Our Florida Gators blogger, Kevin Timothy, brought us our Florida Gators Pre-Season Preview.We also had the opportunity to do a Q&A with The Bull Gator (the same blogger that helped us out on our USF preview). So for another perspective on the Florida Gators take a look below...
What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?
I’m tempted to go with the defensive line as the biggest strength because of the ridiculous amount of talent Urban Meyer and company pulled in as part of the 2010 recruiting class, but since so many on the line are still relatively inexperienced players, I’ll go with the secondary. The secondary returns two two-year starters in Janoris Jenkins and Ahmad Black and Will Hill enters his junior year. Those three had a lot to do with the fact that the Gators only lost two games over the last two seasons. Florida fans have been dreaming of the day they would get to see Hill play an entire game. That time is here. It should be special.
The biggest weakness might just be depth at the linebacker position. There are some big names and solid players with good experience at linebacker, but overall the position may be a question mark beyond the top four of Jon Bostic, Brandon Hicks, Jelani Jenkins, and A.J. Jones. Hicks is solid. Jones has had an up-and-down career, but came on strong in 2010. And Bostic and Jenkins are still raw. The talent is there, it just has to all come together. And each of the four needs to remain healthy.
Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test?
I could look ahead to Alabama or LSU, but I’ll say Miami (OH). The first game of the season. The main reason it’s the first major test is because of the Tim Tebow factor. John Brantley is the quarterback now. He had the hype coming out of high school and has had plenty of time in the system. It’s now his turn to shine. By all accounts, he should be able to shred the Miami (OH) defense, but what if he doesn’t? If Brantley has a ho-hum day, the questions will start. To get past the Tebow aura, Brantley just may have to have a huge outing in his first start.
What team on the schedule do you fear the most?
How do I not say Alabama? We all saw the SEC championship game, right? The defending national champion coming off an undefeated season and returning the Heisman Trophy winner. Not to mention the guy behind him on the bench may actually be better. It’s hard not to have that game circled, highlighted, and underlined on the schedule. The last two national champions against one another in the middle of the season. It’ll be huge.
Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?
Chas Henry. Yes, a punter. Florida has had great play from their punters for a few years now with Henry and back to Eric Wilbur. Field position is of the utmost importance and Henry is one of the nation’s best at not allowing returns of any kind. A good deal of it is on the coverage team, but Henry has to be able to place to ball correctly to make it all come together. He’s a lot more important to the Gators’ success than most people think.
Who is the best offensive player on the team?
The remaining twin – Mike Pouncey. Pouncey steps into his brother’s role as the center and leader of the offensive line. Pouncey’s brother Maurkice is gone to the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Mike remains and will be the anchor of the line. If Mike can lead the line to a good season, the entire offense will benefit. Urban Meyer’s offense relies on a fast, agile line that can fend off the blitz while opening holes for the runner and keeping John Brantley clean. It all starts with Pouncey.
Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?
Although Ahmad Black came out of virtually nowhere in 2008 to become a star, Will Hill may end up overshadowing him. Hill is a big hitter with the ability to cover an entire half of the field. The moment he committed to Florida, Gator fans thought he would be the next Reggie Nelson. He now has a chance to live up to that comparison. Hill could easily establish himself as the leader of the defense.
What player needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?
Andre Debose. The Gators offense struggled at times last season and it’s easy to point to the absence of Percy Harvin. Opposing coaches used to comment that whenever Harvin was on the field, they had to account for him. With him gone, defenses could key on Tim Tebow and not worry as much about one other specific player. Since he signed with Florida, Debose has been appointed the next Harvin. He may not like the comparison – he wants to make a name for himself – but it fits pretty well. If Debose can have half the impact Harvin had out of the gate, it should be a good year for the Gators.
Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?
Ronald Powell. Normally it would be hard to pick just one player after the defensive class Florida signed, but Powell makes it easier. He’s seen as a sure thing and should be on the field very early. Powell is a dangerous pass rusher that’s already in a NFL body. That he could actually see time on offense too just makes him that much more lethal.
Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?
I read something that said because of the schedule and the players Florida lost to the NFL, they would be looking at a big drop-off in 2010. That it could even be a seven- or eight-win season for the Gators. I’m obviously biased, but I have a hard time imagining that. Yes, Brantley is a first-time starter. Yes, some key contributors have moved on. But look at what the coaching staff has done the past two years. Florida has signed top talent to provide depth and replace what it’s lost. I won’t say the Gators will be playing for a national championship at year’s end, but 10 wins in the regular season and another SEC championship game appearance are a strong possibility.
To learn more about the Florida Gators (and the USF Bulls) check out The Bull Gator's website.