He hits just as hard, plays just as fast, and can cover better than he's given credit for.
Really, he is Reggie Nelson with a different haircut.
First Team: Ahmad Black
8 INTs, 116 tackles, 2 TDs
Who the hell is this guy? That was my first comment on Ahmad Black during the 2008 opener against Hawaii. He had just intercepted a pass in the endzone for a touchback (he'd get another, later for a touchdown).
After his two INT breakout, Black went on to grab five more picks in the 2008 season. He finished tied for seventh in the NCAA in picks and second in the conference to Eric Berry.
His continued excellent play has fended off surging defender Will Hill to the point that Charlie Strong now starts five DBs.
Second Team: Tony Joiner
3 INTs, 91 tackles
Joiner was a consistent, but unexceptional strong safety. Granted, he was only unexceptional because you didn't hear his name.
He wasn't getting burned and he wasn't making plays on the ball, but he was quietly racking up about 5 tackles per game during 2007.
He may not cover like the rest of the Gators' athletic DBs, but he could tackle better than almost all of them.
Don't mention: Tony Joiner's tow-truck incident
First Team: Eric Wilbur
Wilbur gets this pretty much by default. Chas Henry never sets foot on the field, and I don't remember the other punters.
Anyway, Wilbur was pretty damn good for a punter. The 2006 Gators' defense was so strong that it's almost not fair that Wilbur was such a good punter.
Second Team: Chas Henry
If the 2006 team had it easy thanks to good punting, then the 2009 defense is making it even more unfair.
This defense is stouter, and the punting is arguably as good, although Henry doesn't see the field nearly as often as Wilbur (so much for a struggling offense, I guess)
Honorable mention: other punters
Don't mention: that I just ranked punters
First Team: Jeff Chandler
Florida field goal kicking doesn't have much of a rich tradition, but an 85 percent success rate will make me not hate you, kicker.
Second Team: Caleb Sturgis
He hasn't sucked yet.
Honorable Mention: ? They're kickers. They're treated with the "if you ain't first, you're last" Ricky Bobby mentality
Don't Mention: Chris Hetland. The only Gator I've booed, and I booed him every time he stepped out onto the field.
First Team: Brandon James
1229 punt return yds, 11.6 ypr, 4 TDs
2493 kick return yds, 24.2 ypr, 1 TD
Is this even a contest? James is the most explosive return man in Gators football history.
Well, Percy probably would have beaten him (have you watched a Vikes' game this year), but he's James' only theoretical competition.
James has been All-SEC pretty much every year for special teams. I think they even gave it to him while he was in high school.
This year's been a big drop off for some reason, but all it takes is one missed tackle to send this guy into the end zone... or one block in the back to take it back after he crosses the goal line.
Honorable mentions: A lot of decent and good return men who aren't in James' stratosphere, Percy if he ever tried
Don't mention: 2009 punt returns
53–9, 2 national championships, 2 SEC championships, 3–1 bowl record
Urban went from questionable, to Gators savior in two seasons. Then he went on to most successful Gators coach ever two years later.
He's a sure-thing Ring of Honor inductee in only his fifth season as head coach.
Whether he's true to his word or he leaves in the near future for a new challenge Urban is the best thing to happen to the Gators in the 2000s.
1. Tim Tebow
No contest. He's the Heisman winning, record setting, SEC touchdown leading do–everything QB who has one national title to legitimately call his own and a large part of a second one.
Right now, with five games remaining in his career, he's the best Gators player ever, not just of the decade.
2. Percy Harvin
One of the most explosive players in SEC history. If Superman wears Tim Tebow pajamas then Reggie Bush wears Percy Harvin pajamas.
Finished his career with a ridiculous 9.3 ypc and 14.7 yprec. If not for the injuries, he'd probably have edged out Tim Tebow; stop and think how scary that statement is.
3. Chris Leak
Won the 2006 national championship despite criticism over his role in the offense. Nearly everyone wanted to see Tebow as the day one starter, but Leak chugged along, taking the boos in stride, and quietly put together one of the better careers by a Gators' QB.
4. Brandon Spikes
The heart and soul of the Gators' phenomenal defense. He also was one of the lone bright spots on the disappointing 2007 unit.
5. Rex Grossman
An absolute monster who should have been the first Sophomore to ever win the Heisman. At least Grossman's season paved the way for the Heisman to open it's arms to younger players.
2006 USC 16 @Florida 17
My favorite game of all time. If I had the opportunity to witness any football game, I'd pick this one again.
The score screams defensive battle, but the two squads combined for 811 yards of offense. Chris Leak was perfect, and Chris Hetland was awful.
Ryan Succop, the SEC's best kicking talent was terrifying with a one point lead and only seconds remaining on the clock.
Then Jarvis Moss did it again. He blocked his second kick of the game and kept the SEC title hopes alive (and soon to be national champioship hopes).
Watch it. If you don't get goosebumps at :18 seconds in, you're not a Gator fan.
2008 Alabama 20 Florida 31
The more dramatic of the Gators' two 2008 title games featuring five lead changes and a Heisman worthy performance by Tebow.
Prior to this game the knock on Tebow was not his throwing mechanics or some other NFL–ish nitpicking, it was that Tebow couldn't come from behind to win.
Well, he managed just that in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship, fully solidifying his status as a winner.
2005 Vandy 42 @Florida 49 OT
Sidenote: this remains the only Gators OT game I've seen in person, and it was worth every minute of excruciating "Oh crap we are going to lose to Vandy" pain.
Jay Cutler goes nuts in the fourth quarter, nearly pulling off a huge upset. I doubt more than 10 percent of the football watching public even realizes that Jay Cutler is a Vandy alum, but Gators fans remember it well.
The Gators managed to survive his three-TD fourth quarter, which put the game into overtime, and pulled out the victory in the second OT.
2004 @Florida State 13 Florida 21
Zook's farewell will live on in infamy for Seminoles as he desecrated the newly christened Bobby Bowden Field with a Gators win.
The Gators would go on to get smoked by Miami in the Peach Bowl leaving the Gators 7–5 and solidifying the decision to fire Zook, but no matter how late his shining moment came it still shone brightly.
2006 Ohio State 14 Florida 41
This wasn't a good game, and certainly the 2008 championship is more deserving for it's on field drama, but the 2006 championship put the questions over the Gators' coaching choice to rest permanently while setting the team down it's current path.
Yes, this is the game that started it all, and turned the 2000s from a potentially disappointing decade to the best one yet.
5 Youtube moments
Jarvis Moss's South Carolina block. I think this marks the third mention of this play in the article.
The original jump pass. The biggest reason for the LSU–UF "rivalry"
Brandon Spikes' not dirty play against Georgia. Two plays into the game and Spikes sets the tone. The revenge for the stomp was on.
The Tebow pledge.
Tebow throws a block, UF sends more fans to Tally than the Noles, listen to the crowd noise after the Harvin TD
5 best recruiting classes
2006 (Tebow, Spikes, Harvin)
2003 (Caldwell, Leak, Moss)
2007 (Pounceys, Haden, Dunlap, Hernandez)
2004 (Harvey, Ingram, Siler, Tartt, Trautwein)
2002 (Baker, Fason, Wynn)
5 best teams
2008–about as strong as you can get
2009–undefeated so far, strongest defense of the decade, but the offense is lacking
2006–strong defense, sporadic offense (sounds familiar, doesn't it?). The Gators sent eight players to the NFL in the 2007 draft
2001– two SEC losses by a combined five points kept the Gators out of the SEC and national title hunts. Huge bowl win against Maryland
2000– Gators win the SEC but lose the battle of the state getting blown out by FSU then by Miami in the Sugar Bowl