An About Face?

Leave it to ESPN analyst Lee Corso to make the most profound statement following the Miami Hurricanes 41-16 dismantling of the Florida Gators at the Swamp on Saturday night, the worst home loss for UF since losing to Kentucky 31-3 in 1979. Now, using Corso and the word "profound" in the same sentence can be trouble.

After all, this is the same guy who picked LSU to go the national title game in Tempe in January - before the Tigers were promptly spanked by Virginia Tech 26-8. It's also the same Corso who donned the Gator mascot head and picked Florida to win on Saturday, much to the delight of the pro-UF crowd.

As for his profoundness, it was Corso, following the Miami mauling, who said: "There isn't one player on the University of Florida who would start at Miami."

Well, in the immortal words of Corso, "Not so fast, my friend."

Scanning the depth chart on offense reveals only one clear-cut Gator who would start for the Hurricanes - Taylor Jacobs. A talented wideout with world-class speed, Jacobs appears to be the only go-to receiver on the UF squad, and Miami effectively removed him from Saturday's game by taking away the deep ball and rotating its safeties toward Jacobs.

Grossman over Dorsey? That could be debated all day, but Dorsey has lost once as a starter, and Grossman spent the better part of the day running around Florida Field as if it were an obstacle course, trying to dodge a relentless pass rush and throwing off his back foot. He also seems to struggle with offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher's dink-and-dunk offense.

It would be hard to take Ernest Graham - underutilized by Steve Spurrier for the past few years - over Willis McGahee, especially after the UM back busted the 200-yard plateau. And seeing as Grossman ran for his life Saturday night, a comparison of the offensive lines is unnecessary.

As far as defense goes, completely throw out a defensive line and linebacking corps that produced very little pressure and no sacks, as UM sliced-and-diced its way to 306 yards rushing and 508 yards of total offense.

Safety Todd Johnson played an excellent game for the Gators, snaring two interceptions, both as Miami was about to score. He might crack the young starting secondary at Miami, but that would mean he would play in front of Sean Taylor - the hard-hitting leader of this inexperienced but talented group of DBs - and Maurice Sykes, who also had two picks, including a 97-yard momentum-changing theft that iced the game.

On special teams, the Gators missed a short field goal and an extra point, plus botched a punt that led to a UM score. The Canes Todd Seivers kicked two field goals, one from 54 yards out, and punter Freddie Capshaw, who did have one blocked by Johnson, pinned Florida deep in its own territory a few times.

That's one definitive starter, Jacobs, and a couple of maybes that could be argued about between rival fans over a beer. What isn't debatable is where these programs are and the task at hand for both coaches.

New head coach Ron Zook has spent the offseason being a tireless recruiter and frequent speaker at Gator gatherings. Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily translate into wins or make implementing his new offensive and defensive schemes any easier.

And there's a shadow looming over Zook every day, one which he probably notices a lot more now and will intensify as the Tennessee game approaches in two weeks. That's the shadow of Steve Spurrier, the legendary coach who brought Florida football to a new level.

If Zook can salvage a win in Knoxville, the pressure will be off - for now. Go 2-2 in September and take a back seat to Tennessee and Georgia in the SEC East, and some impatient fans will be screaming for someone else. Gator fans can thank Spurrier for that because he set the bar pretty high.

Zook can also thank Spurrier for leaving the cupboard pretty bare. Two years of poor recruiting have left the talent level at Florida a little on the low side. UM coach Larry Coker, meanwhile, continues to replace lost talent to the NFL with more potential first-rounders.

Being a Gator fan this year will demand one important variable - patience. And it will have to be Job-like because the talent gap that existed between Florida and the rest of the SEC - a conference it has ruled with an iron fist for 12 years - has narrowed dramatically, and two new systems and a new head coach aren't going to make the transition any easier.

The Canes, meanwhile, would appear to be a great bet to get back to the national title game in Tempe, a feat that is hard to imagine after losing nine first-round NFL draft picks in two years. But let's not hand them the trophy yet - games at Tennessee, and home against Boston College, Florida State, and Virginia Tech, won't be walks in the park.

As for Corso, well, his assessment of the talent difference between Miami and Florida was dead on - almost.

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