Florida Gators Football: 2008 Preview
No one will ever question the abilities of Urban Meyer and his spread offense. However, after their huge loss to Michigan at the Capital One Bowl, some questions have popped up about the Floirda Gator defense.
The defensive backs for Florida were embarrassed by Chad Henne. Returning corners Joe Haden and Wondy Pierre-Louis look to redeem themselves. Haden was the first true freshman to start at corner in the history of the Gators. Pierre-Louis had two interceptions, and grew as the year went on.
Major Wright also stepped up, lining up next to now-departed safety Tony Joiner. Wright finished third on the team with 67 tackles. The Gators will need to replace Joiner, but Dorian Munroe looks to be ready after leading the Gators with 13 special teams tackles last year.
Meyer has had problems with his defensive line since he arrived in Gainesville. The constant threat last season was Derrick Harvey, but he has moved on to play on Sundays and the Gators need to replace him quickly. Two starters from last year return and the main threat is end Jermaine Cunningham.
In his first season as a starter he had 6.5 sacks. Tackle Javier Estopinan looks to be the force in the middle and stop anyone from running against the Gators. There is a lot of hope in juco transfer Troy Epps. He had 10 sacks and 125 tackles in junior college.
The line backing corps is the strength of this team. Junior Brandon Spikes is living up to his name and the hype. He led the team with 131 tackles, and earned All-SEC while terrorizing his opponents.
Lining up alongside Spikes will be sophomore Dustin Doe. Doe was second on the team with 85 tackles, and played great when lined up with Spikes. The third backer appears to be A.J. Jones. He started nine games last year but appeared to be caught in a learning curve at some points.
As dangerous as the defense appears to be, the offense is just plain scary. The offense is led by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. Tebow accounted for 52 touchdowns last year, and looks to keep piling up the numbers. Tebow has a ground game around him now that he doesn’t have to be the focal point.
USC transfer Emmanuel Moody is a high profile running back that has a bright future. Besides Moody, the running back roster is loaded. Returning starter Kestahn Moore doesn’t want to give up what he has gained in his tenure. Several underclassmen will figure into the equation such as: Chris Raines, Mon Williams, and Brandon James.
With the developing threat at running back, there is no shortage of big playmakers at receiver. The biggest threat is junior Percy Harvin. Harvin is a natural threat with the ball in his hands. He led the team in receiving with 858 yards and finished second on the team in rushing. Harvin leads a talented group of receivers that Meyer will continue to develop as time goes on.
The offensive line will only have to break in one new player. Mike Pouncey will move from the d-line to block instead of shedding blockers. His twin brother Maurkice will continue at start at center and will lead this offensive line.
The x-factor is tight end Cornelius Ingram. The former quarterback has blossomed into a major threat because he is a mismatch across the board. He is too big and physical for a DB and too quick for a linebacker. Ingram hauled in 34 passes for 508 yards. Ingram is the type of hybrid player that Meyer wants to develop.
The Gators only leave the state of Florida three times during the season. They travel to face Tennessee, Arkansas, and Vanderbilt, while the Swamp welcomes Hawaii, Miami, Ole Miss, LSU, Kentucky and South Carolina to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. They will face the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville for the World’s Biggest Cocktail Party, and end the season go to Florida State to face the Seminoles.
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