Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy last season. He accounted for 55 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards of total offense. There's no question that he's the leader of this football team. As Tebow goes, so does the Florida offense. He completed 9-of-14 passes against Hawaii last week and had nine carries, which led the team, for 37 yards. Tebow can beat you running or throwing the football. A former five-star recruit out of Nease High, Tebow led his team to the state championship his senior year and was voted Florida's Mr. Football that same year. He's considered by many to be the nation's premier quarterback so slowing him down will be a difficult task for the Hurricanes on Saturday night. His backup, Cameron Newton, threw just 10 passes all last season and had 16 carries all last season. He got into the game at Hawaii after Tebow had clocked out, completing 1-of-2 passes for 14 yards and carrying the ball five times for 10 yards and a touchdown. The 6-5 sophomore was a four-star prospect coming out of high school.
The Gators are expected to use up to seven different running backs on Saturday night. Kestahn Moore is the most experienced of the bunch and is often considered the starter. He carried the ball 104 times for 580 yards and six touchdowns last season and had seven touches for 33 yards in the opener against Hawaii last week. Percy Harvin, the All-American receiver, is often lined up in the backfield and will likely get some touches from that spot on Saturday. Harvin had 83 carries for 764 yards and six touchdowns last season but did not play in the opener. Widely considered the most explosive player in college football, Harvin was a five-star recruit coming out of high school. Another former five-star recruit, Chris Rainey, only had one carry all last season but had six touches for 58 yards and a touchdown in the opener. Brandon James, who's best known for his ability to return kicks and punts, had 24 carries for 133 yards last season and had 16 yards on three carries last Saturday. Emanuel Moody, a former four-star recruit who actually picked USC over Miami before later transferring to Florida, played in his first game last week and had just two carries for two yards. Mon Williams had one carry for two yards. True freshman Jeff Demps, one of the fastest recruits in America last year, got off to a good start last week when he carried twice for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Harvin is clearly the most dangerous weapon for the Gators running the football, as he averaged 145 yards per game in his final three games last season. His 40 touches in those three games were more than triple any other running back.
The Gators have to different types of backs -- the smaller, shiftier guys who are very dangerous in the open field (Rainey, Harvin, James, and Demps) as well as the bigger guys who are better between the tackles and in short yardage situations (Moore, Moody, and Williams). It's tough to tell how the'll split carries on Saturday night but you can be sure the Florida coaches will go with the hot hand.
The Gators brought back just two wide receivers who were in double digits in catches last season -- Harvin and senior Louis Murphy, who has been talking a lot of smack about the game so far this week. Harvin brought in 59 catches for 858 yards and four touchdowns last season while Murphy hauled in 37 passes for 548 yards and five scores. While Harvin didn't play in the opener, the 6-foot-3 Murphy, a former three-star recruit, had two catches for 51 yards and a score. The third starter for the Gators is former five-star recruit Deonte Thompson, who picked the Gators over the Canes on National Signing Day two years ago. Thompson redshirted last season and caught one ball for seven yards in the opener. He's one of the fastest and most explosive players that will be on the field for either side on Saturday night. Former three star recruit Riley Cooper caught eight passes, including three touchdowns, last season and had one grab in the opener. Senior David Nelson had four catches last season but didn't have any in the opener. Five-star Juco transfer Carl Moore, a 6-5 target, had one grab for 13 yards last weekend and looks to play a key role for the Gators this season. True freshmen Frankie Hammond and Omarius Hines did not see action in Florida's season opener. There's a good blend of size, speed, and playmaking ability here.
When senior Cornelius Ingram went down with a season-ending injury, the Gators lost one of the nation's premier tight ends. He caught 34 passes for 508 yards and seven touchdowns last season and was being watched closely by NFL scouts. The Gators, instead, have turned to senior Tate Casey and sophomore Aaron Hernandez. Casey started the opener and finished with two catches for 36 yards. However, it's Hernandez, that seems to have more people excited in Gainesville. The former five star recruit did not play in the opener but had nine catches for 151 yards and two scores last season, including a 55-yarder. He has the size and speed to spread the field nicely for the Gators and is expected to have a big year in Ingram's absence.
The Gators have been a bit banged up along the offensive line dating back to last season when they lost left tackle Phil Trautwein for the entire season due to a foot injury. He was back in action last week and looks like a very solid left tackle. Left guard Jim Tartt, who started every game for the Gators last season, is questionable heading into Saturday's game, which could open up an opportunity for James Wilson, a USC transfer, to step up. Twins Maurkice and Michael Pouncey will man two of the interior spots while Jason Watkins looks like a possible All SEC type of player at right tackle. Reserve left tackle Carl Johnson, a former five-star recruit, looks like the top reserve as he played in 11 games last season. Corey Hobbs played in three games last season on the interior but for the most part, there's not much playing experience beyond the starters. They were able to protect Tebow last week and open up big holes for the running game but it'll be interesting to see how they match up against the Canes this Saturday.