Gator fans anticipate having plenty to cheer about this season, as many feel that the University of Florida will be the team to beat out of the South Eastern Conference in 2006, and could make a run at the national championship in January.

This fall, the Gators will bring back last season's team leaders in virtually every offensive category, as well as five of the top seven defensive producers from 2005.


The biggest question facing head coach Urban Meyer and the Gators this season is if they will be able to survive one of the toughest schedules in the country. Eight of their 12 opponents on the 2006 schedule played in bowl games last year, more than any other team ranked at the conclusion of last season.


Making the schedule exceptionally difficult is a stretch of four consecutive games against powerhouses Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia, each of which has had a national championship caliber team during the past two years.


The Gators will also close out the regular season against archrival Florida State before making their way to the SEC championship, should they survive the regular season.


Returning to lead the offense for the fourth consecutive season will be quarterback Chris Leak (6-0, 210, Sr.). During the past three years at Florida, Leak has compiled 8,271 passing yards, 65 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns. He has totaled 29 interceptions in his career, but was stellar in 2005, with a touchdown to interception ratio of 20-6. Six of his rushing touchdowns also came during the 2005 campaign.


Returning to support Leak in the passing game is one of the nation's best receiving corps in the trio of Dallas Baker (6-3, 206, Sr.), Jemalle Cornelius (5-11, 190, Sr.) and Andre Caldwell (6-1, 200, Sr.).


Baker is the likely candidate for Leak's top target this season, and was the second receiver on the 2005 squad, just behind the now departed Chad Jackson. In his three years as a Gator, Baker has compiled 1,316 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.


Caldwell first broke onto the scene during the 2003 season, when he was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. As a sophomore, he recorded 689 receiving yards for three touchdowns, the second best receiving stats on the team. He missed the majority of last season due to a broken leg he suffered returning a kick against Tennessee.


The least experienced of the three returnees, Cornelius will fill in the No. three wide out spot and has received for 642 yards and four touchdowns at Florida.


Also playing an expanded role in 2006 will be tight end Tate Casey (6-6, 219, Jr.), who's touches were limited last season due to the use of four wide receivers. During his two years at Florida, Casey has accounted for 248 yards and five touchdowns.


Returning to lead the Gator ground game will be running back DeShawn Wynn (5-11, 228, Sr.). During the past three seasons, Wynn has rushed for 1,378 yards and 19 touchdowns, while gaining 318 receiving yards for three touchdowns in the pass-oriented offense.


The Gator offensive front will consist of a majority of new faces in 2006, with right guard Steve Rissler (6-3, 310, Sr.) being the only returning player to the offensive line.


Defensively, Florida is bringing back starters in six positions, including last year's team leader in tackles, linebacker Earl Everett (6-4, 224, Sr.), who amassed 72 tackles on the season.


Joining Everett at linebacker will be returning starter Brandon Siler (6-2, 230, Jr.), who was second on the 2005 squad in tackles with 64 and tied for first on the team in quarterback hurries with seven.


Also returning to the defensive backfield are Kyle Jackson (6-0, 191, Jr.) and Reggie Nelson (6-1, 175, Jr.), who shared time at free safety last year and combined for 80 tackles and three interceptions.


Terrence Holmes (5-11, 200, Sr.) is the likely No. three safety, and has compiled 30 tackles and three interceptions in his career.


After losing Dee Webb to the NFL draft and senior Vernell Brown from last years defense, the Gators look to bring in two new cornerbacks to the squad this fall, with the likely candidates being the wide receiver turned defensive back Reggie Lewis (5-10, 195, Sr.) Avery Atkins (5-11, 189, So.) and Jermaine McCollum (5-9, 180, Sr.). The Gators will also bring in four new corner backs in the 2006 recruiting class.

Florida's defensive line will bring back starters at three positions this season, with Marcus Thomas (6-3, 290, Sr.) and Steven Harris (6-4, 267, Sr.) returning at the tackles, as well as Joe Cohen (6-2, 270, Sr.) at defensive end. Signee Brandon Antwine (6-0, 271) out of Garland, Texas, could also play a role on the Gator defensive front. Antwine was the 16th overall prospect at any position according to for the 2006 recruiting class.


On special teams, Florida is returning all of their kickers from last years squad, including fourth year punter Eric Wilbur (6-1, 203, Sr.), place kicker Chris Hetland (6-0, 185, Sr.), and kickoff specialist Jonathan Phillips (5-11, 195, So.). Markus Manson (6-0, 210, So.) will resume the role of kick returner after returning 16 kicks for 313 yards last season.





All-Time Series: 22-27-3


Stadium: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548)


First Meeting: 1937, LSU 19, Florida 0


Last Meeting: 2005, LSU 21, Florida 17


Head Coach: Urban Meyer, 9-3, 1 year at UF

          48-11 overall, 5 years


2005 in Review: 9-3, 5-3 SEC


Final '05 Ranking: 12 AP, 16 Coaches


Off. / Def. Systems: Spread/ Multiple 4-3


Returning Starters: 14; 6 offense, 6 defense, kicker, punter


Last Bowl Appearance: 2006 Outback Bowl

                                       Florida 31, Iowa 24


Last Conference Championship: 2000





Total Offense: 373.4 (5th - SEC / 61st - NCAA)


Rushing Offense: 146.8 (5th - SEC / 56th - NCAA)


Passing Offense: 226.7 (3rd - SEC / 51st - NCAA)


Scoring Offense: 28.6 (4th - SEC / 49th - NCAA)


Total Defense: 299.8 (4th - SEC / 9th - NCAA)


Rushing Defense: 94.9 (4th - SEC / 10th - NCAA)


Passing Defense: 204.9 (8th - SEC / 38th - NCAA)


Scoring Defense: 18.8 (6th - SEC / 18th - NCAA)


Turnover Margin: +18 (1st - SEC / 3rd - NCAA)





Rushing: DeShawn Wynn – 130 attempts, 621 yards, 7 TD


Passing: Chris Leak – 374-235-6, 2639 yards, 20 TD


Receiving: Jemalle Cornelius – 29 catches, 383 yards, 1 TD


Tackles: Earl Everett – 72 TT (39 S, 33 A)





Date                 Opponent                     '05 Result


S-2                  Southern Miss                ---


S-9                  Central Florida                ---


S-16                at Tennessee                 W, 16-7


S-23                Kentucky                       W, 49-28


S-30                Alabama                        L, 31-3


O-7                  LSU                              L, 21-17


O-14                at Auburn                      ---


O-28                vs. Georgia (Jax)            W, 14-10


N-4                  at Vanderbilt                 W, 49-42 (2ot)


N-11                South Carolina                L, 30-22


N-18                Western Carolina             ---


N-25                at Florida State            W, 34-7



View From the Other Side:


Urban Meyer heads into his second season with one of the country's most experienced quarterbacks in senior Chris Leak, but the Gators' chances of reaching their first SEC title game in six years will revolve around a tale of two lines--- the offensive and defensive ones.


On the offensive side, Florida must replace four senior starters up front and the ability of the newcomers to protect Leak and open holes for the running game on a consistent basis will go a long way in determining if the Gators are national-title contenders. With solid protection, Leak is in position to shatter a number of Florida and SEC career passing records, including Peyton Manning's SEC record for completions (863) and


Danny Wuerffel's UF career yardage mark (10,875 yards). A tremendous trio of returning wideouts in Dallas Baker, Andre Caldwell and Jemalle Cornelius, plus quarterback-turned-tight end Cornelius Ingram and top national recruit Percy Harvin, should help Leak reach those coveted marks.


Defensively, the Gators' front line may be the deepest and most talented in the country. Sack leader Jarvis Moss returns along with veteran starters Marcus Thomas, Joe Cohen and Ray McDonald, plus former Parade All America end Derrick Harvey, a redshirt sophomore who seems primed to fulfill his potential. Add in All-SEC caliber linebackers Brandon Siler and Earl Everett, and Florida has the makings of a dominant defensive unit. In creating an SEC-leading 31 turnovers last year, the Gators displayed a hard-hitting style that figures to be even more intimidating in 2006.


Anything less than a Dec. 2nd trip to Atlanta for the SEC title game will be a major disappointment for Meyer's contingent.


- Bob Redman,


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