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Florida Gators Mailbag Monday: Louisville as Sugar Bowl disappointment, recruiting priorities

The Mailbag returns!

Andy Lyons

The Alligator Army Mailbag returns for a second week, making it longer-running than pretty much every other Alligator Army feature. As usual, hit @AlligatorArmy up or drop a question off on Facebook, and I'll get it answered.

Paired w/ Louisville?!? Is the BCS TRYING to tank ratings?!? (@michaelglazener)

This is going to be the common refrain (and lament) about Florida's Sugar Bowl bid: The Gators drew a Louisville team that doesn't excite many. And we're going complain about not getting everything we want, because we're an incredibly spoiled fan base and we certainly have the temerity to complain about not getting our desired opponent in the BCS bowl we got to despite not even playing for our conference title.

By which I mean: Shush.

There is one bowl that is guaranteed to be a good one every year: The BCS National Championship Game. It matches the No. 1 team against the No. 2 team, and it's never a disappointment on paper. Florida could have won out and gotten there. It didn't, and was thus at the mercy of a system that works to two ends: Getting that title game set up, and making stupendous amounts of money.

It's not the BCS' prerogative to make sure every BCS game is a great one; in fact, given all the rules in there limiting BCS conference participation, providing spots for non-BCS teams, and preserving a space for highly-ranked Notre Dame teams, making sure it takes care of all of the conferences it partners with seems like it's much higher on the list than making good, interesting TV matchups.

So, no: The BCS is not trying to tank ratings. But it's not trying to make ratings, either.

How do you think Pease will use Matt Jones & Kelvin Taylor in offensive mix next year? (@velvetbarstool)

I think Jones has shown enough to enter the spring as Florida's feature back. I think Taylor will enter the spring (he's an early enrollee) as No. 3 on the depth chart behind Jones and Brown, but I think he's going to move up quickly. And I think that being No. 1 on the Florida depth chart at running back going forward means between 18 and 24 carries per game, while No. 2 will earn four to nine.

Beyond that, I don't think either Jones (who was in often as a pass protector in 2012) or Taylor is a great option out of the backfield as a receiver just yet, and I don't know that I'd bet on either being that by next August.

Why are the Gators still pursuing a third running back with Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane committed? (@sammyerwin17)

Because that third running back is Alex Collins, maybe the nation's best back left on everyone's board.

247Sports is the outlier on Collins, calling him a five-star recruit while Rivals and ESPN each have him at four stars, but the point is that Collins, who was a longtime Miami commit, is good. Is he better than Taylor and/or Lane? It's a matter of opinion, really, and I don't have a particularly well-informed one. But he's certainly worth committing some time to, and with Florida's running back depth next year amounting to Matt Jones, Mack Brown, Taylor, and Lane, it's not a bad idea to swing at another back.

Florida doesn't seem to get played very often in recruiting under Will Muschamp, and I doubt it's investing time on Collins without at least the hope of maybe swinging him to the Orange and Blue or without considering that it could make either Taylor or Lane mad. Those two backs are all Gator, though, so pursuing Collins seems to be a low-risk, high-reward move.

Assuming none of our verbal commits change their mind, what's the biggest priority we have left in recruiting? (@FragnificentKW)

I think it's Trenton Brown, the massive JUCO offensive lineman that Florida has been on for months. Florida's identity going forward is as a run-first team, and depth on the offensive line is what helps Florida do that; thus, there are never too many offensive linemen for a team like Florida.

What do you see UF doing in the return game next year? why is that aspect of SP so bad this year? (@jljeffcott)

I think Florida has found that it can use Marcus Roberson as a punt returner, and will in 2013. And I think that Florida should probably keep using Andre Debose as a kick returner.

But the problem with the return game in 2012 has been Debose. Debose is in the ravine at the bottom of the cliff right now, especially compared to where he was entering 2012, and Debose's disappointments as a receiver are more significant than his disappointment as a returner, but the thing I thought Debose would be good at even if he couldn't get onto the field on offense was returning kicks. He averaged 24.1 yards per kick return, and never had a return of more than 40 yards. That's not game-breaking play; it's not even really game-changing play.

I still have foolish, stupid hope that Debose, who was maybe the most feared returner in college football entering 2012, can get his head screwed on right and go back to ripping off big plays. But hope is not faith.

As for what happens if Debose isn't the answer ... I wish I knew, too? Alvin Bailey would seem to be the recruit most likely to contribute in the return game.

how good can this Florida team really be next year? (@BrianStark15)

I genuinely think Florida's 2013 ceiling is an undefeated season and a national championship, as it is for every team in every year when a team is really, really good. Florida could be favored in every game next season but its trip to LSU, and should be the heavy favorite to win the SEC East. That's a nice slate for the Gators. But 2009 had one of those, too.