2010 NCAA Football Preview: Florida Gators

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2009 Record: 13-1 (8-0 SEC)
2009 Bowl: Allstate Sugar Bowl (beat Cinncinatti 51-24)
Final 2009 AP Ranking: #3
Head Coach: Urban Meyer (57-10 at Florida; 96-18 overall)
Non-Conference Schedule: Charleston Southern (9/5), Troy (9/12), FIU (11/21), Florida State (11/28)

2009 Offensive Statistics

Scoring: 35.9 (10th overall in NCAA)
Rushing Yds/Gm: 221.8 (10th overall in NCAA)
Passing Yds/Gm: 236.1 (41st overall in NCAA)
Total Yards/Gm: 457.9 (6th overall in NCAA)

2009 Defensive Statistics

Scoring: 24 (88th overall in NCAA)
Rusing Yds/Gm: 99.8 (12th overall in NCAA)
Passing Yds/Gm: 152.8 (T2nd overall in NCAA)
Total Yds/Gm: 252.6 (3rd overall in NCAA)
2009 Miscellaneous Stats

Pass Efficiency Rating-Defense: 96.1 (6th overall in NCAA)
Takeaways: 23 (T 50th overall in NCAA)

Returning Starters

Offense: 6
Defense: 6
Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Stat Leaders

Passing: QB John Brantley, JR (36 of 48 for 410 yds, 8.54 yds/att, 7 TDs, 0 INT)
Rushing: RB Jeff Demps, SO (99 carries for 745 yds, 7 TDs, 7.5 ypc, 57.3 ypg)
Receiving: WR Deonte Thompson, SO (24 rec, 343 yds, 4 TDs, 2.2 rec/gm, 14.3 yds/c)
Tackles: LB Ryan Stamper, SR (78); S Ahmad Black, JR (70)
Sacks: LB Brandon Hicks, JR (4.0)
Interceptions: LB A.J. Jones, JR (3)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings

Athlon Sports: #6
Lindy's: #5
Mark Schlabach: #11
Phil Steele: #7
Rivals: #6
Scout: #4
Sporting News: #8
Sports Illustrated: #11
USA Today Coaches Poll: #3

2010 Pre-Season SEC Prediction

Scout: #2

2010 Bowl Prediction

Fiesta Bowl (vs. Texas)

The dream is over. FL Gator fans can forget about the Tim Tebow era. We've had a great time since he was recruited back in 2006 but its now time to move on. There is still good news, however. For now we can still be entertained by The Urban Meyer show, and I am surely going to enjoy it before its cancelled. Up comes year one of life after Tebow, and its time for the 2010 FL Gators to defy odds. I think it'll be a great but necessary experience so here are some things to consider:

What are the strengths of the 2010 FL Gators?

In the previous season the FL Gators were a much more experienced team. While it would be hard pressed to find anyone to argue against that, don't assume that the FL Gators will be short on talent. First year starting QB, John Brantley, has the mobility and talent to make a push for a Heisman mention. He is no stranger to Urban Mayer's Spread offense, and he will be surrounded by lightning quick weapons to throw to.

Speed is one thing but experience is foreign with the receivers. This year the strength of the FL Gators will lie in the special teams, not the offense. They return kicker, Caleb Sturgis, and punter, Chas Henry. Aside from being two of the few returning positions with experience, those two can really help both sides of the ball by shortening the field.

What are the weaknesses of the 2010 FL Gators?

It's really been the weakness for the FL Gators football program for over ten years. This season will be no different as the FL Gator ground game will be a great liability. Brantley is good, and while his throwing mechanics are far better than Tebow's, the Gator offense will miss his bruiser style and short yardage ability.

Sure you can bank the likes of Jeff Demps, Mike Gillislee, and Chris Rainey to score from anywhere on the field. But what happens when the FL Gators gets stopped on the four yard line with three downs to go? Urban Meyer needs to develop short yardage plays for Emanuel Moody or discover a bruiser.

What will be the first major test for the FL Gators in 2010?

You don't have to look any further than the Tennessee match up on September 18th. Unlike years of the past, the FL Gators will be tested much more sooner that the third game of the season. Look for the second home game to be a tough one as the Gators face intrastate rival, South Florida for the first time. In 2007 the USF Bulls tasted some of the national spotlight by ranking as high as #2 in the AP Poll.

Since then the Bulls have had a coaching change, but the program is fed up with being after thoughts in the state. Not to mention USF shares picks for the same talent pool of recruits the other major state schools pick from. New regime or not, FL Gator fans should be concerned. The Bulls will try to seize this opportunity to slightly sway the decisions of future recruits

What team should the FL Gators fear the most in 2010?

The debacle in last year's SEC Championship game would tempt me to say that the trip to Tuscaloosa should instill the most fear. True, Alabama are defending champions. True, they return arguably the best 1-2 backfield punch since the Gators had to face Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Yes, the Tide is led by an NFL calibur coach, but these aren't reasons to be afraid of them. The FL Gators got blasted 13-32 last December and they have every reason to be motivated to return the favor right on Alabama's home field.

The team that the FL Gators should fear the most is LSU the week after they visit the Tide. Even if the Gators lose in Tuscaloosa, if they win out the rest of the year they can still make a push for the national title game. But this will only be made possible if a tired Gator team can defeat the LSU Tigers. Win or lose, the FL Gators will probably be beat up after facing Alabama. They will need everything they have to beat LSU in the Swamp. The Tigers are also flying under the radar and has a better than advertised team this year.

Who is the best FL Gator player that no one talks about?

Quick, ball hawk, former quarterback, size. This has to be Will Hill, hands down.

#10, Safety, Will Hill

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

The best offensive asset on the FL Gators this year will be center Mike Pouncey. The senior has been riding with the team since day one, and unlike his twin brother, Mike had the desire to return for his final season to block for the Gators future (Brantley). Not only is Mike a seasoned vet, he plays one of the most important positions on the offense. Pouncey is the cornerstone of the most experienced unit on the team, the offensive line. They will need his leadership and stable direction for the tough games this year. It's his last year as a college athlete so you can count on All-SEC Pouncey to be at his best for the NFL scouts.

Who will be the most impactful defensive player on the 2010 FL Gators?

You can expect senior Ahmad Black to be the game changer each Saturday this year. The strong saftey is coming off a year with a career high in tackles (57) and never mind his small frame. This guy has a huge heart and he knows what winning is all about. The former Lakeland High School star is only two years removed a year in which he picked seven passes and returned two for scores.He doesn't just display speed when he recovers the ball, he has field vision to take it to the house each time. As its his last year he will show up and be the general for the FL Gator secondary.

What FL Gator player needs to step up in 2010?

Before the Gators begin to even think about being relevant in December, the defensive line will have to be formidable. The front four will really have to get it together but the glue of the force will have to be Junior defensive end, Justin Trattou. The NFL stripped the FL Gators of their two starting defensive ends, Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap. With them they took a combined 16 sacks and 22.5 tackles for losses. You thought the Gators had a tough time against the run in last year's SEC title game? The 2010 FL Gators will catch some serious hell tackling the Ingram-Richardson combo, much less penetrating the backfield. Gator Nation (and the secondary) will need Trattou to step up

So what will the FL Gators final record be in 2010?

I can see the Gators running through their first four opponents in 2010. The South Florida game will be close and the game in Knoxville won't be as close as advertised. The FL Gators will take a 4-0 record into Tuscaloosa where great coaching and a barrage of bad calls by the officials will make the Gators winners againts Alabama. Florida doesn't take beatdowns too well so they will avenge that loss from last year. Yes, you read it here first; Florida will defeat heavily favored 'Bama in the regular season.

The FL Gators, wore down from a physical game against 'Bama will lose in the Swamp vs. LSU. At that point they are 5-1. After the shocking loss in the swamp, the Gators take it out on Miss State right before a much needed week off. I won't predict another 13-1 season since they lost so many quality starters so I will say that their next loss comes at Florida State. The powers that be won't let them destroy two intrastate rivals in the same season. Hey, it's a Florida thing! The FL Gators football team will finish 2010 with a record of 9-2 (7-1 SEC)

So, what will make the 2010 season a success?

Too easy; added experience. It's a rebuilding year by Florida's standards. The highlight will be knocking off the Tide on their home field in a statement game. However, it will be Florida vs Alabama in a rematch for the SEC Championship game where 'Bama will get the last laugh and go on to play someone like the Buckeyes or Oklahoma as a #2 seed (again). But what will make this year satisfactory is being able to expose the younger players to big games and opportunities. There is a lot of young talent on this team. Don't forget, the FL Gators are still beasts when it comes to recruiting. So Gator Nation, don't let 2010 depress you. You will be back on top within 2-3 years time.

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