TUSCALOOSA AL - OCTOBER 02: Quarterbacks John Brantley #12 and Trey Burton #8 of the Florida Gators converse during pregame warmups before facing the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 2 2010 in Tuscaloosa Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Urban Meyer might be the biggest story around the Outback Bowl. But on the Florida side of the field are about a half dozen men who Meyer leaves behind who can use the game as a springboard to other things.
Penn State is only a stage prop for the drama that is happening on the Florida sideline. If Bo Schembechler wanted a Michigan man to coach Michigan, there are very few Florida men left coaching the Gators. Meyer and Addazio are gone, as Teryl Austin and possibly Chuck Heater have one foot out the door. Juniors are looking to jump ship and no one has any idea of what to make of the new regime.
Three of those players are John Brantley, Trey Burton and Jordan Reed. Between the three, Florida probably has one quarterback, at least for Saturday. Brantley needs a career saving performance, but I don't think Addazio or Scot Loeffler is up to that task. What is worse is that Brantley may not want to be saved. He is considering the possibility of not returning to Florida, despite transfer rules banning a junior transfer unless UF signs a release.
That leaves it up to Burton and Reed. Burton and Reed can be successful because they can will themselves to yardage, in a way that Brantley's body can't. You know this, but what we should see tomorrow is the two freshmen killing themselves to get snaps. They know what is at stake for their futures in Gainesville.
For Mike Pouncey and Florida's other seniors, this is an opportunity to begin their run up to the pros. Aside from Ahmad Black and Janoris Jenkins, it would be hard to find a Gator who can contribute immediately in the NFL next season. Pouncey at least has that chance. He needs to dominate Penn State's defensive line in a manner that he has not done this season.
The final guy is Jeff Demps. Maybe this is a surprise to some of you, but it shouldn't be. While freshmen can fall back on a transfer or the hope that a new coach will appreciate their talent (I'm looking at you, Andre Debose), Demps has something else to fall back on; the 100-meter dash. The defending NCAA Champion does not need to endure a coaching transition or a program in total rebuilding mode. He can walk a few blocks west on Stadium Road and make his home on the track. Demps has to decide in the near future as to what will be the more productive future for him; to be an elite track athlete or an undersized running back.
Meyer does not leave the kitchen with an empty cupboard, but he does leave plenty of questions behind. On Saturday, the team can begin to answer those questions for next season and their own futures as an athlete.