Perfect TIMing?—Part III: 15 Questions Facing The 2009 Florida Gators

Scotty FranchiseCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2009

MIAMI - JANUARY 08:  The Florida Gators defense celebrates after the stopped Chris Brown #29 of the Oklahoma Sooners on a fourth and goal play in the second quarter during the FedEx BCS National Championship game at Dolphin Stadium on January 8, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Can you believe that games kickoff THIS WEEK?!?! Including our first big bowl game of the year with Virginia Tech vs. Alabama. Seriously, we may not get a matchup that good in the Orange Bowl this year. 

I don’t think any season will be as strange or captivating as the 2007 season where we had our first two-loss BCS champion raise the crystal ball above their heads.

As promised (kind of), here are the last five of the series of 15 Questions facing the 2009 Florida Gators. If you missed Part I, you can find it here, and Part II here.

Question No. 5: Good or Bad Mood

Will Emmanuel Moody ever be an impact player at Florida?

I once held out high hopes for Moody. At one point in time, I thought he just needed to get used to the system and learn the plays. Then I thought, “well, he’s probably like D.Wynn and needs a fullback and an I-formation."

I eventually settled into, “he’ll be huge against Tennessee, Georgia, and LSU when we need to be tough between the tackles”…didn’t happen. As time has progressed, it seems that Coach Meyer has sent about 100 different messages about how he really feels about Moody.

In the Orange and Blue pre-season game, Moody touched the ball the same amount of times as I did. Zero. We actually may have been wearing the same outfit…shorts and a t-shirt.

He is constantly hurt, but if you read between the lines of what coaches are saying, it would appear that Moody is either refusing to practice with small injuries or practicing poorly. Coaches say things like, “well, he needs to learn to practice and play a little bit nicked up."

Moody left a crowded USC backfield to come to Florida, where at the time we had “average” speed backs like DeShawn Wynn and Kestahn Moore as our primary ball carriers.

Then Demps and Rainey showed up on campus when Harvin was already here, and they all picked up the playbook quicker than Moody.

I hate to say it (any my brother is going to flip when he sees this), but with freshman stud Mike Gilleslee on deck, Demps and Rainey each with another year, I have a feeling that Emmanuel Moody will be leading Furman, Appalachian State, or Delaware to a National title in 2010.

I hope that he at least enjoyed his education here. I hope I’m wrong, but he just doesn’t seem like he’s ever going to get on the field for any significant time.

Question No. 4: Over/Under: 1.5

What’s the over under on the amount of shutouts the Gators will have this year?

I set the number at one-and-a-half, meaning they’d have to pitch two shutouts to win that bet. In this day and age, it is a pretty special feat to shut a team out.

Not only does your defense have to be lights out, but your offense has to get 4-5 first downs every possession as well to keep the other team out of field goal range.

Just a quick glance at the schedule, there’s a chance against Charleston Southern (but lots of young guys will play in that one), Tennessee (you laugh, but they scored 6 points against Florida last year—at home), Kentucky (I have no idea who their QB is this year), and Vandy (always a shutout threat).

Word on the street is that Florida’s defensive players are desperately trying to shed the reputation as a “bend but don’t break” defense to a shutdown defense. That could mean more gambles and big plays for the other team, or it could mean trouble for other teams.

I personally don’t think Florida will get one shutout. College Football just doesn’t work like that anymore.

Speaking of over/under…have you seen the point spreads being set for Florida games?!?! I’ve heard 73 points vs. Charleston Southern. I’ve heard anywhere between 30 and 40 for Tennessee.

I don’t think there’s a number the wise guys won’t put up there for the Gators this year. I also think they will likely be 1-11 vs. the spread because of the crazy numbers that might be set.

Although, if Florida gets big leads and takes out their starters…you’ve got John Brantley waiting on deck (Gatorade High School Player of the Year, 2006), along with Gillislee, Moody if he’s healthy that week, and an array of guys trying to make their mark. Gators vs. the number may be more intriguing than some of their games.

Question No. 3: Who is Tebow Throwing to On Third and Seven This Year?

Who will step up as Florida’s No. 1 receiver and who ARE the receivers this year?

It looks as though Deonte Thompson will be looked to to step into the No. 1 receiver role this year. Urban Meyer has stated that is his goal for Thompson.

Aaron Hernandez will get a lot of work his way, but looks like he’ll be the only tight end Florida carries on their roster this year (Desmond Parks is “not ready to play this year” according to Coach Meyer).

Then there’s Riley Cooper, who in my opinion, made the biggest catch of the game by a receiver on third and 12 late in the game. Cooper has signed a contract with the Texas Rangers to play baseball once this season is over.

He was drafted in the 25th round by the Rangers this past Spring. I don’t understand that…I watched about 33 percent of Cooper’s at-bats in 2009 and he struck out A LOT!

Imagine Pedro Cerrano from the movie Major League…that was Riley Cooper…“straight ball I hit very good. Curve ball, not so much." Cooper will provide a good target, however, word on the street is that he came into training camp with a “baseball body” (read: scrawny), and Mickey Marotti needed to get his hands on him.

Otherwise, there is a lot of unproven talent lying out there. Carl Moore made two huge catches last year, but would be classified as less than dependable. He played big in the SEC title game, but then didn’t play against Oklahoma.

Andre DeBose was the source of much excitement early on; however, the latest news is that DeBose may need surgery on his hamstring. He’d been nursing it for some time, but now it appears that it may be a torn tendon and not just a tight or strained hammy. Maybe the Percy Harvin comparisons are right on point…

The receiving corp. will be different, but remember this Florida team and offense is a physical, run first offense. Don’t let the phrase “spread offense” fool you into thinking “finesse” offense.

They’ll throw it around a bit, but Florida’s best games are when Tebow throws about 14-20 passes and has 7-9 carries. They beat No. 1 Alabama last year and Cooper, Moore, and David Nelson all caught TD passes.

They’ll be fine, but it will be interesting to see who Tebow goes to on third and seven or more situations. They may take a Florida Basketball philosophy to that scenario.

If you ask Billy Donovan, or any of his players from the 2006 and 2007 title teams, who gets to take the last shot with the clock ticking down and you need a basket, to a man, they would all say, “the open man”, or “whoever has the best shot dictated by what the defense is doing." Now that’s a team.

Question No. 2: Who’s Calling the Plays?

Will the departure of Dan Mullen cause the UF offense to slow down at all?

I think any time you transition to a new coach of any sort there will be a learning curve of some sort, however, Steve Addazio has been with Coach Meyer for some time and worked as offensive line coach under Meyer and Mullen since their arrival in Florida.

Mullen and Tebow probably knew what the other was thinking before they could speak after three years together. How quickly with Addazio and Tebow get on the same page? There’s no telling.

I don’t think it will be a completely seamless transition (more timeouts with play clock running down, more on-field personnel/package issues early in the season), but again, with Florida’s schedule this year, they can work around some of that at certain times. Just don’t call audibles at LSU. Case closed.

Question No. 1: Can You Be Perfect?

Can the 2009 Florida Gators go undefeated and win a National Championship?

As I’ve said, I’m worried about whether Florida can get back into the top two in the BCS ranking if they lose a game. Here’s the thing…they’ll be favored in every game…but so is every team in the top five and top 10 (unless they’re playing another higher ranked team), and yet going undefeated is a rarity in today’s college football landscape.

Someone always jumps up and gets you…Iowa got Penn State last year. Ole Miss got Florida (can this PLEASE be the last time we mention this…?). Oregon State got USC.

They will have huge targets on their backs this year and on any Saturday, someone can jump up and steal one from you. It’s almost an unfair expectation, but one that Florida, and more specifically, Tim Tebow kind of put out there (after the game we will no longer speak of) as a goal.

I think this team is supremely talented and has EVERYTHING it needs to win all their games this year. I fear facing an angry Texas team in the BCS championship game (they got snubbed last year).

What I fear most for the Gators season dawned on me as I was writing this article though. I’m finishing this on a Monday afternoon/evening. I had promised this to be done by Sunday.

I’m a full day late because my Saturday and Sunday were completely absorbed by getting my home and tailgating equipment ready and set to go for the season. I attended a UF soccer game, shopped, cleaned, began un-off seasoning grills, chairs, tables, etc…and then some things came up for work that I needed to take care of.

Then the wife came home from a weekend away and wanted to share how her weekend went. I had a meeting, then my brother came over for dinner with us. Before I knew it, it was 11:00. I missed Mad Men, hadn’t written my article, and was exhausted. Deadline missed.

My point is…“things” happen. They happen all the time, to all of us. You forget your Lowe’s coupon at home and have to circle back. You can’t find a parking spot near the mall. You forget to switch clothes from the washer to dryer.

You cause a fumble that the other team ends up picking up and scoring with. You hit the goal post and it goes wide. They hit the goal post and it goes in. You run out of toilet paper. Your headset stops working. You didn’t plan on stopping for gas. Your QB’s nose won’t stop bleeding and he can’t go into the game.

“Things” happen and sometimes for no good reason. They happen and you must adjust your game plan or scrap it altogether. The promises and commitments you make become subject to the alignment of the stars, traffic, and where the ball bounces.

This Florida team is no different. How will they react when they are faced with the real life, “no way in hell game” (those of you who read Bill Simmons or have played any version of Madden or NCAA football…you know what I’m talking about)? 

We tend to think that Tim Tebow and the Gators are impervious to that game…but they’re not. They had four of those games in 2007 and one last year.

Can Florida be “perfect” this year? I think so. The only guaranteed thing that I can promise you is this: you will never see…a team play as hard as this team. You will never see…a player push his team as hard as…well, you know the rest.

Have a great season. Thanks for reading. Keep an eye out for my “View from the Top” series this season. I’ll follow the tailgating scene in Gainesville, the game from my seats in the 89th row in the south end zone, and my favorite part “Heard/Overheard”…quotes that I hear people saying in and around the Swamp on game day.

Go Gators!


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