In previewing the Garnett-less Boston Celtics, Bill Simmons said Thursday that the best part about winning a championship is defending it. In looking at the Gators upcoming season through the spring tradition of the Orange and Blue Game, we will quickly get a sense of how serious everyone is about winning again. Thinking back to the 2008 game, I remember Tim Tebow being presented with awards at halftime and instead of smiling, he had the face of a man taking a dump. It looked like Billy Donovan after the first National Championship. Now that they have reached the mountaintop, do they have the energy to do it again? Urban Meyer says they won't be complacent, but he also said he was going to enjoy the most recent championship. What is it going to be?
That question isn't the biggest of Florida's concerns however. Part two of our Orange and Blue preview deals with what we don't know. Tomorrow, I'll be LIVE FROM BEN HILL GRIFFIN STADIUM (read that in your Brent Musberger voice) and posting updates live on twitter. As for now, three questions that need to be answered;
1. Who gets Percy Harvin's catches? Everyone is so worried about how Harvin will be replaced, conveniently forgetting how good Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps and (supposedly) Emmanuel Moody are at running the ball. But Harvin caught 40 balls last year, including 13 against Ole Miss, 6 against LSU and 5 against Oklahoma. If we use the FSU and Alabama games for clues as to who will get thrown to, it's Aaron Hernandez and David Nelson. But, they got touches with Lou Murphy in the lineup. If you think of everyone moving up a rung on the ladder, Harvin-Murphy-Hernandez becomes Hernandez-Nelson-Cooper, in terms of Tebow's 1-2-3 targets. (I mean 1-2-3 in terms of preference, not where they line up.) Hernandez is the only true mismatch in that group as a freakish tight end. Nelson and Cooper are fast, but Nelson is lean and Cooper seems to have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time (it seems as if 75% of Tebow's INTs are passes intended for Cooper). Does Carl Moore step up? What about Andre Debose? The Orlando Sentinel's Jeremy Fowler says Deonte Thompson has been impressive and Frankie Hammond looks like a possible 5th WR. The Gators will have to decide if the load from Harvin goes on one player or several.
2. Who will protect Tebow and Moody and Rainey and Demps? You live and die by your offensive line (see Brady, Tom) and Florida has lost their two starting tackles. The Pounceys are expected to be guards, now that Sam Robey has been penciled in at center. Carl Johnson and Marcus Gilbert are expected to be the tackles, but Johnson would be moving from guard. Who knows if that transition will work? Meyer has a lot of dudes 6-4, 330, but none of them have experience protecting Tebow's blind side. This is the one area where UF could have an Epic Fail. Perhaps that is a sign at how well the rest of the team looks.
3. Is it worth it to rebuild Tebow's arm in his senior season? Instead of being worried about the youth on the interior defensive line, we turn our attention to the golden arm of Tim Tebow. Changing the moneymaker is nothing new. Baseball players routinely change their batting stances and basketball players will adjust their jump shot. But the paraell here is Tiger Woods' swing post-Tiger slam. The swing he uses now wrecked his left knee, but it was even more violent in the early part of his career. After the 2002 U.S. Open, Tiger rebuilt his swing, looking for more accuracy while sacrificing power and looking to reduce stress on his knees. But as Tiger did this, he slipped on the rankings and money list, not winning a major until the 2005 Masters.
I'm not saying Tebow's NFL tutoring is a bad thing. Taking a look at this piece by our SEC blog, Team Speed Skills, you can better understand the immediate benefits of the new coaching. But can you think of another situation where a player changed overnight? That's essentialy what Tebow is being asked to do. I'd love to root for Tebow as a first round pick for the Bucs and have Mel Kiper rave about his arm. But I want another National Championship more.