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5 observations from
the SEC Championship Game

Written by Nick de la Torre, December 6, 2015, 6 Comments,
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1. Antonio Callaway will be a household name

Antonio Callaway returned a punt 85-yards for a touchdown against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday night. The play was electrifying, gave Florida a lead in the game and, if we’re being honest, wasn’t really surprising to see.

That’s because Callaway, in just his first season, has shown a knack for the spectacular. Florida’s offense has been stagnant long enough that mold is growing on it, but Callaway continues finding ways to get into the end zone. Callaway had fans asking the university to build him a statue for that touchdown against the Vols.

Callaway has become a household name in Gainesville and in Gator Nation, but soon enough the whole country will know who number 81 from Homestead is.

 

2. Austin Hardin and Treon Harris’ days are numbered

Jim McElwain’s public confidence in Austin Hardin took a turn after a loss to Florida State when the head coach said, “we’ll find a good kicker.” Hardin’s days are not long in Gainesville and he had another field goal blocked, making it an even four on the season, against Alabama.

McElwain has supported Treon Harris even though the passer has struggled mightily since a win over Georgia. After the SEC Championship game McElwain said of Harris, “he was our quarterback.”

Whether that is a Freudian slip or a calculated statement doesn’t mean too much. Harris has played his way out of the starting quarterback position. He’ll likely start and play all four quarters in the bowl game but that should be it for Harris. Luke Del Rio will be eligible to play opening day of the 2016 season, Will Grier will be back in October and if Florida can flip Jacob Eason, he’s a player that is talented enough to come in as an early enrollee and play right away if needed.

 

3. NFL Decisions

Vernon Hargreaves announced his intentions to forego his final season of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft. Jarrad Davis did the opposite, and announced that he would be returning to school for his senior season.

There are many more players who still have to decide. Keanu Neal, Alex McCalister, Caleb Brantley, Kelvin Taylor, Marcus Maye and Demarcus Robinson all have decisions to make on whether they will leave school early.

That list, specifically on defense, will have a major impact on what Florida will look like next season. If all of those defensive players return to school with Davis, look out, the Gators’ defense could be a force to be reckoned with. If most on that list choose to declare for the draft then Geoff Collins will have a lot of holes to fill next season.

 

4. Championship defense continues

Florida gave up 29 points and 437 yards to Alabama, but those stats don’t paint the whole picture.

Florida’s offense only managed to hold on to the ball for 16:31 in the game. That means the defense was forced to play for more than 43 minutes on Saturday. That’s not a recipe for success.

Still, Florida’s defense performed admirably. They forced four punts to start the game and forced a turnover. Florida’s defense is still one of the best in the country; they just need a little help from the defense.

 

5. Don’t let last two games taint the season

The Florida Gators finished their season in Atlanta, Georgia. That is the goal of 14 teams in the SEC when each season and only two can lay claim to actually achieving that.

Florida has 10 wins this year and a bowl game to look forward to, most would have been happy with eight wins this season. The season ended with two losses that leave a bad taste in your mouth but even more than the losses it’s the way Florida looked the last month of the season that really stings.

Don’t let the last month of the season tarnish your memory of what was truly an incredible run by Florida in a season where they were rebuilding. Will Muschamp won 10 games one time in four seasons, Jim McElwain did it in his very first season at the helm. The future is bright for the Florida Gators.

Nick de la Torre

About Nick de la Torre

A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC

  1. wci347December 6, 2015, 9:57 am

    All we need to ask ourselves is how many of the teams we lost to had to abruptly switch QBs in the middle of the season? How many of the teams we narrowly beat had to switch QBs abruptly. Under the circumstances, Harris did a remarkable job. He was relegated to second string after finishing last season as the starter. He then, as was the case with last season, was called in to rescue our season.

    Who knows how much progress he would have made, how much confidence he would have had with play calling/execution, awareness of defensive schemes, and most of all how much more the rest of the team would have rallied behind him had he been the starter all year.

    • kenny12gatorDecember 6, 2015, 11:06 am

      Harris couldn’t even hit the broad side of a barn.. LITERALLY. The fact that you think he performed admirably is pretty funny. The fact that you think he would have done any better if he started all year is REALLY FUNNY.

  2. kenny12gatorDecember 6, 2015, 11:39 am

    Grier still had more TD passed than harris in 2015. He also had more than harris did in all of 2014 as well. There were big plays to be made through the air in every game Treon played in. He just couldn’t make them..

  3. malscottDecember 6, 2015, 12:44 pm

    The circumstances are all well documented. Treon stepped in and did the best he could. We are all proud of that part, but ignoring the ultimate ‘results’ of all of his performances shows you don’t have a good grasp of reality. I’m not sure he is capable of improving his game beyond what he has done. He has regressed, not improved. It appears that he might be at his ceiling. That isn’t a character assassination, it is the reality many athletes have to face. Not every childhood gymnast can go to the olympics, not every high school softball player will make a college team, most of the star little league kids never even make a college team, some players will make a college team and most won’t be stars. Many will be huge stars and never make the pros. His size alone is a liability, his grasp of the mental side of the game or lack thereof can be argued as well. What he possesses is a team spirit and a willingness to compete. Without him we would have been screwed! Fortunate few are able to rise to the top of the NCAA elite. What you have to ask yourself is do you really think he is really one of the elite athletes? Did he not get his chance? He’s a competitor, and I’ll leave it at that. And, I’m grateful for his efforts. Even if he’s a blood relative…grasp the reality my friend! Thanks Treon and Go Gators.

    • kenny12gatorDecember 6, 2015, 5:58 pm

      I’m grateful we had him as well. I’m glad he’s a gator. And I’m glad he IS such a fierce competitor. He simply doesn’t have the skill set and tangibles to be effective at this level of college football.

  4. gatorbogeyDecember 7, 2015, 4:52 am

    playing against bama is a measuring stick game that will serve us well moving forward. provide motivation in the off season, exposed our holes and flaws. coaches know where they can improve too. and where they need to focus their recruiting.

http://www.gatorcountry.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/sec_champ_fb_2015_fullC_neg-150x150.jpg Nick de la Torre FootballThe Latest ,,,,,,,,,,
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1. Antonio Callaway will be a household name

Antonio Callaway returned a punt 85-yards for a touchdown against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday night. The play was electrifying, gave Florida a lead in the game and, if we’re being honest, wasn’t really surprising to see.

That’s because Callaway, in just his first season, has shown a knack for the spectacular. Florida’s offense has been stagnant long enough that mold is growing on it, but Callaway continues finding ways to get into the end zone. Callaway had fans asking the university to build him a statue for that touchdown against the Vols.

Callaway has become a household name in Gainesville and in Gator Nation, but soon enough the whole country will know who number 81 from Homestead is.

 

2. Austin Hardin and Treon Harris’ days are numbered

Jim McElwain’s public confidence in Austin Hardin took a turn after a loss to Florida State when the head coach said, “we’ll find a good kicker.” Hardin’s days are not long in Gainesville and he had another field goal blocked, making it an even four on the season, against Alabama.

McElwain has supported Treon Harris even though the passer has struggled mightily since a win over Georgia. After the SEC Championship game McElwain said of Harris, “he was our quarterback.”

Whether that is a Freudian slip or a calculated statement doesn’t mean too much. Harris has played his way out of the starting quarterback position. He’ll likely start and play all four quarters in the bowl game but that should be it for Harris. Luke Del Rio will be eligible to play opening day of the 2016 season, Will Grier will be back in October and if Florida can flip Jacob Eason, he’s a player that is talented enough to come in as an early enrollee and play right away if needed.

 

3. NFL Decisions

Vernon Hargreaves announced his intentions to forego his final season of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft. Jarrad Davis did the opposite, and announced that he would be returning to school for his senior season.

There are many more players who still have to decide. Keanu Neal, Alex McCalister, Caleb Brantley, Kelvin Taylor, Marcus Maye and Demarcus Robinson all have decisions to make on whether they will leave school early.

That list, specifically on defense, will have a major impact on what Florida will look like next season. If all of those defensive players return to school with Davis, look out, the Gators’ defense could be a force to be reckoned with. If most on that list choose to declare for the draft then Geoff Collins will have a lot of holes to fill next season.

 

4. Championship defense continues

Florida gave up 29 points and 437 yards to Alabama, but those stats don’t paint the whole picture.

Florida’s offense only managed to hold on to the ball for 16:31 in the game. That means the defense was forced to play for more than 43 minutes on Saturday. That’s not a recipe for success.

Still, Florida’s defense performed admirably. They forced four punts to start the game and forced a turnover. Florida’s defense is still one of the best in the country; they just need a little help from the defense.

 

5. Don’t let last two games taint the season

The Florida Gators finished their season in Atlanta, Georgia. That is the goal of 14 teams in the SEC when each season and only two can lay claim to actually achieving that.

Florida has 10 wins this year and a bowl game to look forward to, most would have been happy with eight wins this season. The season ended with two losses that leave a bad taste in your mouth but even more than the losses it’s the way Florida looked the last month of the season that really stings.

Don’t let the last month of the season tarnish your memory of what was truly an incredible run by Florida in a season where they were rebuilding. Will Muschamp won 10 games one time in four seasons, Jim McElwain did it in his very first season at the helm. The future is bright for the Florida Gators.

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