Saying Goodbye to Tim Tebow & Brandon Spikes: Who Will Lead the Gators in 2010?

Dan NelsonCorrespondent IJanuary 1, 2010

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 14:  Brandon Spikes #51 of the Florida Gators yells to his team against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes have been leading the Florida Gators offense and defense respectively for the last three seasons. Both of these players are incredibly talented, but that is just the surface of what they bring to the football field.

No two players have impacted the emotional state of a college football team the last few years like Spikes and Tebow. College football is an incredibly emotional game. These are young men who are just learning what it means to compete at the highest levels and the emotions that go with winning and losing.

While people speculate how the Gators will replace the talents of Tebow and Spikes, I wonder how they will replace their leadership. Effectively harnessing a college football team's emotions is one of the most important aspects of a field general.

There was not a Gator (or anyone else) that didn't believe Tim Tebow 100 percent when he gave his famous emotional speech after their loss to Ole Miss in 2008. That speech focused all of the Gators' emotional energy in the right place; and it worked.

Spikes brings a different emotional leadership to the Gators. While Tebow leads by getting his fellow players to channel emotions in a healthy way, Spikes brings the swagger. Spikes is the guy that stands over a star running back after planting him in the backfield . Spikes is the guy that shoots back comments at Lane Kiffin when the Tennessee coach runs his mouth.

That swagger, combined with Tebow's ability to focus the Gators' emotions, has been incredibly successful on the field. Finding players that can bring that energy in 2010 is going to be incredibly important to the Gators' success.

At the moment, I don't see a player that is going to bring that energy right away. There are a few players I have thought of, though, who have potential to bring some of that positive emotional energy.

1. Will Hill, Safety. Hill will be a junior next year, and he loves to hit. He flies around the field and goes hard on every play. He is a player that is always seeking out contact and could bring some of the swagger that Spikes brought.

2. Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback. Jenkins is a player in the Antoine Winfield mold: undersized, but still the best tackler on the team. Anytime the little guy on the field can play big, he has the opportunity to talk big and be a vocal leader.

3. John Brantley, Quarterback. As the successor to Tim Tebow, Brantley has no choice but to be thrust into a leadership role. Can he handle it? Urban Meyer seems to think so. Earlier in the season, Meyer had this to say of Brantley: "Now he seems to be a quarterback who has command of the game. Guys listen to him in the huddle.''

If Brantley and a couple of the players on defense can step up and lead the way in 2010, the Gators will again be a force to be reckoned with in the SEC. The Gators will certainly miss their graduating stars, but there is a lot of talent and potential waiting to be unleashed next season.