2007 RECORD: 9-4; SEC: 5-3
Lost Capitol One Bowl vs. Michigan 41-35
LOCATION: Gainesville, Florida
STADIUM: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548)
HEAD COACH: Urban Meyer
OVERALL: 70-16 (7 seasons)
AT FLORIDA: 31-8 (3 seasons)
Lost in the aura of Tim Tebow and the amazing numbers he put up was the fact the Gators opened the season ranked No. 3 in the Coaches Poll (CFI Preseason No. 18) and finished ranked 16th. The Gators put a whuppin’ on several opponents—seven of their nine wins coming by at least 20 points—but were only 1-4 against their five opponents that finished the season ranked. On the flip side, they were breaking in nine new starters on defense, as well as a new quarterback in what was a pretty darn good rebuilding season.
WHEN THE GATORS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Dan Mullen (4th Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 7
KEY LOSSES: Andre Caldwell, Carlton Medder, Drew Miller, Cornelius Ingram (Injured)
Tim Tebow had a season for the ages, shattering the glass ceiling for sophomores when it comes to the Heisman Trophy. What can he do for an encore? Hopefully for the Gators they won’t need Tebow to do as much. He is such a unique runner, reminiscent of an old school fullback with defenders bouncing off of him. He also has a big arm and made strides as a passer in his first season as the starter—his duel threat ability makes him the ultimate weapon in the spread offense. If he isn’t, Percy Harvin might be, whether it be catching the football or lining up in the backfield and running with the pigskin. If the Gators want to stretch the field, Luis Murphy and his 4.3 speed is the way to go. They suffered a major loss when WR/TE hybrid Cornelius Ingram went down, but do have a solid fill in with sophomore Aaron Hernandez. There is talent along the offensive line and at tailback, but both groups were inconsistent in ’07. The line must play better as a group and they are relying on heavily on the Pouncey brothers, a pair of sophomores. At tailback, Kestahn Moore returns, but expect either USC transfer Emmanuel Moody or electric freshman Chris Rainey to emerge.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) WR Percy Harvin (JR), 2) QB Tim Tebow (JR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Charlie Strong (4th Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 8
KEY LOSSES: Derrick Harvey, Tony Joiner
A lot of young players were thrust into major roles on defense last season and the hope in Gainesville is that the ’08 edition of the Florida Gators will be better for it. MIKE Brandon Spikes stepped to the forefront as their leading tackler and top playmaker—a big reason the Gators led the SEC in rush defense. He is the leader of the defense, but others must step up. They need more production from their outside linebackers, as well as from the defensive tackle spot, where several freshmen and sophomores are competing for playing time. They must also replace premiere pass rusher Derrick Harvey, with ends Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap possessing vast potential. Their biggest problem last season came in the secondary. Florida’s pass defense was dead last in the SEC as corners Joe Haden and Wondy Pierre-Louis were burned early and often, but there is hope for the duo, particularly Haden who made 12 starts as a true freshman. The most exciting player in the defensive backfield is another true sophomore, FS Major Wright, who only needs to play with more discipline to fulfill his potential.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) MLB Brandon Spikes (JR), 2) FS Major Wright (SO)
Out of conference they take on Miami at home early and Florida St. in Tallahassee late…these match-ups are great for college football, but not nearly as difficult as they would have been in the past. Their opener versus Hawaii is far easier than it would have been a year ago, but don’t worry—playing in the SEC is going to be as tough as ever. They open up conference play with a trip to Knoxville and play host to defending SEC and national champion LSU, as well as SEC East sleeper South Carolina. The game circled on everyone’s schedule is in Jacksonville, home of the “the world’s largest end zone celebration”. You can bet the Gators are chomping at the bit to square off with the ‘Dawgs.
Finish vs. the Big Boys: The 2007 Gators were bullies to some extent. They beat up on the little guys on their schedule—Western Kentucky, Troy and Florida Atlantic—as expected. They also took it to some of the powers that be in college football, trouncing Tennessee 59-20 and laying a 45-12 beat down of Florida St. In both of those games, their rivals were quick to hang their heads and didn’t put up much of a fight. However, that wasn’t the case with their toughest opponents. Not only did Florida lose to four of the five teams they played that finished ranked, they were 1-3 in games decided by less than a touchdown, with their lone win coming against a 3-9 Ole Miss team. They did not overcome a fourth quarter deficit all season.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
The 2007 Gators were far more glamorous than the 2006 edition, but in their championship run, Florida was 5-0 in games decided by seven points or less, including a pair of late fourth quarter comebacks against Tennessee and South Carolina. What will the 2008 Gators deliver? The talent is there to contend for a National Championship, but they must do a better job closing out games against the other contenders in the SEC or they could just as easily find themselves in third place in the East just as they were a season ago.
Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media
Friday, August 22, 2008
2007 RECORD: 9-4; SEC: 5-3