Florida Notebook: Gators Aiming For Repeat

With hindsight being 20/20, everyone should have seen the trophy going to Florida. Matching them up against Ohio State after the grueling tour through the SEC should have seemed like a cakewalk. Though most experts had second year coach Urban Meyer and his Gators getting swamped by the Buckeyes, the game turned out to be, if anything, a cakewalk.


Playing LSU, Arkansas, Tennessee, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State and passing all tests but one (on the road against Auburn) should have told us it was coming. Perhaps the countless last drive victories stole our confidence, when it should have strengthened it. Great teams win – no matter what.

Meyer on the Perceived Notion that the SEC is the Premier Conference:

"That's real important. Every conference is fighting for the same thing. You have to fight for public opinion. Unfortunately that's a big part of what happens in December."

Meyer on Early Enrollees:

"Facts are facts. The fact that Tim (Tebow) went through spring practice, all eight of those (2007 enrollees) have over a 3.0 as they start their first fall at Florida. Those are all significant issues that are advantages. Tim is ready to play quarterback at Florida. A big part of that is because he's already had two spring practices under his belt. He helped us last year because he had a spring practice under his belt. So, it is significant. As a coach and recruiter, you can't push that. You have to make it available and say here is what you need to do. But it's got to be a family decision."

Meyer on the Plus-One Playoff Format Discussion:

"Opinions are strong. At Bowling Green I had to stand in front of a team that was 8-3, 9-3 and had to tell them that they weren't going to a Bowl game when they deserved to go. They were good enough to play in a Bowl game. I think they were better than some teams that played. So did other coaches. That's one of the tragedies of the system.

I think the bowls should open up and take the most qualified teams to go play. Utah, we were 12-0. If there's a plus-one, you go play that game, you go play for a national championship. Who knows? You have a good day and that's a life changer for a university and a group of players."

Meyer on the SEC East and repeating as national champions:

"I think it's the most difficult – that's all relative. Everybody is going to have opinions. I think the West is very tough. We always happen to play the top teams in the West. The West is very difficult.

But the SEC East is the one we live in, the one we study. When you see Kentucky go to a bowl game, do what they did. When you see Vanderbilt, every time you play those guys it's a war. Then you see the people that traditionally – you see South Carolina with a coach who has a record that's as good as anybody that ever coached and some very good players. You see the traditional three the last few years that have had success, have great tradition.

I'm not sure who the weak link is in that side of the conference. I was educated in that conference. The biggest thing I experienced in the SEC East and the SEC is that the road games are legitimate. I mean, there's no such thing as a ‘gimme."



Expectations are high this season for first year starting quarterback Tim Tebow.


Offense:

Any team with a new quarterback at the helm gets stamped with a huge question mark – even the defending national champions. Tim Tebow was great when the Gators needed a few extra yards. He is fantastic at tucking the ball in and powering his way through the line for a first down. The question comes in his ability to be a full-time quarterback, rather than just a specialist. Keep in mind though, Tebow threw five touchdowns passes in only 33 attempts.

"I think (Tebow) can handle the job. He got to play a lot last year. We have good people, and I know we can handle that," said Andre Caldwell, "Chris (Leak) was a good guy to learn from. He'll be fine."

With receivers Percy Harvin and Andre Caldwell returning, the adjustment to full time will be much easier for Tebow. Caldwell says he really wants to be a part of defending the national championship.

The offensive line at Florida is, according to Athlons, "two deep at every position." Center Drew Miller has played every position at the line. This year he's the center. With experience of Carlton Medder and Jim Tartt to his left, the Gator offense should be well protected. On third and two, look for Tebow to the left.

"I think the thing that makes the so-called whatever, the spread offense, is our style of play. If quarterback is a legitimate threat it changes what you'll see on defense," says Meyer, "That's the biggest thing I'm looking forward to. You enjoy working with that style of offense because of the personnel involved."

Defense:

For everything positive about the offense, there are some scary happenings on the defensive side of the ball. Only one returning starter, Tony Joiner at safety, will be there when they kick off their title defense September 1st against Western Kentucky.

Losses of Jarvis Moss, Joe Cohen Steven Harris and Ray McDonald leave holes in Florida's front line. All three starting linebackers are gone. Fortunately the Gators were loaded at linebacker so replacing the entire unit won't hurt as much as it would other programs.

Brandon Spikes, the new middle linebacker, is as talented as any before him. The outside linebackers will probably be Dustin Doe and A.J. Jones, but Ryan Stamper could see significant minutes too.

Another loss, Reggie Nelson in the defensive backfield, could prove to be the most crippling.

Lone returning starter Tony Joiner has faith though, "I haven't seen any false confidence. I've seen talented groups of guys that know what is in our reach and know what we can accomplish."

In Conclusion:

No matter how many defenders moved on to the NFL, Florida is Florida and Meyer is Meyer. The team is going to be loaded and looking forward to defending the title. Don't think for one second that the basketball team's ability to repeat has nothing to do with it. The football edition of the University of Florida does not want to be upstaged.

Though the defense might be susceptible, the offense has the potential to be downright scary.


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