Archive for the ‘Florida Gators’ Category

On the Spot: Four or Five Guys at Florida

July 21, 2009

Florida fans will take this as heresy, but Tim Tebow wasn’t the Gators’ best–or most important–offensive player last year. The guy who really kept opposing defensive coordinators up at night was Percy Harvin.

Jump passes and stirring speeches are cool and all. But whether he was lined up behind center or split out wide, Harvin provided coach Urban Meyer with a unique multipurpose weapon who was a threat to take it the house whenever he got his hands on the ball. Think Reggie Bush, Rocket Ismail, Desmond Howard–Harvin was that kind of playmaker par excellence during his time in Gainesville. So, if you’re looking for the biggest chink in the consensus number one’s armor, I think this is it.

(Yes, Homerism realizes that Florida beat Alabama in the conference championship with Harvin on the sidelines, so it’s not like he’s irreplaceable. The flip side: in my opinion, Harvin was the difference in the national championship game.)

Heading into 2009, Meyer will look to a host of Gators young and old to give his offense that Harvinesque spark.

Brandon James
The diminutive James has made some electrifying plays on special teams for Florida, returning four punts for touchdowns in the past three seasons. He has yet to make much of an impact otherwise. In his entire college, James has just 357 total yards and four touchdowns.

Frankie Hammond, Jr.
Hammond redshirted in 2008, making him somewhat of an unknown. The 6-0 wide receiver is cut from the classic Gator mold, though. In other words, he has plenty of speed to burn (4.4 40-yard dash). 

Jeff Demps
Demps may be the fastest of the heralded speedsters Meyer brought in with his 2008 recruiting class. Listed on Florida’s roster as a classic all-purpose “athlete,” Demps made immediate contributions in a variety of ways during his freshman season. He averaged 7.8 yards per rushing attempt, scoring seven touchdowns. Five of those scoring scampers covered more than 35 yards. He also caught 14 passes for an average of 9 yards per reception and blocked two punts.

Andre Debose
Debose, a true freshman, was rated as the second-best wide receiver in the country by ESPN coming out of high school. Despite being listed as a receiver, expect to see Debose line up as a running back frequently in ’09. With his speed and athleticism, there’s no question Debose has the skills  to be a home run hitter in the UF offensive scheme. How much of that scheme he can absorb in his first season is a big question, though.
Debose, Demps, Hammond and James clearly have the talent and athleticism to thrive in Florida’s offense, which feasts on friendly match-ups in space. Here’s the problem: none are Harvin.

Just because a committee of players can replace a departed superstar’s production, that doesn’t mean they can replace all the benefits he brought to the offense. For example, USC’s backfield has been populated by a fleet of outstanding players since Bush left campus, but not one has been able to match the Heisman winner’s brilliance. USC’s offense has continued to click in the past three seasons, but not to the level of the Bush era.
Like Bush, Harvin impacted a game in ways that were both measurable and not. Now that Harvin’s gone, who’s going to preoccupy opposing defenses? Who’s going to open up opportunities for the offense’s other players? And, most importantly, who’s the go-to guy when the Gators are in a tight spot?

Catching Up

July 7, 2009

Homerism has come across a few items in the last couple days that I thought were worth passing along.

*This will be Urban Meyer’s final season in Gainesville.
We know this “because his lips were moving” when asked about his interest in taking over at Notre Dame, per noted SEC authority Paul Finebaum.
In his weekly column that ran in the Mobile Press-Register today, Finebaum postulated–with curious certainty–that Meyer will light out for the greener pastures of South Bend after the season. Seeing as Charlie Weis’ ample frame is still keeping the coach’s seat plenty warm at ND, this seems just a bit premature. But that’s not the most shocking revelation in Finebaum’s missive; Meyer apparently slept with Finebaum’s wife!
OK, so we don’t know that for sure, but what else could have spurred Finebaum’s vitriolic hatred for arguably the best college football coach in the country?
*Texas, West Virginia have the right stuff; OU doesn’t.
The good people at Doc’s Sport Service have identified five criteria shared by all BCS champions. They eliminate all but six schools from competition this year: Florida, Iowa, Ole Miss, Texas, West Virginia and Virginia Tech. What’s wrong with OU? The Sooner defense finished outside the top 20 in scoring defense last season.
Oh well, I used to think my life had some kind of meaning. Cancel the season. Thanks for ruining the party, Bin Laden.
*Sports information directors, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose.
SIDs usually are quick with a stat sheet or directions to a press conference. So imagine Homerism’s surprise when he came across this insightful take on college football scheduling from Oklahoma SID Kenny Mossman. By the way, if you’ve never seen “the little Chinese gal” Mossman references in action, it’s breathtaking. (Few halftime acts could top this one, although Quick Change would give her a run for her money. Also, Homerism’s mom claims to have seen “Little E,” a midget Elvis impersonator, perform during a college basketball game once. Sounds spectacular, but I have yet to find evidence of his existence online.)
*The season seems so close.
In addition to the season preview stuff I’ll be writing for BH, I’m also going to be contributing to Tilting at Windmills’ ongoing Big 12 preview series. Somehow I drew Baylor and Colorado. Anyway, check it out if you have time.

You’re Irreplaceable

May 20, 2009

Preseason prognosticating requires us to make our predictions under the ceteris paribus assumption. So, there’s nothing like a little–or really big–wrench in the works to throw things out of kilter. You know what I mean: injuries, suspensions, scandals, etc. 

For almost any contender, the loss of just one cog in the machine can dash national championship hope, even if it’s just for one quarter of one game. Since we can’t foresee a star quarterback being thrown off the team or a playmaking linebacker blowing out his ACL, how about a little risk management? Below are the most indispensable players in college football for 2009.

Just ask the Sooners how jarring the loss of one key player can be. When MLB Ryan Reynolds went down with a season-ending knee injury early in the second half of the 2008 Red River Shootout, the Texas offense took control of the game. OU spent the rest of the season trying to plug that hole, with varying degrees of success.
It seems obvious that a Heisman-winning quarterback would be a major loss for a title contender. Losing Bradford poses a particularly scary scenario for OU coach Bob Stoops, though. OU’s backup signal callers consist of redshirt freshman Landry Jones and early enrollee Drew Allen. Both may turn out to be players, but neither is ready to take the Sooners to the promised land. Without Bradford, OU is the third-best team in the Big 12 South.
Arkansas transfer Williams brought a flair for the big play to USC’s offense in 2008, emerging as the Trojans’ top receiver early in the season. He averaged 15 yards per catch and scored 9 touchdowns on the season, including a stellar Rose Bowl against Penn State’s highly regarded defense: 10 catches, 162 yards and a TD.
Aside from Williams, USC’s receiving corp is long on talent but much shorter on proven producers. Junior wideout Ronald Johnson came on strong last season, but he doesn’t appear to be the kind of go-to guy Williams is. Not to mention, a trusted security blanket like the rangy Williams should help bring along a green quarterback.
On a roster with loads of talent, Williams is as close to irreplaceable as you’ll find in Troy.
A pass rusher may seem like an odd choice for Texas’ most irreplaceable piece, seeing as QB Colt McCoy executes the Longhorn offense so well. McCoy has super stud … backing him up, though.
Kindle, meanwhile, is expected to replace the departed Brian Orakpo as UT’s terror off the edge. In a pass-heavy conference like the Big 12, the ability to pressure the quarterback is paramount to a defense’s success. Without Kindle, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp would be counting on a gaggle of unproven youngsters to bring the heat.
Thought I’d say Tim Tebow for Florida, right? He’s an outstanding football player. But what would happen if Tebow went down with an injury before the season? Well, there’s talented backup John Brantley waiting in the wings. There would be a drop-off.
But would it be the same as if Spikes went down. He’s like a quarterback for the Gator D, and he’s a tackling machine. Could Florida’s second-stringers fill in for Spikes with the same aplomb as Tebow’s understudy? I’m skeptical.

Draft Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

April 10, 2009
Pick 8: Jacksonville Jaguars
Strengths: Running back, linebacker
Weaknesses: Wide receiver, pulse
The Pick: Percy Harvin, WR, Florida

The draftniks everywhere would kill this pick, as most mock drafts Homerism has come across have Harvin going much later in the first round. Shows what they know.

The Jaguars are a solid football team in most respects, but they lack an explosive home run hitter to add that element of danger to their offense. That makes Harvin a great fit in Jacksonville.

Tim Tebow got the hype, but Harvin made Florida’s offense go during his truncated time in Gainesville. He’s a dynamic playmaker who can do damage in a number of ways–out of the backfield, catching the ball on the run and in space, returning kicks and even under center.

On top of all that, Harvin is a Gator. That should give the Jags a nice bump at the box office. This just seems to make so much sense on a number of levels, which is why it will never happen.

Tebow Versus Jacko: The Farewell Tours

March 7, 2009

Lately, Homerism has been thinking about just how momentous 2009 will look in the history books 20 years from now. Amid all the historic happenings, two events really stand out as the clear candidates for No. 1 in a crowded top 10 of big moments: Jacko’s last rodeo and Tim Tebow’s college football farewell tour. (Obama’s inauguration is three. Rock of Love Bus comes in fourth.)

Sorry to inflict such a hackneyed vehicle of pop culture snark on you, but the only way to settle this appears to be a tale of the tape.
Signature Clothing Item

The Gloved One’s one-hand-only fashion statement started a trend, however short-lived it may have been. More than that, though, Jacko’s shiny glove announced to the world that he would be a force on his own, sans siblings. He didn’t need something to cover both hands–just one. It was fresh, it was new and it told us all that young Michael was special. The old rules didn’t apply.
Tebow’s jorts are a horse of an entirely different color. Jean shorts are a well-worn tradition among Florida denizens. Rocking the jorts shows his adoring Gator fans that for all his prodigious achievements on the field and good works off it, he’s just an ordinary man.
Edge: Tebow. Homerism also fancies himself a man of the people.
Experience–Confirmed or Alleged–with Young Men’s Genitalia
Circumcision has its detractors, but it’s a practice with documented medical benefits.
Let’s just move on.
Edge: Tebow.
Famous Friends

This looks like the age-old quantity-versus-quality debate. In the past, Jackson’s close confidantes have included the chimp Bubbles, Corey Feldman, Emmanuel Lewis, Macaulay Culkin, Brooke Shields and Elizabeth Taylor.
However, Tebow has this.
Edge: Tebow. Landslide.
Signature Move
Anyone who has ever tried to moonwalk knows just how tough it is to pull off.  At the top of his game, though, it was as easy as recovering from a rhinoplasty for Jack0.
Tebow, of course, has made the jump pass a part of college football lore. OU fans cringe just thinking about it.
Edge: The jump pass may be effective, but moonwalking is much cooler. Score one for MJ.
Greatest Achievement
So many accomplishments to choose from here.
Among Jackson’s achievements:
  • building an amusement park at his home;
  • producing the best-selling record ever, Thriller;
  • trouncing the judicial system not once, but twice–even O.J. couldn’t pull that off;
  • inspiring an episode of Law and Order: SVU;
  • having an MTV Video Music Award for career achievement named after him.
Tebow’s resume is equally impressive:
  • an appearance on Two-A-Days;
  • a Heisman Trophy win;
  • two national championships.
If we’re talking “greatest” achievement, though, how does it get any better for Jackson than his nine-minute video for Remember the Time, featuring Eddie Murphy, Magic Johnson and Iman? Likewise, if you spend five minutes with Tim Tebow, you become a better person. This one is just too close to call.
Edge: Push.
‘Enough Already’
Jacko. Tebow.
Edge: There are no winners here.
Theme Park Ride

Jackson’s 3-D extravaganza Captain EO drew millions of visitors every year during its 12-year run at Disney’s amusement parks. How many other rides can boast Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas among their creators? (By the way, Lucas’ involvement with this project should have presaged what a debacle the Star Wars prequels would turn out to be.)
Number 15 doesn’t have his own ride yet, but Homerism has no doubt we’ll see a Gator chomp loop-de-loop coaster at Praiseland any day now.
Edge: Jackson.

So there you have it: Tebow edges Jacko, but barely. Opponents should prepare to féte him accordingly next season. (How about a copy of a Matt Christopher classic to prepare for the next stage of his life?)

QB or Not QB? That is a Dumb Question

March 4, 2009

We’re still more than a year away from the 2010 NFL draft, but steel yourself for the inevitable deluge of pointless media bloviating about Tim Tebow’s future at the next level.

Take this one from the Orlando Sentinel, which surveys a mishmash of pro players past and present regarding Tebow’s prospects as an NFL quarterback. Honestly, what actually makes LaMarr Woodley and Donnie Edwards qualified to assess a quarterback’s skill set, especially when the list of QB flameouts is so long and distinguished?
The answer to the question of what position Tebow will play–if he plays at all–in the NFL is simple: we’ll know when we know. It’s an entirely academic exercise at this point. Yet, for some reason, most Gator fans Homerism has encountered treat the very suggestion that their hero can’t cut it as a QB in the League as an affront to common decency.
If you’re looking for a little unsolicited advice from someone without a dog in the fight, Florida fan, here it is: live in the now. The NFL is a completely different animal from the game being played on the field at the Swamp. You will have one of the greatest college quarterbacks in history leading your team for the fourth straight season. What he is or isn’t when 2010 NFL training camps open means squat now. Even if Tebow chucks it all and heads to the Philippines to preach the word for the rest of his life once his college career is over, it won’t change a thing about the brilliance of his time in Gainesville.