The Gators blew through the second
half of the season a year ago, finishing with a record of 13-1, including a
seven game win-streak to close out the year that was capped with blowout 41-14
victory over top-ranked
Going into the 2007 season, the Gators will be without several players that played a key part in their championship run, including standout quarterback Chris Leak, receiver Dallas Baker and nine defensive starters, but will still be loaded with enough talent to be favored as the eastern division's representative in the SEC championship game.
Even with the losses, Florida is in a position to be dominant once again, ranked as the preseason No. four team in the country and bringing in the nation's top recruiting class.
Sophomore phenom Tim Tebow should be a more than capable starter at quarterback in Leak's absence. As a true freshman, Tebow completed 22 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns and was the Gators' second leading rusher with 469 yards and a team-best eight touchdowns.
The receiving side of the
Senior Andre Caldwell will be the leader in the receiving corps this season, after finishing second on the team in catches last year with 57 receptions for 577 yards and six scores.
Also returning at receiver for the
Gators is sophomore Percy Harvin, who accounted for 427 yards and two scores a
year ago. If
Senior Tate Casey will return as the starting tight end after catching six passes for two touchdowns as a junior.
Also returning with Casey on the
offensive line are seniors
Sophomore Eddie Haupt could be the
lone new starter on the line, filling in the open spot at center, though
Leading the running game in the
backfield this season junior Kestahn
Since then, however, the Gators have lost nearly all their defensive starters, however, including the teams' leading tackler in linebacker Earl Everett and secondary leaders Reggie Nelson and Ryan Smith. Smith accumulated eight interceptions and two blocked kicks last year, while Nelson was responsible for six interceptions and was a first round draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Returning to help lead the reloading effort on the front four is end Derrick Harvey, who led the team with 11 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. Filling in the gaps in the trenches looks to be Javier Estopinan and Clint McMillan at the tackles, and sophomore Darryl Gresham Jr. at the other defensive end.
Incoming freshmen Lorenzo Edwards, Brandon Hicks and John Jones may also have an immediate impact at linebacker, ranked the Nos. 1, 15, and 8 linebacker recruits in the country, respectively.
The Gator secondary also took a hit this off-season, losing four starters to either graduation or the NFL.
The lone returnee in the defensive backfield is senior strong safety Tony Joiner, who racked up 50 tackles, two interceptions and one safety last year.
Joiner will be accompanied in the 2007 secondary by senior free safety Kyle Jackson, who saw time in every game a year ago.
On special teams, junior Jonathan Phillips returns at
Sophomore Bobby Kane seems the heir apparent at punter, but will have to out perform incoming freshman Chas Henry, scout.com's top rated athlete at the position.
Handling returns a year ago was Brandon James, who will likely repeat in the role as a sophomore this season. During his freshman campaign, James returned 21 kicks for an average of 18.2 yards and 33 punts for an 11 yard average and one touchdown.
- Matt Dearman
All-Time Series vs.
1937, LSU 19,
Location: Gainesville, Fla.
Stadium: Ben Hill
Head Coach: Urban Meyer, 21-4, 3rd year; 61-12 overall, 6 years
2006 IN REVIEW
2006 Record: 13-1, 7-1 SEC (1st East)
Final '06 Ranking: 1st AP, Coaches, BCS
Returning Starters: 8; 6 offense, 2 defense
Appearance: 2007 BCS Championship Game –
Last Conference Championship: 2006
2006 STAT BREAKDOWN (SEC/NCAA)
Total Offense: 396.1 ypg (2/19)
Rushing Offense: 160 ypg (3/38)
Passing Offense: 236.1 ypg
Scoring Offense: 29.7 ppg (2/T-23)
Total Defense: 255.4 ypg (2/6)
Rushing Defense: 72.5 ypg (1/5)
Pass Defense: 182.9 ypg (6/33)
Scoring Defense: 13.5 ppg (2/6)
Rushing: Tim Tebow – 89-469, 8 TD, 5.3 ypc, 33.5 ypg
Passing: Tim Tebow – 33-22, 358, 5 TD, 1 Int., 25.6 ypg
Receiving: Andre Caldwell – 57-577, 6 TD, 41.2 ypg
Tackles: Tony Joiner – 59
Sacks: Derrick Harvey – 11
Tackles for Loss: Derrick Harvey – 13
Date Opponent '06 Result
S-22 at Ole Miss ---
O-6 at LSU W, 23-10
O-27 vs. Georgia (Jax) W, 21-14
N-3 VANDERBILT W, 25-19
The Florida Perspective
The Florida Perspective
Offense at a glance:
The offense proved to not only be
fine, but potent. It is loaded with firepower that will operate behind an
experienced offensive line. The front five lost one starter, so senior guard
Drew Miller moved to center. After struggling in the first few weeks of
practice, Miller had the role down by the
At receiver, senior Andre Caldwell returned for his senior season and has been moved to the outside after lining up in the slot. Sophomore Percy Harvin takes over the slot role, and will be the go-to-guy. Junior Cornelius Ingram proved this spring that he can be a big-time SEC performer. The converted quarterback to tight end showed he's more comfortable with his role.
Wideouts Louis Murphy and David Nelson also emerged as strong options for the Gators, and early entrant Aaron Hernandez, who was the top high school tight end last year, also had a great spring.
After Chris Leak's departure, Tebow eagerly stepped in as the leader of the offense and proved he can be the dual-threat quarterback that everyone expected him to be. He completed 17-of-27 passes for 216 yards in the spring game while tossing three touchdowns.
In the end, the only true problem for the Gator offense is in the backfield. Sophomore Mon Williams emerged as an early favorite, but suffered an ACL tear in his knee that will sideline him in 2007.
Junior Kestahn Moore became a more powerful back and showed that his field vision has improved and is the frontrunner for the starting job.
Defense at a glance:
The defense improved during the
spring, but there is still a long way to go. On a positive note, the line
returns junior Derrick Harvey at defensive end, who put up huge numbers in the
BCS title game against
The linebacking corps is completely new, but highly regarded. Sophomore Brandon Spikes takes over the Mike spot left vacant by Brandon Siler. Spikes is a big, physical player who will eventually take over the leadership role on defense. Redshirt sophomore Ryan Stamper came into his own, earning a starting spot and sophomores Dustin Doe and redshirt freshman A.J. Jones will also contribute.
The secondary has to deal with the loss of All-America Reggie Nelson at free safety, but strong safety Tony Joiner is back for his senior season. Joiner has the maturity and patience to work well with his younger surrounding cast and with senior Kyle Jackson, the safety positions will be solid.
The cornerback position dealt with
some lingering injuries, but by the
- Chris Chmielenski, Fighting Gator Magazine