Potential

You have it or you don't. But you aren't the judge of that. It is your peers, your superiors, or a random person who can take one look at you and think, "That's it, right there."

Potential is the hot blonde you meet in the 11th grade who you know is going to get even better. Potential is 12-year old who pitches a no-hitter in the Little League World Series. Potential is the junior running back who rushes for 1500 yards and leads his team to a conference title. Potential is the kid in the weight room who can run a 4.5 and bench 375.

Potential is something that may not even happen. That hot blonde may lose her spark when she starts pounding Natty Lights in college. The 12-year old pitcher could be getting Tommy John surgery at 17. Those 1500 yards were too much for the running back and now he's lost his burst. And that freak in the weight room? He can't figure out the playbook.

Why bring this up? For the last week the word `potential' has been floating around the Gators' football program and we've been sucked into it. Starting with the Michigan game, and continuing to Saturday's verbal commitment by Matt Patchan, `potential' has been all over this team.

I was surprised with how upset some of my friends (and some bloggers) were over the Gators' loss in the Capital One Bowl. I looked at that game as a way Tebow could still be successful despite a poor performance and horrific play calling, not as an indictment of the defense. We all knew the defense would suck this year. The difference is how you look at them; is there potential there or a bunch of idiots? I see potential.

How about Derrick Harvey and Cornelius Ingram? Harvey looks at the double teams he faced this year and his three sacks against Ohio State last year, and wonders why he should be in Gainesville. He knows, and the NFL knows, that Harvey could be a defensive end or outside linebacker in the pros. But can a defensive end on one of the worst lines in the country really make an impact in the pros? I'm not so sure.

CI is a different story. First he was supposed to be leaving, now he might be staying. Unlike Harvey, he doesn't have the standout performances to back up his cause. He is all potential. I don't think a lot of people who follow the Gators think he will be successful as a pro. I have a different perspective. There are two people who I've met who I actually gasped at their size; Simeon Rice (before he got hurt) and Ingram. All he has to do is take his shirt off at the NFL Combine and he will become a first or second round pick.

Both Harvey and Ingram are freakish athletes playing positions that are rising in popularity. The rise of the passing game means more d-ends to rush, so more jobs open for guys like Harvey. Meanwhile, offenses need players like CI who can chip that d-end at the line, catch a slant, and then knock a safety on his ass. But CI has been a tight end for only three years of his life. Will a NFL team have the patience to teach him the nuances of the position other guys might have? Maybe not.

Now we have Matt Patchan, who seems to be the perfect specimen. He can play offensive or defensive line, he comes from a great high school program, he has the genes, and he is a monster (6'7", 265). Just this paragraph from the St. Pete Times should put a smile on your face.

Florida is getting a surprisingly versatile player on and off the field; he's an explosive two-way lineman with dogged determination and a "mean streak," and a health-conscious cooker who sings country tunes on karaoke and plans to possibly pursue a political career after his playing career. Though that may have to wait, as some predict Patchan could eventually be playing on Sundays.

That's the beauty of all this. The Gators aren't Florida State, who is drowning in a cesspool of filth and disarray. And they aren't Miami, whose rebuilding scheme includes cutting kids like they're making salary cap space. So cheer up Charlie. We got potential, which is better than nothing at all. Besides, that hot blonde usually figures out by senior year to stay away from the Frats and she starts looking hot again. Maybe the same thing will happen to our defense.

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