ORANGE AND BLUE HUE
With the 2006 College Football season appoaching, it was an appropriate time to gather a couple of the Gator bloggers to swap thoughts on the upcoming season. Just like a blog exchange we had earlier in the year with Kyle, this time we swapped interview questions with one of the best Gator blogs out there, Orange and Blue Hue. Swamp Ball's responses to their questions appear at Orange and Blue Hue. Now, on to the interview.
The Florida Gators enter the 2006 campaign with one of the most brutal schedules in the country with road games at Tennessee, Auburn, and Florida State. The Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, along with the Georgia games will also be tough. With that being said, the Gators still have been picked by many media outlets being the top team in the SEC East. What single phase of the game will determine how the Gators perform on the field this season. (i.e offensive line, secondary, running game, special teams)?
Great question. I think you have to look at the proven commodities Florida has in their locker room. Quarterbacks, no brainer -- Leak was good in '05 and showed significant improvement at the end of the season when the wide receiver corps slowly slipped off the injured reserve list. His shoulder was sore all the way through the Outback bowl, a game in which his play was about as good as I've seen since his freshman year, so when you take into account the miserable performance of last year's O-Line I think it's safe to say that the QB position is a "known" power element. Likewise with the receivers - despite losing Chad Jackson to the NFL, we have far more depth and experience than we had in '05. Between Kestahn Moore, DeShawn Wynn, and Marcus Manson, I think we'll be fine at running back. I've heard rumors that Meyer won't slack up on any of these guys -- despite what he thinks of their progress in practice -- until he sees them perform in a game. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a big upgrade in the running game.
On defense, you have what may be the best Gators D in history. Certainly with Marcus Thomas and Ray McDonald anchoring the front four, Brandon Siler and Earl Everett (along with "most improved player" Brian Crum) at LB, and a secondary which by all accounts is really coming together with Reggie Nelson, Reggie Lewis, and Ryan Smith I think the defense is going to be as good as we've seen since the Bob Stoops era. Maybe there's a bit of a question mark surrounding the secondary, but when the coaches refer to Nelson as a "special" player that can play safety and corner, I think they're probably good to go. I love what Greg Mattison is doing with these guys.
So, when you dump it all out on the floor and sift through the pieces, I really think it comes down to our offensive line. We just don't know for a fact what we've got with these guys. Meyer has made some positive comments. Remember that Hevesy (offensive line coach) is the only guy on the coaching staff who didn't get a raise last year, and that Adazzio (the tight ends coach) is now "helping out" on the line. If the O-Line stands up to the pressure and can stay healthy, we've got everything we need for a special team. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch.
The Gators were fortunate enough that Tim Tebow picked the Gators over other teams that were recruiting him hard like Alabama and others. He had a successful debut in the spring's Orange and Blue game scrimmage.
If you were able to look into the Crystal Ball, what would Tebows's Gator career numbers look like on a year-to-year basis?
Year 1: 550 yards passing, 130 yards rushing, 2 TDs (pass), 2 TDs (rush), 45% completion
Year 2: 1,900 yards passing, 500 yards rushing, 14 TDs (pass), 8 TDs (rush) 51% completion
Year 3: 2,300 yards passing, 650 yards rushing, 18 TDs (pass), 8 TDs (rush) 53% completion
Year 4: 2,500 yards passing, 750 yards rushing, 22 TDs (pass), 8 TDs (rush) 55% completion
This year's wide receiver corps look like as talented a group that we ever have seen for the Gators as a unit. Is there one receiver that emerges out of this group to be "the guy" ?
How could it not be Dallas Baker? On the flip side, we may see some breakout performances from the likes of the "Corneliae" (Cornelius Ingram and Jemalle Cornelius.) Jemalle already had his breaking-out party last year when he stepped in for Bubba Caldwell, but I wouldn't be surprised to see some amazing output from him, too, now that we have such a ton of depth at receiver. In fact, I'll amend my answer a bit to say that I'm not positive we're going to see a "#1 guy" in the sense of banner stats or gaudy numbers. With the depth we have and Meyer's spread-the-field philosophy, at least four guys should get a ton of catches in the offense. Still, I think Dallas is going to be our big-time playmaker more often than not.
With the makeup of this year's team being top and bottom heavy (with the senior and freshman class making up the larger numbers on this team), how do you see this fact alone having an impact on this year's squad, and years to come?
That's another excellent question (do you have a ghost-writer or something who works these up for you?) and something to which Meyer has alluded many times in the offseason. He usually talks about his desire to see an equal distribution of frosh, soph, junior, and senior through the depth chart, and he will often make that remark when talking about his desire for Florida to be a "great team." It's clearly an issue which the coaches find to be supremely important, but the present situation isn't really of Meyer's doing; these are Zook's recruits for the most part, with Meyer's frosh and a few sophomores. I think we'll see the most impact on next year's squad -- in terms of depth and experience -- and thereafter it should dwindle as Meyer continues to bring in top recruiting classes. I haven't given much thought yet to the 2007 season, but it will be interesting to say the least - Tebow starting at QB, a more experienced O-line, and still plenty of depth at WR. I'd be shocked if Percy Harvin and Jarred Fayson aren't starting in '07. The biggest unknown will be our D. If we have a great season, it will be drained to the nubs.
Urban Meyer has a track record of having success with his second year in his stops at Bowling Green and Utah.
Do you see this year's team continuing that streak or do you think we are a year or two away from becoming a key player in the chase to be a top 5 team?
Realistically, I think we're going to be doing well with a double-digit win season this year. Let's face it: we have the SEC's 'Best of the West' on our schedule -- LSU, Bama, and Auburn -- along with an OOC schedule which includes FSU and two non-patsy openers. In reality we only have about five "gimme" games: USM, UCF, Vandy, Kentucky, and Western Carolina. The remaining games are all very winnable, but getting away unscathed will be a very tall order indeed. Don't forget that if we make it to the SEC championship game, we are likely to face yet another Top 10 or Top 15 opponent. ESPN thinks we have the toughest schedule in the nation, and I agree.
Florida's easily got the weapons in their warchest to prove me wrong and a date in Tempe, Arizona in January, 2007 is a distinct possibility. It will take a healthy team, great and consistent play, and a little luck to get there.