Please understand that the purpose of this letter is to help the fans of the Florida Gators to find peace and bring clarity to a very emotional subject: the 2010 season and the football team's performance to date.
The Gators have lost two games in a row—one on the road and one in The Swamp. Some irrational people thought that this Gator team actually had a chance to contend for the national championship this year. Yes, the Gators are always contenders to a certain point, but after the number of high-profile players that left early or graduated after last season there is a bit of reloading and re-tooling happening with the team.
John Brantley is a very good quarterback; make no mistake about that. However, he is standing in the shadows of former Florida Gator great Tim Tebow. Some expectations that have been placed on Brantley are unrealistic to say the least. The biggest perpetrator may even be Steve Addazio, the offensive coordinator. Just look at some of the plays that have been called.
There should be no more option plays called with Brantley under center.
The offensive line has been reshuffled more times than a deck of cards at a Las Vegas blackjack table. Add to that Mike Pouncey has been moved over to his twin brother's former position and obviously is still learning it.
The coaching staff is still waiting for a wide receiver or two to step forward and become leaders on the team. The chair was pulled out for Deonte Thompson, but he continues to struggle catching balls in the end zone. Andre Debose, coming off missing his first season with a major hamstring injury, has begun to show what he is capable of. Carl Moore and Omarius Hines have also shown they have potential to be powerful weapons.
Jeffrey Demps has been hobbled after starting the season with a big bang. This offense is built for speed, and now that Chris Rainey was first moved to wide receiver and then suspended from the team, the team has relied heavily on Emmanuel Moody and Mike Gillislee. Both are good running backs, but neither one have the big-play capabilities of Demps.
Trey Burton has been a nice surprise for the Florida Gators, but he's a true freshman, and no, he's not Tim Tebow.
Defensively, the Gators have been pretty good especially in the secondary.
Everyone was worried about Joe Haden's departure, but Janoris Jenkins has stepped up and done quite nicely. Ahmad Black returned for his senior season and has provided excellent leadership. The Gators secondary is solid.
The linebackers, on the other hand, have some new faces. Jonathan Bostic, Jelani Jenkins and Dee Finley are getting significant playing time, along with seniors Brandon Hicks and A.J. Jones.
Special teams specialist Brandon James has graduated, and the aforementioned Debose and Jenkins seem to be stepping in since Demps is banged up. Debose scored a touchdown against LSU that brought the Gators back in the game.
Last, but not least, long-time defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is now the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, and Teryl Austin, formerly of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, now runs the defense.
The bottom line to all of this is simple: The Gator Nation needs to be patient. Coach Urban Meyer has brought two national championships to Florida in a very short time, so needless to say he has earned the trust and confidence of all involved.
With so many new faces and starters on the field, it's going to take time to fire on all cylinders. If Florida was in a weaker conference, for example the ACC, then it would be easier to acclimate. With the SEC comes tougher opponents and higher expectations.
The Florida Gators still have a shot to make it to Atlanta to represent the SEC Eastern Division. To do so, they cannot afford another loss. Now that South Carolina has beaten Alabama, the showdown between the Gamecocks and Gators in November will be epic.
Ironically, Steve Spurrier will do his best to stop Florida's return to Atlanta. Maybe another blocked field goal will do the trick just like in 2006.
The Florida Gators football team has brought plenty of excitement to the Gator Nation over the years; perhaps the time has come for us to show them the excitement and return it via encouragement. Don't give up yet on this team; there is still plenty of football left to be played.
Remember these lyrics, Gator Nation: We are all strong for Old Florida, down where the old Gators play—GO GATORS! In all kinds of weather, we'll all stick together, for F-L-O-R-I-D-A!
Hang in there, Gator Nation.
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