Florida football enters year five under Urban Meyer and the Gators have been built to last. In 2002 former Gator coach Ron Zook told me, “I want my program to look like that” when referencing Miami before the game in Gainesville. While Zook was complimentary of the Hurricanes, what he was alluding to in coaching lingo was a team whose roster from 1-85 passes the eyeball test. USC is at that point under Pete Carroll as is Oklahoma under Bob Stoops and Texas under Mack Brown. Now you can add Florida to the list as teams that not only pass the eyeball test but have been built to contend for years to come.
The key to success is recruiting and development. You see some programs that rank high in recruiting but don’t win big. (FSU and Notre Dame come to mind in recent years). They have not developed their kids nor they have had enough top prospects not make it to campus. I believe UF had one kid in Urban’s first three years not make it to campus and two total. This is how you win: recruit the Jimmy’s and Joe’s. To win big and play for BCS titles, BCS Bowls and conference titles you must coach and develop your players. I think Urban Meyer has proven he can do that which puts him and his program in elite status. Florida won’t win the title every year, but with this roster they among that elite group that is always in the hunt.
I speak of a roster that is flat out intimidating. The 2002 Hurricanes looked like an NFL team when they took the field. The offense had Ken Dorsey, Willis McGahaee, Andre Johnson and Kellen Winslow. The defense was led by Sean Taylor, D.J. Williams and Jonathan Vilma. This was a stacked team that would come up short in trying to defend its BCS title and while the 2002 team was very good, look at the 2002 recruiting class and you will find the demise of the Hurricane program. Good players but no great ones and few NFL draft picks. From there we have seen what can happen to a program that get’s in the slow lane in college football. It is extremely tough to get back over into the fast lane once you slow down.
I bring all of this up because I am very impressed not only with how Florida’s veterans look but its freshman class is very impressive as well. We know about Andre Debose, Jon Bostic and Dee Finley but what about some of these other guys? Jelani Jenkins, Xavier Nixon and Gary Brown look very stout as incoming freshman. Nick Alajajian, Mike Gilleslie and Jonotthan Harrison look like they will contribute this year. This looks to be a very impressive class where just about every signee may contribute in their first two years. Stephen Alli, a 2010 kid, is so good he enrolled early. Josh Evans looks like a guy who can play this year. I know they have not put on the pads yet, but as every coach says, “this team passes the eyeball test.” Now it’s up to Urban Meyer and his coaches to develop them and win.
THIS AND THAT: Keep an eye on Jeremy Brown and his back injury. It always concerns me when a kid comes out of summer un-healthy … Florida has Markie Anderson ready to be the third guy at corner but after him it’s Wondy Pierre-Louis, Adrian Bushell and maybe Moses Jenkins … Will Hill needs to be on the field and Florida is starting him in its Joker package. I am not sure what Charleston Southern runs, but he should start against Troy. Hill is always around the ball on special teams and has shown he is a safety who does not mind playing close to the line of scrimmage … Florida may play as many as 10 defensive lineman in the first two games to figure out their rotation The key at defensive tackle is if Omar Hunter and Jaye Howard can prove they will stay in their gaps in SEC play. Look for Justin Trattou, Duke Lemmens and even Carlos Dunlap to work some inside against spread teams like Troy … I know the coaches are high on seeing Emmanual Moody in camp. When Florida does run the I-formation he is the guy they want to dot it … Coaches have a package with Tebow under center and it works Moody and Hernandez in sort of a two-man game for football … Injuries seem to find Moody and his replacement could be freshman Mike Gilleslie. He looks like a kid who can run inside the tackles, but we will have to wait and see when the pads go on … On the offensive front the Gators are loaded. Everyone wants to see if Matt Patchan can win the job at left tackle. I think he can and will bring a nastiness to the position. However at 285 he could have match-up problems with teams like LSU and Georgia in the regular season and Ole Miss or Alabama in the SEC Title Game. Ole Miss has big physical defensive ends that will play in the NFL and 285 is just a hair light in my opinion … Finally the receiver position is worth watching the next week as Florida’s passing game was a bit rusty the first two days. Remember this when examining UF’s passing game. It will never look as good in practice as it does in the game. Reason being it’s all based on balance and deception. Florida likes to run for 200 and pass for 200. In this respect, Tim Tebow is like Danny Wuerffel. Neither Danny nor Tim have ever looked all that great in practice, but we know how good they are when they’re on the field and the game is for real.