Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
With Deonte Thompson and Ray McDonald on Super Bowl rosters, Florida fans have reason to cheer, even if the game's boring.
Sunday Brunch is a new Alligator Army feature: A longer read for Sunday morning that may or may not have to do specifically with Florida, but will go well with waffles and coffee. Today, we tackle Super Bowl 47, and the question of whom Florida fans will be rooting for.
FlaGators: Looking through the rosters of this years Super Bowl participants, it's clear that the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers are even (or, at the very least, very close) on a couple of things. Sure, the teams differ on some of their respective philosophies, as the Ravens are built on defense and a surprisingly effective offense, but the 49ers can say virtually the same thing, especially since they changed quarterbacks in the middle of the season.
I guess the major difference is the style of offense. The 49ers taking a page out of the Washington Redskins' playbook and using the pistol and the Ravens have a "three yards and a cloud of dust" sort of offense. But the Ravens can pass the ball effectively too, so there is that.
Another similarity that is noticeable when looking at the rosters is the amount of former Florida Gators that are members of the team. The 49ers and Ravens each have only one former Gator on their respective roster. Sounds exciting, doesn't it?
The 49ers have Ray McDonald and Ravens have Deonte Thompson. Even more exciting, right? Ahh, the sarcasm. Now, depending on who you like more as a player in the Orange and Blue, that could sway your opinion one way or another. Right?
Didn't think so.
I'll lean toward McDonald and the 49ers because I was more of a McDonald fan while he was at Florida than a Thompson fan. But at the same time, I rarely care about former Gator athletes once they leave Gainesville, other than to wish them well ... unless of course they play for my Cleveland Indians, Boston Celtics or Washington Redskins.
(I will admit I'm kind of tired of seeing former Gators on the Indians (Matt LaPorta, sigh) and the Redskins (Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel, among others). They never seem to fare well at all. Which is part of the many reasons why I don't seem to care once they leave Gainesville. I mean, I care, but like I said, I wish them well ... but just not on my teams, not now)
But back to the this year's Super Bowl. Does it matter, when it comes to Gators fans, who wins? Not at all. One player on each team doesn't create a rooting interest. I'm an NFC guy (see: Redskins) so I'll lean toward rooting for the 49ers, but I really don't care who wins.
Andy: There's no really good reason for Gator Nation to pick one side or the other in this Super Bowl: Ray McDonald's been an NFL player for much longer than he was a Gator at this point, and Deonte Thompson wasn't especially beloved in Gainesville and isn't especially valuable to the Ravens.
But even if that's a wash, Florida fans should watch the Super Bowl closely and carefully, and watch the Niners' offense in particular. It's probably the future of football — and Florida's better-suited to bring that future to the SEC than any other team right now.
The 49ers' attack is predicated on the pistol, sure, and on Colin Kaepernick being a freakish athlete, but it's "multiple" in nature, and part of what Brent Pease was doing with the Gators in 2012 was building the foundation of a "multiple" offense. Pease was and will remain somewhat constricted by Will Muschamp's desire to make sure his offense doesn't shoot his defense in the foot, but the Gators won games by pounding ahead with a running back (LSU, Florida State), deploying a lethal read option (Vanderbilt), and smart red zone play-calling (South Carolina).
While the Niners have the absolute best trigger man for the pistol in Kaepernick — no quarterback has played in it longer or better than he has, or has the combination of speed and arm strength that he possesses — Jeff Driskel's not exactly an underwhelming athlete, and seemed pistol-ready in 2012. Like Kaepernick, Driskel's best asset as a runner is probably his acceleration, which was repeatedly surprising in 2012: Driskel would take off around a corner, and, suddenly, he'd be eight yards downfield. I don't think Driskel's top-end speed quite matches Kaepernick's, but in the SEC, it might be comparable, relatively speaking.
Kaepernick's also a hard thrower, much like the always-rifling Driskel, who needs to work on his touch. Kaepernick, however, is excellent at zipping the ball into small windows, something Driskel needs to work on.
Beyond the Kaepernick-Driskel comparison, the reason the Niners' offense works so well is its offensive line opening up holes for runners. Florida's line was good to great at that in 2012, but it should be getting much better in 2013 and beyond, with an influx of new talent and another season of strength training from Jeff Dillman helping build a squad of road-graders. And Matt Jones, Kelvin Taylor, and Adam Lane can be a low-rent version of Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, and LaMichael James.
I'm likely going to write more about what the Gators can learn from the Niners — who I think will win, because I've thought the NFC was better than the AFC all year — but it's worth watching them this Sunday to see if we see any similarities or things we want to steal.