The Orange and Blue Debut has come and gone with much more fanfare than usual this year. ESPN broadcast the game nationally which made it one of the hottest topics on enemy message boards all over the Internet. Most would consider this year’s game an unqualified success but even so, there were a few things missing that could have spiced things up considerably.
Here are five things that I missed Saturday:
1. FOUR STARS AT RECEIVER: It is amazing the Gators could do anything through the air knowing that four of their top weapons were missing at the receiver positions. All three returning starters from the receiving corps were out of the game when seniors Cornelius Ingram and Louis Murphy along with junior Percy Harvin were unable to play due to illness or injury. Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow still had 200 passing yards with those three and heralded junior college transfer Carl Moore out of the lineup for either squad. Imagine the numbers if they were able to play.
2. NO FIGHTS: One thing that happened this spring is that the offense and defense were going at it so hard, tempers often flared and next thing you know, there was a fight. There were injuries because of hard play this spring but none because of a fight so it was probably worth it to the coaching staff to see the kind of aggression on the field. When players are practicing with intensity and focus, fights are inevitable. That there were so many of them was a good indication that every day the players were dead set on making it a great practice. Most of the time the fights in practice are actually fun to watch and good for the fans. It really is rare that an on the field fight results in an injury. The same guys that duke it out on the practice field are usually seen walking off together laughing it off after practice.
3. AN INTACT/HEALTHY OFFENSIVE LINE: Tim Tebow was the beneficiary of an offensive line with most of the healthy starters for the spring game. Cam Newton was under pressure all day and played like it. Senior starter Phil Trautwein did play in the game but he was brought along slowly all spring. Sophomore Carl Johnson broke his left thumb last week and was not having a good time trying to defend the pass rush from the left side, but he may have played more snaps this spring than anyone. Senior Jim Tartt, sophomore Marcus Gilbert and freshman James Wilson all missed the game due to injuries of one sort or another. This greatly affected the quality of the lines, especially the second unit. Again, imagine the offensive production with two healthy units on the offensive line.
4. AN EMERGING DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Freshman John Brown has progressed throughout the spring and is close to being the guy. He is able to stand his ground a lot, but is not quite able to be that backfield penetrating force. But, no one else has done that either. Brown seems to have progressed consistently while sophomore Terron Sanders stepped it up quicker at the end of spring drills. Lawrence Marsh was probably the guy that played at decent level throughout the spring. We just wanted to see someone make those big time plays in front of the big crowd.
5. DEONTE STARTING: Despite his lack of productivity in the spring game, freshman receiver Deonte Thompson has been a star for most of the spring. He started off really hot and then hit a wall, but finished strong at the end of spring. Unfortunately for him, that wall hit him again on Saturday. This spring Deonte has shown the jets like we saw from freshman running back Chris Rainey on Saturday, and moves like we saw from sophomore running back Emmanuel Moody on Saturday. He was due for that breakout after red-shirting last fall. I guess we will wait a few more months for that breakout.