Florida Gators: The Scariest Team In College Football

McLeod NealeAnalyst IJuly 21, 2008

It is human nature to be scared of the unknown.  I am pretty sure that everyone can agree with that statement.

Do you remember when you were afraid of the dark?

Point proven.

There is no doubt about it.  Florida is by far the scariest team coming into this college football season.  That is because the Gators have so much talent and it is impossible to know how good this team is going to be this year. 

Some of the early preseason magazines predict that the Gators will go all the way, while others point to the four losses that Florida suffered through last season and say that it is ludicrous to think that the Gators could make a run at the national championship. 

All I have to say is that Florida was coming off of a nine-win season in 2005 as well, and the defense got significantly better during that off-season.  The same logic says that the Gators would not win the national championship in 2006.  Go figure...



Last season the Gators had arguably the most explosive offense in the nation.  They finished third in the nation as a scoring offense only behind Kansas and Hawaii.  The reason why Florida is so scary is that as good as the Florida offense was last year, it should be significantly better this year.

Most people would refuse to believe that the best offense in the country last year could improve significantly, but with a close up look it is very possible.  The Gators add Chris Rainey, Emmanuel Moody, and Mon Williams to the third-ranked rushing attack in the SEC.

I do not think that people realize how much talent that is.  Moody was the Pac10 freshman of the year at Southern Cal and is in the mold of a feature back.  He brings a nice combination of size and speed.

Chris Rainey is now up to 180 pounds, and he is receiving Percy Harvin comparisons. Harvin averages over nine yards a carry, by the way. 

The overlooked guy here is Mon Williams, who was slated to be the starter last year before he tore his ACL.  Mon will give the Gators a viable goal-line option from the running back position.  That is a whole lot of talent to add to what was already one of the best rushing offenses in the SEC.

The Gators will be better on offense because Tim Tebow will be significantly improved.  That is another idea that lots of people would find to be crazy, but it could happen.

Just because Tim Tebow won the Heisman trophy it does not mean that he cannot improve as a quarterback.  People seem to forget that Tim was a first-year starter last year as a sophomore.  He still has plenty of things to work on. 

If you watched Tim Tebow last year in high pressure situations, he had the tendency to zone in on Percy Harvin; if he was not open, then Tebow would tuck it and run.  That rendered all of Florida's weapons useless due to the fact that Tebow was not looking for them.

Tebow should be a more seasoned and poised quarterback and he should take his game to another level simply by maturing mentally as a quarterback.  Tebow will have better vision this year and now all of the options should be a threat on every play.

Tebow should scramble a lot less, because he will have more confidence and he will not panic and run with the ball as much.  Due to the fact that Tebow is a dual threat as a QB, it really did inflate his numbers a little bit as a passer.

In situations where a conventional pocket passer would throw the ball away because they waited too late to throw the ball or because they did not see their receivers, Tim was able to gain yardage on the ground and preserve his passing efficiency and completion percentage numbers because he had the tools as a runner to bail himself out.

I think the fact that Tebow was the leading rusher and only threw two more passes than Matthew Stafford last year proves that point.

This is something that I have not heard anyone mention, but I am going to throw the idea out there that if the order of the games on Florida's schedule were reordered then Florida would have had a 11-2 record last year. 

The Gators were on top of the world after defeating Tennessee 59-20 in one of the most lopsided wins in the history of the Florida-Tennessee rivalry.  The spread option looked impossible to stop, and Urban Meyer looked like the return of the evil genius himself.

The biggest changing point in Florida's season last year was the Auburn game, though.  I will argue that Florida would have beaten Michigan and Georgia if Florida had played those two teams before they played Auburn. 

I give credit to Will Muschamp, the best defensive coordinator in college football, for winning those games for Michigan and Georgia. Muschamp found out a way to attack the spread offense that sent a thundering message to the rest of the country in the romping win over Tennessee just a few weeks prior to that game. 

That gave Georgia and Michigan the blueprint that they needed to stop Florida's spread attack.  If the order of the games had been switched so that the Georgia and Michigan games preceded the Auburn game, then Michigan and Georgia would have been just as helpless as the Tennessee defense because they would not know how to attack the spread.

So why does all of this matter?

Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen have changed the offense in big ways this off season.  I will explain that in more detail down below, but the important thing is that Will Muschamp is gone from Auburn and Auburn is not on Florida's schedule.  That is a HUGE factor.

So with the Florida offense tweaked to account for the weaknesses that Muschamp was able to point out, will the other defensive coordinators be able to adjust and slow down the Florida offense?  I am not so sure that Willie Martinez will be so successful without seeing Muschamp give it a shot before he does.

So what changes is Florida making to the offense that will give defensive coordinators nightmares the night before the game?

Well I believe that the offense is going to be more centered around using Cornelius Ingram and Aaron Hernandez, who form the best tight end tandem in the country.  These guys are going to cause all sorts of problems next year due to the fact that they are both athletic enough to line up at WR. 

Cornelius was the best two-sport athlete in the nation coming out of high school, and he would probably be starting as a small forward for the Gators if he had stuck with basketball.

Cornelius runs a 4.5 and he is the Gators best red zone option.  If he becomes a solid blocker this off season he could be the best TE in the country. He is already regarded by many to be the best TE in the SEC.

Aaron Hernandez has not seen an incredible amount of action, but the fact that he holds the Connecticut record for receiving yards in one season with 1,346 tells you everything that you need to know about his ability to catch the ball.  Hernandez also has pretty good speed, as he runs a 4.6.

Urban Meyer wants to take advantage of the talent that he has at TE, so now he has installed a two tight end set that can help with running the ball from the running back position.

The thing that is scary about this tandem is that when they both come in the game and they can both line up on the line as blocking TE's or they can split out wide as WR's and create mismatch problems for linebackers. 

It is a nightmare for defensive coordinators because if you put an extra defensive back in the game, then the offense can go into their two tight end package at the line of scrimmage, which can cause problems for the defense, but at the same time if you trade that extra defensive back out for a linebacker, then you have a possible mismatch if the TE's all of the sudden split outside as WR's. 

To sum it up, the defensive coordinator is in a lose-lose situation. He can't win this battle because the offensive coordinator has a counter move for every personnel set that he sends out onto the field.

The other thing that could take the Florida offense to another level is if Chris Rainey can live up to the hype.  This will solve the problem that Florida had last year: Percy Harvin cannot play RB and WR at the same time.

So with Chris Rainey and Percy Harvin on the field at the same time, the problem is potentially solved.  You will now get burned if you overanticipate Percy Harvin running the ball when he is lined up as a running back.

Rainey and Harvin pose the same type of problems that Aaron Hernandez and Cornelius Ingram do.  They can line up at multiple positions on the field and depending on where they line up that changes the personnel that the defensive coordinator wants in the game. 

If one of the two lines up RB, then you want a linebacker in the game, but if both split out wide, then you want a defensive back in the game.  Again, the defensive coordinator is in a lose-lose situation.

Now the defensive coordinator is already fighting an unwinnable battle, but there is one more thing that makes every decision that the defensive coordinator makes of the utmost importance.  That is the new clock rules.

The new rules do not allow the defense to substitute when the offense goes into no-huddle mode.  So consider this scenario.  The defensive coordinator puts his personnel in the game, but then he realizes that he needs to substitute because his personnel does not match up well with the offense. 

Well the offensive coordinator sees the same thing, so he signals down to the quarterback to institute the no huddle.  Now the defense cannot substitute, and the offense is able to march down the field and score because of one substitution mistake the opposing defensive coordinator made.  Ouch!

I think that this offense has the potential to be the best that college football has seen, but only time will tell.  All this offense needs is a decent defense and it should be good enough to win a national championship and beat any team in the country.



The Gators allowed more points than any other Gator defense since the '60s last year.  It is hard to see the defense not improving significantly just because it was so bad last year. 

The Gators had nine new starters on defense last year, and they were considered to be the youngest and the most inexperienced team in the country.  Well, Florida is still the youngest team in the country this year, but they return a boatload of starters this year. 

They lose Tony Joiner and Derrick Harvey.  Both will be missed, but they should not be too difficult to replace.

The expectations for Carlos Dunlap are higher than any other defensive end to come to Florida and deservedly so. Dunlap stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 290 pounds. He clocked a 40 time of a 4.6. 

NFL scouts drool when they look at this guy.  Many people that follow the Gators closely believe that Carlos Dunlap will be the greatest defensive end ever to step on the field at Florida.

Things have been become more complicated for the Gators at the safety position.  You can read all about it in one of my other articles.  This is the position of concern, but the Gators could have the answer in the super-phenom Will Hill. 

He was a consensus All-American at multiple positions coming out of high school.  He may be able to step in right away just like Major Wright did last year.  The two could end up being the best safety tandem in the history of the program. 

These are the types of question marks that make the Gators a scary team.  If it works out for the Gators, then it is the best thing that could have happened, but if it does not then the Gators could be in trouble.

The CB's supposedly played very well in spring practice.  Wondy Pierre-Loius has shutdown capabilities and all-freshmen Joe Haden will man the other side.

Florida is being lead by the best middle linebacker in the country in Brandon Spikes.  He can do it all. 

Also, Florida is looking for five star defensive tackles John Brown, Torrey Davis, and Omar Hunter to give that dominant pressure in the middle of the line to help Spikes roam free.

The talent is there on defense, but will it step up?

Everyone in the country besides the Florida faithful is hoping not, because if it happens, Florida could be a nearly impossible team to beat.


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