2010 Season Preview


It’s the start of a new era, beginning with QB Johnny Brantley IV replacing iconic Tim Tebow, and with other stalwarts like Aaron Hernandez, Riley Cooper, and Maurkice Pouncey gone to the NFL.  Florida is fortunate to have such a talented guy ready to step in, and there are still a ton of playmakers on the roster to fill the void.  Freshman Trey Burton is the first backup, and the offense looks much more like the spread with Tebow when he plays.  He has great running ability, but is suspect right now in the passing game, and has zero college experience except for spring and fall practice. 

It will be the challenge for Coach Addazio to mold the scheme around a different skill set.  He has the luxury of a stable of experienced and dangerous RBs with Jeff Demps, Emmanuel Moody, and the possible dark horse in Mike Gillislee.  Mack Brown comes in with lots of hype, but it will be very difficult to crack that rotation.  This group has big-play ability, but who will develop as the trusted short-yardage back?  I’m leaning towards Gillislee becoming that player.

No worries at RB, but there is a serious lack of experience at WR after Deonte Thompson, who must not only be the leader, but step up and make the big plays everyone expects this season.  The passing game will be much more diverse, with short routes to the RBs helping ease the load on the WRs.  The staff expects to move Omariius Hines around a lot, even flexing him out from the TE position.  A possible key for the entire unit will be the development of Andre Debose, coming back after a lost season due to injury.  If he approaches the playmaking ability that he came to Florida with, then so much more opens up for the offense.  There is a lot of buzz surrounding Chris Rainey’s move to the slot, and if he grasps route-running, his ability to make huge plays in space could be a defensive coordinator’s nightmare all season.  Frankie Hammond has to work his way back up the depth chart after his off-season troubles, but had an inside track to start previous to that.  Chris Dunkley and Quinton Dunbar are two freshmen who will vie for a spot in the rotation as well.  An interesting twist will be the use of Jordan Reed at TE.  I expect to see a handful of direct snaps to him, and he has flashed enough passing ability as a former backup QB to keep defenses honest on run/pass options.

The number one mission for the OL?  Keep Brantley ambulatory, and let him pick defenses apart.  The OL starts off a little shaky with practice injuries to Xavier Nixon and Matt Patchan at OT, necessitating early shuffling of positions.  Nixon must get back soon and establish himself as an all-SEC candidate at LT, which I believe he can be.  The line is still anchored by Mike Pouncey at C and Carl Johnson at LG, two all-SEC caliber players.  Mo Hurt, Jon Halapio, and Sam Robey provide solid depth.  The unit as a whole is very stout and one of the best in the nation when completely healthy.


The loss of Tebow gets most of the press, but the defense in fact lost even more quality players and leadership with Brandon Spikes, Ryan Stamper, Carlos Dunlap, Joe Haden, and Major Wright gone to the league.  That’s a lot to replace, and will really test the defensive staff’s development skills.  On a promising note, there is so much quality talent stocked up that, given the past player development evidenced by these coaches, the Gators should still put a solid defense on the field that is capable of getting back to Atlanta. 

The past 4 recruiting classes have stocked the roster with talent, but there could be some growing pains early in the season with so much turnover not just on the field, but with a new defensive coordinator (Teryl Austin from the Arizona Cardinals) and LB coach (DJ Durkin from Stanford).  Replacements such as S Will Hill and LBs Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins have the ability, while a host of stud freshmen DL join the fray and will see playing time early.  The DL is probably the deepest and most talented under Meyer’s watch, with Omar Hunter, Jaye Howard, Duke Lemmens, and Justin Trattou leading the way.  It will be a nice problem for Dan McCarney to decide how to rotate Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders, and William Green in, along with freshmen Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley, and Ronald Powell.  Competition breeds competition and improves the entire unit — these guys will have to carry the weight of the defense’s performance this season.

Brandon Hicks and AJ Jones lead the way for the LB corps on the outside, but this is the unit with the least depth and quality across the board.  Health may the biggest factor in their performance as the season progresses.  Bostic and Jenkins must develop early in the middle while Dee Finley is the top backup at OLB.  Lorenzo Edwards is back for one more year to back up all of the positions, but never became the force many expected him to be.  Freshmen Michael Taylor, Darrin Kitchens, and Neiron Ball will get good looks early in the season to see if any are ready to forego a redshirt year.

Coach Chuck Heater has one solid CB in Janoris Jenkins, but it’s a free-for-all at the opposite slot between Moses Jenkins. Jeremy Brown, and freshman Josh Shaw. There is a lot of young talent including Shaw, Cody Riggs, and Jaylen Watkins, but no real experience.  Not quite as thin in depth as at LB, but still shaky until a few players come to the forefront.  The safety position is stacked with Hill, Ahmad Black, an Josh Evans, with freshman Matt Elam projected for a lot of playing time immediately.  Jonathan Dowling is another freshman that may be too good to redshirt.

Special Teams

Florida is blessed with perhaps the top pair of specialists in the country with P Chas Henry and K Caleb Sturgis.  Henry doesn’t get the publicity he deserves due to his limited opportunities, but ask the rest of the SEC coaches about his leg and placement abilities.  Sturgis has proven he has the leg for long-range FGs, but has to maintain focus on shorter kicks.  He still can improve his consistency on kickoffs as well.  Coach Meyer has never been hesitant to play starters on coverage teams, but now has to replace stalwarts like Joe Haden and Wondy Pierre-Louis, along with possibly Hill and Edwards, who will be seeing much more time on defense.  We should see a lot of hyped freshmen get lots of chance early in the season to make their mark here.  Coach Durkin has been allowed the chance to take the lead in coaching this unit as Meyer has scaled back his own responsibilities, but there’s no reason to think otherwise that the Gators will again be one of the best special teams units in the SEC and nationally. 


Miami (OH) – The Redhawks are nothing like 6 seasons ago when Ben Rothleisburger was the QB there.  This will be mostly a glorified scrimmage for the Gators, and a chance to play a lot of freshmen the second half.  WIN

South Florida – They are talking proud, but were gutted by graduation and the NFL on defense.  New coaching staff, many new players on the two-deep depth chart, and turnover-prone QB.  They will be jacked up, but this ain’t a crappy F$U team at Joke Shamble Stadium.  Florida pulls away in the 2nd and 3rd quarters to win comfortably.  WIN

@Tennessee – Wow.  The Vols are staring at a stunning lack of talent across the roster, and have lost almost any playmaker on either offense of defense due to the draft or injury.  Their only hope is the game is at home, and it being the first road game for a lot of young and/or inexperienced Gator players.  Unless there are a rash of injuries or turnovers,  Florida overpowers both lines of scrimmage.  WIN

Kentucky – Joker Phillips is talking a lot of smack about how well he’s going to coach up the Mildcats.  Yeah, right.  Unless Randall Cobb has a Percy-Harvin circa 2007-type game, there’s no way they hang for more than a half at the Swamp.  WIN

@Alabama – Too many storylines to summarize here.  Great matchup, and Bama is whistling past the graveyard if they think the losses on defense won’t hurt them.  Still, until the Gators can slow down the Crimson Tide running game, winning a tough contest on the road comes down to the defense, and the Gator front seven still untested.  LOSS

LSU – Dangerous game for Florida, no matter the result at Alabama.  LSU still has some elite talent, and their pride is hurt after 2 less-than-stellar seasons.  However, I am not a believer in Jordan Jefferson at QB, and the Swamp crowd will pull the Gators through.  WIN

Mississippi St. – Dan Mullen returns to the swamp, and his offense will be improved.  The Bulldog defense is weaker, though, and they still don’t come close to matching the talent and depth of Florida.  This one stays closer than expected due to the emotional letdown after 2 huge games, but there is still plenty of leadership from the upper-classmen to prevent a shocking loss.  WIN

Off Week – WIN (just checking to see if you’re paying attention)

Georgia (@ JAX) – Lots of unknowns about the Puppies, starting at QB.  They also lost a lot of starters in their defensive front seven.  They will be emboldened not seeing Superman on the other sideline, but the Gators are so far into their heads right now that Florida’s defense would have to collapse to lose this game.  WIN

@Vanderbilt – With Bobby Johnson gone, there is a huge loss at the top, as he was respected as a legitimate coach.  There is simply too large a chasm in talent and coaching staff ability to see anything but a solid win in Music City.  WIN

Souh Carolina – So, this is supposed to be the Pariah’s best team at Columbia, and some pundits already predict this as the SEC East championship game.  Sorry, but until Stephen Garcia becomes a SEC QB, this team is too emotionally fragile to tough out a win at the Swamp.  Actually, I hope the Gators have the opportunity to cut out Spurrier’s heart – again – and crush his hope of a division title.  WIN

Appalachian St. – This is a gutsy team that has dominated 1-AA the past 4 seasons.  Despite the loss of many of those players, the tradition they have built is impressive, and they could make some early noise against a Gator team looking ahead to F$U.  A sloppy first half turns into a big win after the 3rd quarter, then it’s time to clear the bench and get ready for F$U  WIN

@Florida St. – They’re back!  At least that’s what the “fans” of the clown school are thinking right now.  The ACC is actually so bad the Criminoles could be 9-2 or 10-1 coming into this game.  They do have good talent on offense, but that overrated sieve of an OL is no match for Florida’s front seven.  Assuming both teams are healthy coming into this game, it will actually be close.  I’m putting my money on Urban Meyer over Dumbo Fisher in the clutch, though.  WIN

SEC Championship Game (@ATL) – Despite the loss of so many great players, the recruiting prowess of Coach Meyer and his staff the past 4 seasons proves itself on the field, as Florida still finds it’s way back to Atlanta.  The opponent?  I still maintain that Alabama could lose at least 2 SEC games, which could open the door for LSU or Auburn.  I actually give Auburn’s Tigers a better chance of getting there more than LSU’s.  I just don’t believe in the Hat’s coaching abilities, and still gibe the Crimson Tide the edge over Auburn based on big-game experience.  Can Florida reverse the early season result on a neutral field?  I think so.  The past two title games have given the edge to the team with more to prove.  WIN

Heeeeeeeere come the Gators!