As we shake off the great food and parties of the holidays and start on a new year, let’s take a look to the future of Gator Football on the “O” Side of the line.
The Gator Offense of 2007 should be a thing of beauty for those clad in Orange and Blue. For Gator-haters, it should be a thing of nightmares.
The running game:
Starting with the backfield, UF has a mix of highly talented players that are in a unique circumstance of being both young and experienced.
Kehstan Moore and Marcus Manson have seen the most time in the traditional role of running back, though most of Manson’s reps came as a freshman. If Moore can overcome his fumbling issues, and Manson can get with the blocking schemes, they should provide a strong core to the running game. Right on their heels is Mon Williams, at Six foot two and 198lbs showed his promise in the West Carolina game. The word is that all Mon needs to see big reps is to learn how to block for the QB. Expect him to see good action. Chevon Walker is another RS freshman back with a ton of promise. Gators should also see the small but quick Brandon James get his share of reps.
One thing Urban Meyer & Company have shown, is that traditional running backs aren’t the only ones that will line up behind the QB. Add to the mix Percy Harvin and Jarred Fayson and defending the run becomes a major concern for those facing the Gator ground game. Quarterback Tim Tebow is always a threat to break out and run the ball as well, and has shown the ability to “take it to the house.” While he may not run the ball as much as the starting QB, expect it to continue as a significant part of his repertoire.
The “X” factor this year could come from incoming freshmen. Two are early entrees and could have an immediate impact. One is cut from the same cloth as Percy as far as speed and versatility are concerned and the other (EE) has everything you want in a big, strong back; he is both quick and fast, runs downhill and is used to taking plenty of punishment. Other players who have verbally committed to UF can only make things better.
Coach Drayton, perhaps for the first time since coming to UF, looks to have a solid mix of size and speed to work with. The other thing he will have is talented depth.
The passing Game:
Tim Tebow takes charge of the offense in his second year at UF. Everyone knows what “TT” brings to the table. This time around, he will be the one backed up by a newcomer to UF. Bryan Waggoner signed and delivered, being a Junior College transfer and adds a dimension of security to this thin position. Every Gator knows the two incoming freshmen verbals. The questions with them, will not be regarding a talent or ability. Once the ink dries in February, it will be; who of the incoming freshmen will redshirt, or, with the addition of Waggoner, will they both take a shirt? The Orange and Blue game in 2007 promises to be one for the ages with so much talent, and so many early entrants.
Bubba Caldwell is a junior and will be returning to Florida as a senior. He showed a broken leg is far from a career ending injury. With the graduating of Dallas Baker and Jamal Cornelius, expect Bubba to step into the roll of the main man.
Jarred Fayson is one of many that played a full year as a true freshman. While the coachspeak says Jarred has insane talent and speed, it took a while for him to fully understand his role and the offense at wide receiver. Not overly surprising as he played QB in high school. To go along with the blazers are a trio of tall, and fast wide receiver that also saw action, albeit limited this year as true freshmen. Riley Cooper at six ft 4, Louis Murphy at six ft 3 and Tim Tebow’s avowed favorite six ft 5 inch David Nelson.
Percy Harvin – see above.
If that weren’t enough, Cornelius Ingram is now fully acclimated to his new role at Tight End. At Six ft 4 225lb, he has fast become a major weapon in Meyer’s offense Trent Pupello is Six ft 4 256lbs and I am not sure who isn’t salivating at the thought of him getting significant playing time. He is a devastating blocker. Tough, nasty and mean only describe a part of this young man. He is also talented and can catch the ball, becoming another weapon for Tim and company.
Currently the Gator commit list only adds to this speed and firepower.
The big and uglies of the Offensive Line. This is where it all starts:
Our offensive line is already well ahead of schedule and the Gators lose ONLY ONE Player, Steve Rissler. Steve has done a great job and is the leader, Great Gator.
But look at this and remember this line has pretty much halved the sacks given up from last year and is gelling now. It is healthy for the first time and to end the year, we saw far less motion and holding penalties and even midway through the ’06 season.
* Jim Barrie 6ft5 280 freshman center
* Simon Codrington, 6ft7 302 freshman OT
* Marcus Gilbert 6ft6 303 freshman OL
* Eddie Haupt 6ft4 295 freshman center
* Corey Hobbs 6ft5 332 freshman OG
* Maurice Hurt 6ft2 306 freshman OG
* Carl Johnson 6ft4 330 freshman OT
* Ronnie Wilson 6ft4 309 freshman OG
We all know how well they have come along. WHAT a great group they are. This year, in 2007 they will all be bigger (except big Carl), stronger, smarter and readier to contribute. This is a young base. Our more experienced players are few, but also quite impressive:
* Carlton Medder 6ft5 312 JR OT
* Drew Miller 6ft5 305 JR OT
* Jim Tartt 6f3 315 SO OG
* Phil Trautwien 6ft6 308 JR OT
* Jason Watkins 6ft6 310 SO OT
These five have proven themselves through the year. Many have played injured, on bad feet and ankles and were crunk in crunch time. The one thing that can be seen is that the Gators have significant, talented depth at the O Line for the first time in many years. Slated early entrees on the OL for 2007 can only bolster this, with one said to be in a position to possibly be ready enough to see playing time in year one. Above and beyond current verbal commitments here, there remains an outside possibility for one more. If so, this one will also be among the best prospects in the nation.
This is where the Gator offense stands right now. This is WITHOUT commitments. The Gators seem to be set to have another banner recruiting with year their class of 2007. Odds are not every verbal will stick, but, if they lose more than 2 on their current list, it would be surprising. The Gators can easily hold everyone there now. The offense however, is pretty much set in stone but the Gators may see up to three wide receivers and one offensive lineman added to their class. The challenge with recruiting is that nothing is done until the Letters of intent are signed and faxed in.
The 2006/2007 season has been great for the Gator Nation, especially when they notched their second national championship on January 8th. However, if folks think that this is it for the Gators, they may just need to think again. It may not be managing all the talent at UF that is the hardest job. Managing expectations could become the biggest hurdle at UF. Well, that and finding enough plays to satisfy all the talent.