Brandon James Sets the Tone

Heading into the Florida/Tennessee game, one story line everyone knew about was Florida's kick returner extraordinaire Brandon James. Florida's fleet footed return man had burned the Vols in each of the past two seasons, including an 83-yard TD last season.

James' talent was discussed on this site and many others. It was discussed in just about every newspaper article and radio call in show. Everyone and I do mean EVERYONE associated with this game knew what kind of factor James could be.

Everyone except the Vols' special teams coach.

Now the Tennessee media guide does not list any Vols assistant as the special teams coordinator, but I promise you someone is getting his butt chewed as we speak. Once again Brandon James burned the Vols and handed Florida control of this contest from the get-go.

The very first play of this contest gave James a chance to make an impact and he didn't let the opportunity pass him by. James took the opening kickoff back 52 yards; setting up Tim Tebow and company at the Vols 44-yard line for the opening possession. Nine plays later Tebow hit Aaron Hernandez on a jump pass and Florida had an early lead.

Dem Vols is Slow Learners

With the Gators up 10-0 in the middle of the first quarter, Tennessee had to punt the ball away from its own 41. A good punt and coverage could pin the Gators deep, but back there waiting was that guy Brandon James. Surely the boys from Rocky Top would have learned not to kick to this kid.

Surely not.

James took that punt back 78 yards and the game was never in doubt the rest of the way. It was James' fourth punt return for a touchdown in his Gator career, tying Jacquez Green for the school record. Tennessee is not a team with the talent to score in a hurry, so a 17-point deficit for these guys is a pretty big deal. That's why you don't kick to James. Not ever, period!

But just to prove that they are among the dumbest coaching staffs in America, the Vols punted to James again in the third quarter. With Florida up 20-0 Tennessee booted the ball to James and he took the ball back into Vols territory setting up another Florida score seven plays later.

Brandon James has erased any doubt in my mind. In this game he returned two punts for 92 yards and a kickoff for 52. That's 144 yards on three touches and each was or led to a Florida touchdown. He's the best kick returner in UF history. As long as SEC opponents are too dumb or stubborn to acknowledge that fact, so much the better for the 2008 Gator football team.


Fightin Gators Top Stories