Special Teams Help Debose Earn MVP

Andre Debose has spent all season giving the Gators a deep threat. In Monday's Gator Bowl, he found a different, but familiar, way to make an impact. Debose secured the Gator Bowl MVP with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that came just after an Ohio State touchdown to tie the game. The kickoff return also forced changes to be made to the Florida record books.

After returning kickoffs for touchdowns against LSU and South Carolina in 2010, Monday's return was the third of Debose's career, setting a new Florida career record. The record previously was held by Bo Carroll (1997-2000) and Stacey Simmons (1986-88). Debose is also now one of six active players and the only underclassmen to have two or more career kickoff returns of 99+ yards.

The redshirt sophomore totaled just nine yards of offense, but the MVP trophy was still important to him.

"It meant a lot to me," Andre Debose said. "I just try to do anything I can do to help the team. I just had opportunities today to help the team out. It feels great. There's no feeling like it."

His straight ahead speed is what has turned him into one of the most dangerous kickoff returners in the country. Debose simply followed his lead blocker, Jeff Demps, on Monday to the end zone down the Florida sideline. Demps didn't even need to pull up and block until Debose had a clear path to the end zone and Demps turned to block an Ohio State player behind him.

Debose and Florida head coach Will Muschamp both complimented special teams coach D.J. Durkin for his design. Durkin also drew up a blocked punt formation that created a separate touchdown on Monday.

"DJ Durkin does the best job in the country on special teams," Muschamp said. "Week in and week out of momentum changers and putting our guys in situations to be successful."

Once Debose got through the first level of Ohio State players, there wasn't anything in his way before the end zone, or the "promised land," as he called it.

His most dangerous role for the Gators this season has come as the deep threat at wide receiver. Debose led the Gators with 432 receiving yards and four touchdowns this season. It wasn't the passing output the Gators wanted or expected, but Debose made his presence felt in that area.

When the Gators needed more offense, Debose provided them through special teams. He bought into special teams as his role last season and worked him to improve on his ability with the ball in his hands.

"It just takes a lot of practice and believing in your blockers and coach," Debose said. "Our coach really pushes it into us as a special teams and how important it is. I take pride in being a specialist and just going as hard as I can for the team."

BRANTLEY SAYS GOODBYE: John Brantley played his final game going 12-for-16 through the air for 132 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Brantley was also charged with two fumbles lost, one coming when he was hit from his blindside and the other on a mishandled snap.

The statistics of Brantley's career weren't where he would have wanted them, but Muschamp hopes Brantley is remembered for more than that.

"A lot of guys in our society these days, when things don't go their way, the easiest things is to point the finger rather than look in the mirror," Muschamp said. "A lot of times, it's very difficult in our society for people to take the high road. John has done that. It is different than any other position. You get way too much credit when things go right and way too much blame when things go wrong. From that standpoint, John handles it.

"He doesn't complain or point fingers. He takes the criticism and moves to the next day. It's refreshing to have a young guy in our program that's willing to do that."

Brantley and the rest of the senior class will leave Gainesville with an SEC and national championship ring. However, it's more likely they're remembered as being a class that dealt with transition and bridged the gap from one coaching staff to another.

"We had our ups and downs," Brantley said. "The last couple years haven't been the best. I just stuck with my teammates and we made the best out of it. To get a good win over a good team in Ohio State, that almost makes it seem kind of worth it to go out on a high note for these younger guys going into the offseason."


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