SEC

2010 NCAA Football Analysis: Florida Gators

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 13-1, 8-0
Bowl Game: Sugar Bowl (W 51-24 vs. Cincinnati)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): 3, 3
Conference finish: 1st SEC East
Offensive rank: 6
Defensive rank: 4

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Tim Tebow, 910 yards, 14 TD; Jeff Demps, 745 yards, 7 TD
Passing: Tim Tebow, 2,895 yards, 21 TD, 5 INT
Receiving: Riley Cooper, 961 yards, 9 TD; Aaron Hernandez, 850 yards, 5 TD
Tackles: Ryan Stamper, 78 total tackles
Sacks: Carlos Dunlap, 9 sacks (9 solo)
Interceptions: Joe Haden, 4 interceptoins

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2010 Season Outlook

Schedule
(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

October 2 @ Alabama: This could be a prequel to yet another Florida/Alabama SEC Championship. These teams last met in the regular season in Florida's 2006 championship year with the Gators winning 28-13 in Gainesville. The Tide won the previous year by a score of 31-3 in Tuscaloosa.

October 9 vs. LSU: Florida gets the West's top two teams this season in back to back weeks. If they split the two games, they're in pretty good shape with just once loss in the SEC. While these two games could get more fanfare, a matchup a few weeks later could make or break Florida's 2010 season…

October 30 vs. Georgia: So it's a pretty rough October for the Gators. They'll have to be careful not to drop one against Tennessee in Knoxville, will face an early season challenge against a hungry South Florida team and finish the year against arch rival Florida State. However, Georgia presents a great opportunity for Florida to drop one whole game in the East standings against a Bulldogs team who deserve more respect than they've been getting this preseason.

November 27 @ Florida State: It may not matter in the SEC, but arch rival Florida State, who should be much improved in 2010, in hostile territory is nonetheless one of the bigger games on the Gators' schedule. If they get their shot in the SEC title game, their bowl fate will be decided then. But a win or loss against the Seminoles could do a lot to determine where the Gators will play their bowl game should they fail to win the SEC.

AP: 4

Coaches': 3

Key Losses

Tim Tebow, QB; Riley Cooper, WR; Aaron Hernandez, TE; Maurkice Pouncey, C; Carlos Dunlap, DE; Jermaine Cunningham, DE; Brandon Spikes, LB; Ryan Stamper, LB; Joe Haden, CB; Major Wright, S

Key Returning Players

Jeff Demps, RB; Emmanuel Moody, RB; Deonte Thompson, WR; Mike Pouncey, C; Brandon Hicks, LB; Janoris Jenkins, CB; Ahmad Black, S

Offensive Overview

John Brantley may not be the same type of player as Tebow, but he's expected to be just as productive, albeit in a different aspect of the game. He'll throw more, has a nice arm and looked very comfortable leading the offense in the spring. As more of a 'pro-style' quarterback, the Gators should find themselves in more pro-style sets, but don't think they'll abandon the spread offense that took them to two national titles. Tight end Jordan Reed could see time at quarterback as a Tebow-like threat in the running game and is good enough throwing the ball to run the spread a few times a game. This is still very much Brantley's offense, though, and he'll be calling the shots for the vast majority of the plays.

In a little bit more of a pro-style offense, the running backs could be used more like, well, running backs. If the Gators do opt for a pro-style-like offense, the obvious beneficiary would be Emmanuel Moody. He hasn't exactly lived up to his lofty expectations and he won't be the man in the backfield, but if the Gators do decide to run the ball a little more in the traditional sense, Moody could see a few more carries a game as a more natural fit in a pro set offense. Jeff Demps is still the starting running back, although some expect him to be used as more of an all-round type of player like Percy Harvin. He's not a featured back, but as a sprinter for the track team, Demps is a big play threat who can take it all the way whenever he touches the ball.

The offensive line returns four starters with the only departure being Rimington Trophy winner Maurkice Pouncey. His brother, Mike, will move over from guard to center and could actually contend for the Rimington himself in 2010. James Wilson could move into Pouncey's guard spot after starting four times last season, and Carl Johnson, at 6'5, 360 pounds, returns to the other guard spot. The left tackle will be sophomore Xavier Nixon, who as a freshman last season grew into the starting line up towards the end of the year. Handling right tackle will be Marcus Gilbert, who started every game last season protecting Tebow's blindside.

The offensive line is built more for the running game, but they should nonetheless keep Brantley's jersey relatively clean, and he'll have plenty of targets in the passing game. The only question is who will emerge as the team's top threat. Deonte Thompson is the consensus to take over for Riley Cooper as the team's number one receiver. He's lightning fast and with Brantley more of a passer than a runner, Thompson should put up nice numbers this season. Former running back Chris Rainey should be in for a good season as a receiver as well. He's just 5'9, but should turn out to be a good weapon playing out of the slot. Andre Debose, Carl Moore, Frankie Hammond, whose scholarship was stripped following a DUI arrest, and incoming freshman Chris Dunkley round out a fabulous receivers corps. And don't forget about Reed. While he'll step into a Tebow role in the spread, he's also a dangerous pass catcher at the tight end spot. Desmond Parks will be his backup and is also a nice threat in the passing game.

Defensive Overview

Defensive end Justin Trattou has 18 starts to his name, but has never emerged as a consistent starter on the Gators front. In 2010, though, he will enter the year as a full-time starter and possibly the leader of the defense. Duke Lemmens will join Trattou on the opposite side and while neither is a world-class pass rusher, the two will have to find a way to get into the backfield early and often. Ronald Powell, the top recruit in the Gators' top-ranked recruiting class, could see time as a true freshman. The defensive tackle rotation of Jaye Howard, Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders, Omar Hunter and true freshmen Sharrif Floyd and Leon Orr make up one hell of a threat on the inside. If the ends can get pressure on the quarterback and make plays in the backfield, this could be one of the top fronts in college football.

With Brandon Spikes gone in the middle, another Brandon will lead the Gators on the inside. Brandon Hicks looked good when he got his chance to see the field, even starting three games from weakside linebacker at the end of the year. A.J. Jones is back and could emerge as the star of this unit from a statistical standpoint. Jon Bostic is expected to get the start on the outside, although Jelani Jenkins could push for time on the outside or in the middle.

Expected to take over the number one corner spot with Joe Haden now a Cleveland Brown is Janoris Jenkins, a junior who can make plays on the ball and had a good 2009 season. Moses Jenkins , a senior, will take over the number two corner spot after playing sparingly last season. The pair makes up a solid corner duo, although not a great one. Ahmad Black is the star of the unit from the strong safety position. He finished second on the team with 70 tackles a season ago and has the talent and aggressiveness to make up for his relatively short stature (5'9, 189 pounds). Will Hill takes over at free safety, replacing Major Wright who is now off plying his trade with the Chicago Bears of the NFL. Providing depth is Matt Elam, a phenomenal true freshman who was one of the several gems of the 2010 recruiting class. While they lose Haden and Wright, this should nonetheless turn out to be a solid secondary in 2010, especially if the pass rush can come through.

Special Teams Overview

Caleb Sturgis returns as the placekicker coming off a season in which he went 22 for 30 in field goals and hit 44 of his 47 extra point attempts. Three of his eight misses came from beyond 50 yards, but he did show some range by hitting a couple of 50+ yarders (56 yard long against Georgia). Chas Henry averaged 43.1 yards per punt a year ago and put 15 punts inside the 20 yard line. He'll return to handle punting duties once again in 2010. Brandon James is gone, meaning Chris Rainey will take over as the primary return specialist. James was excellent as both a punt returner and a kick returner, but Rainey showed he can move the ball as well, averaging 10 yards per punt return, including a touchdown, and returning five kicks for 144 yards (28.8 yard average).

Head Coach: Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer has been in the news quite a bit this offseason, particularly in late December when he unexpectedly retired from coaching, citing medical issues. He backtracked the next day, instead stating that he would take an indefinite leave of absence. He took off roughly three and a half months and returned to the Gators as the full-time head coach in mid-March. Despite his relative absence on the recruiting trail, Florida signed the nation's top recruiting class in 2010 according to Scout.com and second according to Rivals.com; the 2010 class could see plenty of playing time early this season.

Meyer has been a head football coach since 2001 when he became head coach at Bowling Green. He took Utah to two conference titles including an undefeated season in 2004 before becoming the head coach at Florida in 2005. While he hasn't taken the Gators to an undefeated season, he did take them to two National Championships in 2006 and 2008. He has never finished with fewer than eight wins as a head coach.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Marcus Gilbert, OT; Carl Johnson, G; Mike Pouncey, C; Lawrence Marsh, DT; A.J. Jones, LB; Ahmad Black, S; Chas Henry, P

Season Prediction

1st SEC East

Look at the statistical leaders from last season. It's a who's who of former Gators. Of course, it's not unusual for a team to lose so much production from the previous year's squad, but they're typically not ranked third or fourth in the nation. The Gators lose arguably their top player at just about every position on both sides of the ball with the lone exception being running back Jeff Demps. That said, the players taking over for the departed Gators have seen a good deal of playing time as reserves or part-time starters, and the incoming freshman class is outstanding and could see the time early and often in 2010. So, yeah, this should be another powerful squad. Still, before they're a top five team, it'd be nice to see them show on the field that they're capable of living up to the Gators squads of the past few seasons. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

 

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