Florida Gators football preview

adell@bradenton.comAugust 27, 2010 

A look at the 2010 Florida Gators, coached by Urban Meyer.

NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM

John Brantley, jr., QB

This young man arguably has the toughest job in America replacing a legend in Tim Tebow, who Gator fans believed walked on water and could do no wrong. To make matters worse, expectations are so high in Gainesville that last year’s 13-1 season was considered a disappointment there.

The 6-3, 220 pound Brantley is a better passer than Tebow, but can’t run like him and it will take some time before he commands the respect of players and fans. He has a nice set of stats during his two years as a backup, but those numbers were compiled against lesser competition in games already decided.

To make things tougher, the Gators lost five of their top six receivers, including heralded Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez. The top returner is Deonte Thompson, who caught 24 passes for 343 yards. RB Chris Rainey moves to receiver and will likely be use in the slot. None of the tight ends has caught a pass and for the most part the receiving corps has yet to prove itself in game conditions, but the potential is there.

Brantley threw 41 TD passes in each of his last two years at Ocala Trinity Catholic and finished his high school with 99 TD passes, breaking Tebow’s mark by one.

Due to his arm strength and accuracy, he is considered a better pro prospect than Tebow by most scouts, but doesn’t have the charisma of the former Heisman Trophy winner. However, he is not a statuesque quarterback as some critics claim and instead prefers to give his receivers more time to get free, which will certainly endear him to them. If he can survive away games at Tennessee and Alabama, Brantley could make people drop all those Tebow comparisons.

FILLING THE VOID

Andre Debose/Jordan Reed, freshmen WR

The Gators lost plenty with the departure of leading receivers Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez. A lot of new faces will be competing to become Brantley’s favorite target, including Rainey, who learned it’s tough to get carries in what could be the most crowded backfield in the country. The guy who could be a big help is 6-3, 240 pound redshirt freshman Jordan Reed, a converted high school quarterback who will replace Hernandez at tight end. Also waiting in the wings after sitting out last season, is redshirt freshman Andre Debose, a 5-star recruit from Sanford Seminole, who also shined as a receiver and running back in high school.

DEEP AT

OL: This unit should make the transition smoother for Brantley because it is one of the best offensive lines in the country. Mike Pouncey moves from guard to center to replace his twin brother and NFL first round pick Maurkice. He will join fellow All-American candidate guard Carl Johnson and form a tough tandem with tackles Marcus Gilbert and Xavier Nixon.

THIN AT

QB: The backup to Brantley is true freshman QB Trey Burton, who starred at Venice High, enrolled at Florida early and participated in spring drills. At 6-2, 222 with good speed and power, he may be used similar to how Tebow was utilized his freshman year. The other backup at QB is also a freshman.

IMPACT NEWCOMER

Jelani Jenkins, fr, LB

Everyone is talking about the 6-1, 223 pound redshirt freshman from Maryland , who was rated the top outside linebacker in the country his senior year of high school where he was also a gifted running back with 4.4 speed. He figures to start in the middle and should be nice replacement for Brandon Spikes, a Bednarik Award finalist, who was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by New England after registering more than 300 tackles during his career with the Gators.

COACH QUANDRY/Key Losses

Urban Meyer hopes the program can recover from the post Tebow era without too much of a letdown. He also hopes to find some defensive linemen who can replace NFL second round picks Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham. Then there is the October date at Alabama, a team the Gators could likely wind up meeting again in the SEC title matchup. This game might mean more to Brantley’s confidence than anything else and show whether the receiving corps is comparable to what the folks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium have seen the last four years.

CAMP STOCK

UP: The Gators might have the best secondary in the nation even with the loss of All-American cornerback Joe Haden. Safeties Ahmad Black (70 tackles) and Will Hill (42 tackles) can fly to the ball and are physical. At cornerback, Janoris Jenkins is ready to take over where Haden left off and on the other side Jeremy Brown seems set to get going after sitting out the last two seasons because of back problems. The running backs corps is deep with Jeff Demps and Emmanuel Moody leading the way.

DOWN: There were some distractions this summer with allegations that Maurkice Pouncey took money from an agent before last season ended and it brought back talk about troubled players who made negative headlines during the Urban Meyer rein. It’s a lot of controversy the coach was hoping to avoid this year as the team takes on a new image without Tebow.

2010 SCHEDULE

Date Opponent

Sept. 4 MIAMI (OHIO)

Sept. 11 USF

Sept. 18 at Tennessee

Sept. 25 KENTUCKY

Oct. 2 at Alabama

Oct. 9 LSU

Oct. 16 MISSISSIPPI ST.

Oct. 30 *Georgia

Nov. 6 at Vanderbilt

Nov. 13 SOUTH CAROLINA

Nov. 20 APPALACHAIN ST.

Nov. 27 at Florida St.

*-at Jacksonville

2009 RESULTS

Opponent Result

CHARLESTON SO. W, 62-3

TROY W, 56-6

TENNESSEE W, 23-13

at Kentucky W, 41-7

at LSU W, 13-3

ARKANSAS W, 23-20

at Mississippi St. W, 29-19

Georgia W, 41-17

VANDERBILT W, 27-3

at South Carolina W, 24-14

FLORIDA INT’L W, 62-3

FLORIDA ST. W, 37-10

SEC Championship Game

Alabama L, 32-13

Sugar Bowl

Cincinnati W, 51-24

BY THE NUMBERS

11: Number of returning starters (6 offense/5 defense)

10: Florida has been to a league high 10 SEC championship games

84: Appearances Florida has made in the BCS rankings, second only to Texas

HEAD COACH

Urban Meyer

Sixth year Florida (57-8)

9 years overall (96-18)

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