VETTEL: A Near Perfect Senior Day

Dallas Baker sprained his medial collateral ligament. Other than that, Saturday’s 62-nothing pasting of Western Carolina was a perfect ending to the Gators home season. Florida got tons of playing time for the young stars of the future and they came through with scintillating performances.

The Gators gave their seniors a cameo appearance and let them bask in glow on a glorious Saturday afternoon in the University City. The only thing the day lacked was a blowout result in the Michigan/Ohio state game or a California upset of Southern California.

Obviously Western Carolina had no shot. The game was over midway through the national anthem and it’s arguable that Lakeland High School would have provided more competition. Games like this really serve no purpose early in the season when a team is trying to establish itself. But at this time of year, it’s absolutely ideal. Banged up, worn out players get some much needed rest for the bigger games down the line, and freshmen who have been practicing for months get a chance to show what they can do.

Future Looking Good

The best thing about the game as far as I’m concerned was watching the future of the Gator offense. Tim Tebow ran the entire scheme and threw the ball beautifully. I wasn’t expecting a 200-yard passing game from Florida’s southpaw passer, but that’s precisely what we saw. Let there be no more discussion about whether or not Tebow will throw it well enough to make the offense dangerous. He has the best lefty arm I’ve seen since Boomer Esiason. Plus he’s an outstanding runner and better competitor. Oh yeah, and he’s smart and eager to learn. I also saw some very encouraging things from a number of other young players.

* Jarred Fayson —– He was electric running the option as a quarterback and showed he’s a guy who has to get some touches. Maybe it’ll be as a running back. Maybe it’ll be as a quarterback or receiver. Or maybe it will be all of the above. One thing this offensive staff certainly has is creativity and Fayson will challenge them to use it in the future.

* Riley Cooper —– We already knew he was a physical kid from his high school career and big hit against LSU on kick coverage. We knew he was a heckuva multi-sport athlete who could have been a pretty high draft choice if he wasn’t completely committed to college life. Now we know he has excellent potential as a receiver. He overcame a dropped touchdown to catch three TD passes in three completely different ways. He’ll be a major factor in ’07.

* Mon Williams —– There is no argument that the freshman from Texas is the most gifted running back on campus. Williams showed a burst of speed and that running back “lean” you love to see as he always gained yardage after the first hit. We don’t know how much of the offense he can learn, how he’ll develop as a blocker or receiver or whether or not he can run between the tackles. Still, if you want the Gators to have a 1,000 yard rusher next season, Williams is clearly the best if not only chance of that happening.

* Dustin Doe —– Yeah we’ve seen a lot from him during the season, but the extended time he got Saturday just further convinces me that he’s going to be something special. He has a Mike Peterson quality about him that draws him to the ball play after play. The weak side linebacker job is in good hands for the next three years.

* Ronnie Wilson —– The big guard looked like a beast during spring practice and now looks to be rounding into form after his injury setback. If he can master the shotgun snap, the center job is his. He gives Florida a feisty, physical presence on the offensive line and seems to always be looking for someone to hit.

10-and-1 is Really Special

Do you happen to know off hand how many times the Gators have won lat least ten of their first eleven games? Well, it has now happened four times in 100 years. Florida’s rout of Western Carolina allows the 2006 Gators to join the Gators of 1991, ’95 and ’96 Gators in that category. The ’91 Gators reached 10-and-1 with a win over FSU, but ended the year losing to Notre Dame 39-28 in the Sugar Bowl. In ’95 Florida won its first twelve games for the first and only time in school history only to fall to Nebraska 62-24 in the National Championship Game. The ’96 Gators took a 10-and-0 record to Tallahassee and fell to the ‘Noles 24-21 in a #1 versus # 2 showdown. Of course those Gators bounced back to score 97 points in beating Alabama and FSU for the National Title.

The Gators’ other ten-plus win teams needed either the SEC Championship game (’93, ’94 and ’00) or a bowl game (’97, ’98 and ’01) to reach the ten victory mark. This team, on the other hand could still break the school record and win 13 games. Whether the Gators end up with ten wins, 13 or somewhere in between; this has been one of the finest seasons in UF history.