Tag:Florida
Posted on: August 3, 2009 11:26 pm
Edited on: August 3, 2009 11:31 pm
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Top Ten Gators Football Games I've Attended

Written by James Brown, Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder

To get in the mood for the upcoming season, I started thinking about all the great times I've had going to games.

I decided to rank the top ten Florida Gators football games I've attended.

For these rankings, I considered the build-up to the game, the atmosphere at the game, and the outcome of the game itself. Restricting the set of games to choose from was tough, as I've been to plenty of games, but for whatever reason some of them stick in my mind over others.

Here are those games, I hope the list provides a fair enough sampling of my experiences that they help you remember your good memories of college football. Here's to a great season, now only about a month away!

 

1. BCS Championship: (2) Florida vs. (1) Ohio State; Jan 2007

Of course the only National Championship Game I’ve ever attended had to be the top pick on this list. The magnitude of the game alone means it would be on the list, but the actual game was devastatingly awesome for a Florida fan (not so much a good game for anyone else to watch).

We are all familiar with the storylines, but I’ll reiterate from personal experience. We were dismissed as having a shot or even deserving to be in the game by the Buckeye fans (and Wolverine fans... and everyone else). I have been to plenty of road and neutral SEC games, and there is always hatred—always someone wanting to get into it with you.

Those OSU folks just did their anti-Michigan cheers and didn’t even really pay attention to us. Our table of fans would be the only Gators in a restaurant, but we didn’t get much hostility.

I don’t think the world ignores us any more, however.

I tried to tell all the opposing fans we were going to win, and all they did was debate how they should be playing Michigan again. I think that ‘rivalry’ is more of a symbiotic relationship. In the SEC, we don’t have ‘rivalry week’. We have ‘Saturday’.

 

2. (10) Florida vs. (1) Florida State; Nov 1997

FSU was No. 1 and undefeated coming into Gainesville. This was a fantastic game no matter what your allegiance (FSU fans might not remember it fondly, but a neutral party would agree with me).

The late Fred Taylor run; the deep pass from Doug Johnson to Jacquez Green; the way Spurrier rotated QBs on each play: there are many legendary things about this game. I’ll give you a couple from my vantage point in the stands.

The opening kickoff came to our corner (the NE corner of the stadium). The FSU guy received, and got hit so hard it looked like his head exploded. My dad said ‘There goes the pregame meal”. There were chunks of vomit on the field throughout the game.

Secondly, after the famous Johnson-to-Quezzie connection, some guy actually jumped down from the upper ledge (those walls with ‘Home of the... Florida Gators’ painted on them) and landed right next to me during the celebration.

Lastly, this game was among the- if not the - loudest of all time. Go to any forum and they’ll have the argument, but it’s definitely the loudest I’ve heard.

 

 

 

3. Florida at (6) LSU; Oct 2003

 

 

My roommate at the time had played high school football with an LSU player. We made several away game trips together, and we just through Baton Rouge would be a good time, and we'd get steamrolled while LSU would go on to play for championships.

We were half right, as LSU went on to split a title with USC. (Memo to USC fans: this means you've only won ONE BCS Championship. Florida, LSU > USC!)

The Florida defense came through big time, as the only score by LSU was on special teams. The 19-7 victory was more the Gators way than the score indicated. The fact that LSU's only score was a punt return TD, on the first punt of the game, actually made me a little more confident when the opening kick in the BCS Championship game went for a TD.

 

4. World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party: (22) Florida vs. (5) Georgia; Nov 2002

This win was extremely satisfying on multiple levels. First, because it was against our biggest rival. Second, because it was Georgia's only loss of the season. Third, did I mention it was against Georgia?

But here is the greatest reason it was so satisfying: the Georgia fans were rabid on Friday night, thinking that Spurrier was gone and they would gain control of this series.

Big Al and the Kaholics did their cover band thing at the Jacksonville Landing, all the while getting Bulldog (I refuse to use their intentional misspelling. Unless it is on a t-shirt like 'Dawgs Lick Balls') fans to do their barking cheers. At one point the MC for the evening said 'Because we all know who is going to win tomorrow!' and the overwhelmingly pro-Georgia crowd went crazy.

The game was also very close throughout, so neutral parties would agree that this was a fantastic game to attend, for reasons besides my hatred of the heathens from Athens.

 

5. (23) Florida vs. Auburn; Oct 2002

An overtime win against a long-time (now forgotten) rival must be in the top five. Especially when Damon Duval was such a good kicker, and was lining up for a gimme FG to win the game. When Bobby McCray blocked that kick, the student section went absolutely bonkers.

I weighed probably 175 lbs and was wearing flip flops, but somehow my jumping up and down broke the bleacher I was standing on. Or maybe it was the 20,000 other students doing the same thing.

The Rex Grossman TD pass to go ahead and the Clint Mitchell sack to seal the win in OT were also memorable moments.

 

6. (2) Florida vs. (4) Tennessee; Sept 1997

Ah, Peyton Manning’s senior year. I remember it so wistfully. I wish I had season tickets in 95 so I could link to the Joey Kent hit, but this one was almost as sweet. If Doug Johnson stays away from the nightlife in Louisiana and at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, we could have made a good run, thanks to this game, and No. 2 on this list.

 

7. (6) Florida vs. (16) Alabama; Sept 1991

Just a memorable game as it was the conference opener, and Alabama was very much on top of the college football universe, while Florida was an afterthought. Also, it was a night game in the Swamp, and felt huge because it was on national TV. It’s also the only time I’ve seen ‘Bama.

The fact that it was a shutout makes it a memorable game for me (I appreciate such things), but then ‘competitive’ hasn’t been a requirement to get on this list before now, so why start?

 

8. (1) Florida vs. (16) Auburn; Oct 1996

Auburn QB Dameyune Craig had a lot to say about Florida, and considering the Plainsmen had prevailed in the last meeting in the Swamp, he may have been justified. Florida throttled Terry Bowden’s boys, winning 51-10. Here is the writeup from the LA Times.

In Craig’s defense, his comments that the Florida defense had not been tested were probably true—we had only thumped Peyton Manning’s Vols prior to this game. Like many of these others, the build-up to the game made it a better game than the actual score.

The beating, after all the talk, was certainly satisfying. I did not know at the time what a routine thing this would become for Florida Gators fans (Ohio State fans: that means you and the jibber-jabber circa December 2006).

 

9. (19) Florida vs. (21) Florida State; Nov 2005

Looking back, this game means more now than it did at the time. The 34-7 victory marked the beginning of Urban Meyer's dominance over the 'School Out West'. My only regret about the game was that it wasn't a shutout.

On a personal note, it was my last home game as a student, and a blowout victory over a hated rival is always memorable, and has to make a top ten list. It didn't hurt that I made the ride to the stadium in the bed of an El Camino with Gators First co-founder Jesse Colston, a boombox, and a cooler.

 

10. (15) Florida vs. Vanderbilt; Nov 2005

I know, how could any game involving Vanderbilt make a top ten? I had to put it in because it went to OT. I don’t have to rank it any higher than ten. I just remember thinking that, as a graduating student, I would forever be associated with that year we lost to Vandy. We didn’t.

 

11. Citrus Bowl: (6) Florida vs. (11) Penn State; Jan 1998

If the Big Ten gets to count Penn State, and still be the Big Ten, then the same goes for my Top Ten. A bowl game victory against JoePa surely has to make the list, especially when it means I saw Spurrier make sure Fred Taylor was a first-round pick (43 carries for 243 yards).

We also had a rowdy guy in our section who cheered wildly for Jesse Palmer’s only completion. Memorable times all around. By the way, I’d like to close with this link about the Citrus Bowl game mentioned here. Blogs have come so far, it’s like staring at a cave painting.

 

You can view the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
orida-gators-sports-news/gatorsfirs
t/top-ten-florida-gators-football-g
ames-ive-attended.html

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Florida, Gators
 
Posted on: August 3, 2009 10:57 pm
Edited on: August 3, 2009 11:19 pm
 

SEC Preview from Gatorsfirst

Written by Chris Canada, Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder

This is the second in the gatorsfirst.com series of season previews & interviews for the upcoming 2009 college football season from around the nation. Check back every day to see more previews from other blogs around the country, with a much more in-depth preview of other conferences and teams than we could ever provide.

Today’s SEC preview is with Florida Gator fan Chris Canada. Chris held an interview yesterday.

Conference Championship Florida over Ole Miss

Projected Conference Finish
East
Florida 12-0 (8-0)
Georgia 10-2 (7-1)
Tennessee 8-4 (4-4)
Kentucky 6-6 (2-6)
South Carolina 5-7 (2-6)
Vanderbilt 3-9 (0-8)

West
Ole Miss 11-1 (7-1)
Alabama 10-2 (7-1)
LSU 9-3 (5-3)
Arkansas 7-5 (3-5)
Auburn 5-7 (2-6)
Mississippi State 4-8 (1-7)

I really don't see the Gators losing this season. Yes, that's probably some small percentage of homerism showing, but it's mostly based on what I've already seen of this team. As Einstein said ''The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.'' This team is poised to repeat, and I don't think complacency will be an issue as Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow, and Brandon Spikes won't allow it.

As for the rest of the Eastern division, Georgia is clearly the next best team, and should be very good. They will definitely be an extremely tough opponent for the Gators is Jacksonville, but I think the Gators will have just enough for the W.

I see Tennessee having a bounce-back season, even though they have a buffoon as a coach. They have a lot of talent coming in, as well as a bunch of good assistant coaches to keep Kiffin in line, including his dad. Kentucky should have an average season, but good enough for a bowl berth. I think South Carolina will fall off a bit, and Vanderbilt will be dreadful.

In the West, it's hard to deny the claim that Ole Miss is going to win the division. If you look at their schedule, they have both Alabama AND LSU at home, and they don't have to play Florida or Georgia from the East. Both Alabama and LSU will definitely challenge, but Jevan Snead, Dexter McCluster and Co. should lead Ole Miss to the championship game.

Top Five Freshmen/Newcomers

1. Andre Debose, WR, Florida
2. Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
3. Omar Hunter, DT, Florida
4. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
5. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

I think many people are excited to see if Andre Debose can fill the large shoes of Percy Harvin. Gator fans are just hoping that at the very least he can make a few game-changing plays.

Rueben Randle was a big-time receiving recruit, and should be a good replacement for Demetrius Byrd. As I've said in my D-Line preview, I'm really excited to see Omar Hunter's impact on the Gator defensive front. Also, Alabama has a two newsters Trent Richardson and Dre Kirkpatrick that could make an immediate impact.


Top Five Breakout Players
1. Jordan Jefferson, QB, LSU
2. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
3. Michael Smith, RB, Arkansas
4. Caleb King, RB, UGA
5. Emmanuel Moody, RB, UF


I expect Jordan Jefferson to make a name for himself this season. He played great in last year's bowl game and he has a cupboard full of speedy playmakers out their ready to make a difference. I think some people will underestimate LSU due to their rough showing last year, so look out for him.

Second year Arkansas Razorback coach Bobby Petrino is very happy he'll have the talents of former Michigan starter Ryan Mallett. Petrino has a good track record of building college quarterbacks, and Mallett should thrive. Luckily he'll have a beast at running back in Michael Smith. Smith surprised a lot of people last season by being able to get so much out of his small frame, including Florida, whom he ran wild on.

Caleb King has the difficult task of taking over for Knowshon Moreno. As with the 264 Georgia running backs before him, Bulldog fans will think he's the next coming of Hershel Walker. Fortunately for them, I think King will be a pretty good player.

I discussed the prospects for Gator running back Emmanuel Moody in my RB preview. If Demps and Rainey are lightening, Moody is most definitely thunder. This bruising tailback is coming of what some can perceive as a disappointing year after transferring from USC. However, when you look at it, it’s not really his fault that coaching staff was reluctant to put him in after Demps and Rainey started scorching everyone. He has a few bright spots, including great showings in the Tennessee and Georgia games, as well as topping 100 yards against the Citadel. He’s been the most impressive back this spring and I expect him to be a force in our backfield for the next two years.


Player of the Year Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
Offensive POTY Jevan Snead, QB, Ole Miss
Defensive POTY Eric Berry, S, UT
Overrated POTY Terrance Cody, DT, Alabama
Underrated POTY Michael Smith, RB, Arkansas


Tim Tebow is the best player in the SEC, if not the nation. Pure and simple. I think we all know that. However, former Florida recruit and Texas transfer Jevan Snead is not too shabby. He led a high powered offense last year that had it's way with Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl.

Although I'm obviously a big fan of Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes, I think the best defensive player in the SEC, and probably all of college football for that matter, is Tennessee safety Eric Berry. He's strong, fast, and has a knack for the big play. He has 12 career interceptions, and he's really close to setting the NCAA record for interception return yards, and he's only been playing for two years.

I think the most overrated player in the SEC is Alabama defensive tackle Terrance Cody. Yes, he's big and is able to move people around. But from the small sample of videos I've watched on him, I don't see him changing the game as much as every one claims that he does. As for the most underrated player, I'll bring up Arkansas's Michael Smith. You'll probably see him rush for well over 1000 yards this season.


SEC Bowl Projections
BCS Championship Game: Florida v. Texas
Sugar Bowl: Ole Miss v. TCU
Cotton Bowl: Alabama v. Oklahoma State
Capitol One: Georgia v. Illinois
Outback Bowl: LSU v. Penn State
Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Tennessee v. Georgia Tech
Liberty Bowl: Arkansas v. Memphis
Music City Bowl: Kentucky v. Bowling Green

You can find the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
orida-gators-sports-news/gatorsfirs
t/sec-preview-from-gatorsfirst.html

 


 

 

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Florida, Gators
 
Posted on: August 3, 2009 10:53 pm
Edited on: August 3, 2009 11:12 pm
 

Interview with Chris Canada from Gatorsfirst

Written by Chris Canada,Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder

This is the first in the gatorsfirst.com series of season previews & interviews for the upcoming 2009 college football season from around the nation. Check back every day to see more previews from other blogs around the country, with a much more in-depth preview of other conferences and teams than we could ever provide.


Today’s interview is with Florida Gator fan Chris Canada. Chris is one of the co-founders of Gatorsfirst.com. He is a University of Florida alum and is now working as and industrial engineer in Texas, not to far from fellow co-founder James Brown. You can view all of his positional previews here: QBsRBsWRs/TEsOLsDLsLBsDBs, and Special Teams.

 

Gatorsfirst (G1): How did you become a fan of your team?

Chris Canada (CC): Being raised in South Florida during the 80’s and 90’s, you could imagine that I was a diehard Miami fan growing up. I mentioned this in my preview of the FSU game last year.

I hated the Gators for numerous reasons, but most of all was because of the ridicule my Gator friends gave me during Miami’s tough spell following their NCAA sanctions, which happened to coincide with Florida’s first national championship game, and win the following season.

However, all things changed when I was choosing colleges while in high school. Once I stepped onto the Gainesville campus for my first visit, I knew the University of Florida was right for me. The day I officially became a Gator was sometime in mid-December of 2001, when I found out that I had been accepted.

Over the next few years, I had to endure the Ron Zook era. When I entered college, I was still a big Miami fan, as all of my favorite players were there, and a lot of hated Gators were still in Gainesville.

However, as my time in Gainesville lengthened, the older players from Miami left for the NFL, and the newer players from Florida became something that I could call my own, as I had been in Gainesville from their start.

Players like Dallas Baker, Chris Leak, Reggie Nelson and Ciatrick Fason quickly became my favorites. My allegiances were become stronger with each new recruiting class.

By the time the Zook experiment was over, and Urban Meyer arrived in Gainesville, almost every player on the team had started their collegiate career during my stay. Even though I still feel favorably about the Canes, and root for them on occasion (especially against FSU), I know that the Gators are my team. And that’s how I became a fan of the Mighty Gators!

 

G1: Describe the Gameday Atmosphere.

CC: Gameday in Gainesville is a thing of beauty. Cars, trucks, vans, buses, RVs, and even motorcycles line the streets, clad in their Gator paraphernalia as far as the eye can see. Campus loses all sense of standard rules you would expect from an institution of higher learning.

Every square inch of grass space throughout campus is completely covered with vehicles. People set up their tents, with equipment ranging from grills to televisions, in search of that great gameday experience. Beers flow like the salmon of Capistrano.

For the past few years, I’ve woken up to multiple texts from the Gatorsfirst gang that simply say “Gameday”. And I reply in form. It puts a smile on my face.

While in undergrad, I took the lead with setting up campus tailgates for my fraternity. These obligations included picking up a keg, ice, cups, and gameday food that is essential for a good tailgate. All the while, making sure that I get to the designated spot on campus no later than 7:30am.

Why would I subject myself to waking up so early for a Gator tailgate, even though I may even have a hangover from the night before? Because it’s gameday, and that’s what you do!

While the tailgating experience is great, the in-stadium experience is that much better. During pregame, the crowd is electric. You’ll have the traditional cheer led by Mr. Two-Bits, the “Orange and Blue” cheer where the student section yells “Orange” while the the Alumni section retorts “Bluuuuue” over and over again, as well as the intro for the Gator football team as the Jaws music plays and the announcer proclaims “The Swamp, Only Gators GET OUT ALIVE!!!!!”. It gives you chills.

All throughout the game, the band is riling up the crowd with their various fight songs. You can expect to start chomping at the beginning of every kickoff, chomping for the Gatorbait cheer, or simply sing along to the fight song after a score (“Cheer for the Orange and Blue, Waving forever…).

The chomping is quite a sight to see. Imagine 90,000 fans chomping their arms in unison. You can’t really understand why EA Sports has designated the Swamp as the toughest place to play in the country until you’ve stepped foot within Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. It is a spectacle to behold.

After a Florida win, you can most likely find me and 50,000 other students at the various bars that line University Avenue. My favorites include the Grog House, the Swamp Restaurant, Gator City, and the Salty Dog Saloon. It’s Great to Be a Florida Gator!

 

G1: Give me some thought on your coaching staff. Are you satisfied? Do you wish your team ran different schemes? How is recruiting?

CC: It’s hard to be upset with a coaching staff that has won two national championships in the four years that they have been here. Coach Urban Meyer is the savior of a program, bringing things that had lacked during the Ron Zook years.

I’m obviously satisfied with the spread offense, as it’s fun to watch, and with the right personnel, you can see how effective it can be. And Urban is a very smart man. He knows that the fastest kids in the country are in the south and speed is what makes the spread system work. It’ll be interesting to see Scot Loeffler’s new I-Formation sets, as many of these kids haven’t played out of those types of sets since high school.

As for the defense, Charlie Strong has now been in Gainesville for nine years, and his schemes and techniques have been the real core of the Gators championship success. We all know how dominant they were against Ohio State in the 2007 BCS Championship Game, and also how they stopped the highest scoring offense of all time last season in the 2009 BCS Championship Game.

This current staff has done a great job recruiting over the past five years. Coach Urban Meyer and his staff have consistently brought in superior talent, often times bringing in top-5 classes. With the future departure of many players to the NFL following this season, expect the Gators to bring in one of the best recruiting classes of all time!

 

G1: Who is a player we might not know from your team that you are excited about this season? Why?

CC: As I mentioned in my defensive line preview, I’m really looking forward to seeing Omar Hunter in action. He was a high touted 5-star recruit, and from multiple sources, I’ve heard that he had a tremendous spring. An injury slowed him down and allowed him to redshirt last year, which is great for Gator fans, because he’ll be around a little longer.

 

G1: Make one point about your school, and another point about your conference, you think is overlooked on the national level.

CC: It’s hard for me to claim that UF or the SEC has been overlooked in any way recently. Florida has been on this magical championships run, has the most well-known quarterback, and the swamp has been the No. 1 toughest place to play on EA NCAA Football for god knows how long.

I guess the thing I would say that is overlooked about the University of Florida is it’s academics. It is still perceived by many as this southern party school filled with a bunch of little dumb coeds. Now, with a student body of over 50,000, I can’t deny that there are definitely some of those...

However, Bernie Machen has done a good job of turning the school into a premier academic institution, easily the best in Florida (specifically engineering, I’m biased though). The latest US News & World Report rankings have us as the 17th best public school in the nation, and second in the south behind North Carolina.

As for the SEC, I would say it still has to be the fact that people outside the south don’t understand how much college football means to those rooting for their SEC schools. I lived in California for a little while in 2007, and it was embarrassing how little they cared about their team. I wrote about it here.

 

G1: What do you think about conference title games? Was it a good idea to add to 12? Would you change something about the conference?

I think the conference title games are a great idea. Some people claim it isn’t fair that a great team has to prove themselves one more time after sweeping through a conference. However, I think that if a team wants to claim to be the best team in the nation, they shouldn’t be afraid to prove themselves on a big stage.

Adding the number of teams to 12 in 1992 was a very shrewd move. I’ve talked about further realignment for all of college football where there would be multiple 12 team conferences, all with their own championship game. James has also discussed realignment.

I think the layout of the SEC is perfect. I enjoy how you have one inter-divisional “rival” that allow for longstanding rivalries to stay intact. Yes the Florida-Auburn rivalry is bigger than the Florida-LSU one, but the Georgia-Auburn rivalry is like the longest standing rivalry in college football isn’t it? So I think they got it right. I would put Clemson and Georgia Tech in and a take Arkansas and Vanderbilt out, but that’s just splitting hairs...

 

G1: How much did you like the bowl system pre-BCS? As a fan, how much do you concentrate on 'National Championships'? Has this changed in the last decade or so?

CC: The bowl system, in general, is just an archaic method of allowing mediocre teams to showcase their top players to the NFL and make a ton of money for their schools and conferences. While that’s good an all, it doesn’t solve the problem about getting a true national champion.

The reason “March Madness” is so fun is because of the drama and anticipation of whittling down the group of playoff teams into your best set of teams. It makes for great excitement and great games at the end.

 

G1: What sort of changes, if any should be made to the BCS system? Does this opinion put you in-line or out-of-line with other fans of your team and conference?

CC: The BCS math is a good tool, but I think it would be better suited if it was used on a wider array of playoff teams. For example, maybe the top 8 or 16 playoff teams are determined by the BCS standings, instead of just the top two.

I know a lot of people get uncomfortable allowing numbers to determine who the “best team” is. However, I think it’s actually done a good job of sifting through the pile to find the top talent.

You can find the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
orida-gators-sports-news/gatorsfirs
t/interview-with-chris-canada-from-
gatorsfirst.html

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Florida, Gators
 
Posted on: July 31, 2009 1:30 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2009 1:31 pm
 

2009 Florida Gators Football Previews: Sp. Teams

Written by Chris Canada, Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder

The long and dull offseason is finally coming to a close. Anticipation has never been higher in Gainesville, as last year's BCS champions are looking to do what no team in the BCS era has been able to accomplish: win a second consecutive championship.

With all of the players from last year's team coming back to defend their title, introductions are probably not needed. However, the Gatorsfirst.com team will give you the positional breakdowns you deserve to be fully ready for the 2009 season.

Urban Meyer has emphasized an importance in the special teams game ever since he got here. Last season alone, the Gators ranked 9th nationally in punt return yardage, with two punt return touchdowns, ranked 8th in the country in net punt yardage, and blocked a total of nine kicks. This year appears to be headed in the right track as all the big players are back, as well as some new blood. Here’s the special teams preview...

 

Punters

Florida returns one of the best punters in the nation in Chas Henry (Jr., No.17, P, 6'3'', 222lbs). Last season, he averaged 43.4 net yards per punt, which ranked him third in the SEC. He put 21 punts inside the 20-yardline, which is a huge benefit to the field position game.

Henry continually boom punts, and he had a season long of 67 yards against FSU. He was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy award given to the nation’s premier punter. I expect him to be in the running for that award this year.

In addition to booming punts, he will be our emergency quarterback if needed, as he started for his high school team. The trick plays are always a threat because of his strong arm.

Backing him up will be redshirt freshman walk-on David Lerner. Although we only have two punters, Lerner will not see any action with a star in front of him.

 

Kickers

Jonathan Phillips (RSr., No.38, K, 5'10'', 218lbs) returns for what seems like his 17th season in Gainesville, as he was able to get a medical redshirt for his missed 2007 campaign. Phillips was very steady last season, hitting 12 of 13 field goals, and making 78 of 79 extra points, which set an SEC record. We all know the one he missed...

Because of his accuracy, he was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza award, given to the nation’s best kicker. And although he’s accurate, he doesn’t have a very strong leg, so you’ll rarely see him attempt from lengths greater than 45 yards.

Caleb Sturgis (So., No.19, S, 5'10'', 190lbs) will be taking care of the kickoffs this season. He has an incredibly strong leg, as showcased at the Orange & Blue game. Unfortunately, he tends to pull a lot of kickoffs out of bounds (eight last year to be exact). This frustrated me constantly, because they always seem to happen after big scores. The coaching staff wasn’t too pleased either, often pulling him for the next kickoff. He has a lot of talent, and we’ll probably see him attempt some long field goal tries throughout the season.

 

Punt/Kickoff Returners

I’ve mentioned Brandon James (Sr., No.25, PR/KR, 5'7'', 185lbs) before in my WR preview. However his true threat to defenses is returning kicks. His ’08 campaign was something special. He was named an All-American by FWAA, Sporting News, and Phil Steele. He was also named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year.

He finished third in the country in punt return yards, averaging 29.7 yards per game, returning two back for touchdowns, including the breathtaking one against Tennessee, which I wrote about here. His ability to move the ball down the field creates an extremely important field position advantage.

James returns kickoffs as well. However, he’ll be sharing the field with a new returner now that Kestahn Moore has graduated. I expect some other burners to take his place. Jeff Demps returned a kick 39 yards last year in his lone opportunity. The boy’s got speed. I think he’d make a great option to fill that roll.

Another person that I can see fielding kickoffs is true freshman Andre Debose. He has a knack for making big plays, and when he’s alone in space, watch out!

 

Punt/Kickoff Coverage

The Gators have a fine punt coverage game. Because Chas Henry is able to get a lot of air time under his kicks, the speedy defenders have plenty of time to get down field and make the tackle, as evidenced by they’re low 5.6 yard per return average.

The area that concerns me is kickoff coverage. During both of the last two seasons, the Gator kickoff team has allowed over 20 yards per return. This is crucial because over time those extra yards of field position add up. Hopefully Coach Meyer will do something to shore this up.

 

Punt/FG Blocking

The most under-appreciated part of this special teams unit is the ability to block kicks. Last season alone, the Gators blocked nine kicks. Carlos Dunlap had three of those blocks, on both punts and field goals. Jeff Demps had two punt blocks as well.

The ability to not only stop an offense, but to also create the equivalent of a turnover by blocking a kick alters the field position game drastically. With all of the speed and size coming back, I expect the trend of blocking kicks to continue.

 

You can find the other position previews here: QBsRBsWRs/TEsOLsDLs,LBs, and DBs.

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Posted on: July 30, 2009 9:31 am
Edited on: July 30, 2009 9:31 am
 

2009 Florida Gators Football Previews: DBs

Written by Chris Canada, Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder

The long and dull offseason is finally coming to a close. Anticipation has never been higher in Gainesville, as last year's BCS champions are looking to do what no team in the BCS era has been able to accomplish: win a second consecutive championship.

With all of the players from last year's team coming back to defend their title, introductions are probably not needed. However, the Gatorsfirst.com team will give you the positional breakdowns you deserve to be fully ready for the 2009 season. We wrap up the defensive preview with our defensive backs.

Remember the 2007 season when we basically only had Tony Joiner at safety flanked by a bunch of freshmen and sophomores? Opposing quarterbacks salivated at the thought of playing against the young and inexperienced secondary. Fortunately, that young nucleus grew up real quick. They put it all together last season and became a dominant force, making game-changing interceptions and helmet-rattling hits. Here is the DB preview...

 

Cornerbacks

Returning Starters

Joe Haden (Jr., No.5, CB, 5'11'', 190lbs) was the first true freshman to ever start opening day at the cornerback position in Florida Gator history. It was a rough start as he continually got beaten by speedy receivers and bit on simple routes. But by the end of the season, he was a tackling machine.

In 2008, Haden came into his own, recording 87 tackles, .5 sacks, three interceptions, 12 passes defended, and a forced fumble. He became a shut down corner and never seemed to miss a tackle. His NFL stock is rising fast, so another good season will probably mark the end of his days in Gainesville.

Janoris Jenkins (So., No.1, CB, 5'11'', 188lbs) followed in Haden’s footsteps last year by starting as a true freshman on opening day. He made the most of his time by also turning into a shut down corner, often times taking the responsibility of the opponent’s best receiver. Jenkins recorded 39 tackles, one sack, three interceptions, 11 passes defended, and one forced fumble. Aside from the tackle numbers, he had incredibly similar numbers to Haden. He switched to No. 1 this offseason, just in case you're looking for him. He'll join former star No. 1s Jack Jackson, Tony George, Keiwan Ratliff, Reggie Nelson, and Percy Harvin. Make the number proud JJ!

 

Backups

Haden and Jenkins were lucky to have a good set of backups. When he’s not training by chasing goats Wondy Pierre-Louis (Sr., No.4, CB, 6'1'', 185lbs) will be backing up Jenkins. Wondy has been a critical role-player for his entire stay at Florida. He lost his starting role to Jenkins last season, but he will still be an integral part to the secondary. He’ll be used a lot in nickel and dime packages, when the opposing team is looking to air it out. Last season, he had 19 tackles, one interception, and two passes defended.

Markihe Anderson (Sr., No.14, CB, 5'9'', 182lbs) is entering his senior season and will be Joe Haden’s primary backup. Last season, Anderson made 21 tackles and had three passes defended. The pressing concern with him is his durability. He’s been injured in both of the last two seasons, so we’ll have to watch to see if he can stay healthy.

 

Other CBs

Redshirt freshman Jeremy Brown has been making waves this offseason. Coming into last season, he was neck and neck with Jenkins for that starting spot, but back problems ended his season before it started. He’ll see a good deal of playing time, which is good because there will be a mass departure following this season.

Moses Jenkins will see some playing time, but not much. Hopefully we’ll get to see what we have in redshirt freshman Adrian Bushell, as he's in our future plans. Corey HendersonSteven BennettReginald HopkinsEan McQuay, and Miguel Carodine will probably not see any action, except as scout team members.

 

Safeties

Returning Starters

Major Wright (Jr., No.21, S, 6'0'', 204lbs) had another stellar season last year at free safety collecting 66 tackles, six passes defended, and four interceptions, taking one of those to the house. The thing that Wright is known for is his vicious hits. Here is a little taste. I think we all remember his hit in the national championship game last year. Those hits set the tone of the game, and get the receivers reassessing their routes. He’s been doing this since his freshman year.

The diminutive Ahmed Black (Jr., No.35, S, 5'9'', 185lbs) is an inspiration to vertically challenged people like myself. He continues to make big plays time and again. Last season at strong safety, he recorded 59 tackles and five passes defended. But the most important part of his game was his seven interceptions, which ranked 2nd in the SEC, and 7th nationally. Two of those interceptions he took back for touchdowns. He makes big hits and is always in the right place.

 

Backups

It’s always a good thing when you have someone talented enough to possibly supplant a star, and this is the case with both safety backups. Will Hill (So., No.10, S, 6'1'', 202lbs) will be challenging Major Wright for playing time this season. He had an incredible freshman season last year, gathering 48 tackles, two interceptions, and a pass defended. As with Wright, he makes huge hits and has a knack for the ball.

Dorian Munroe (RSr., No.20, S, 5'11'', 205lbs) was slated to start at strong season before tearing his ACL last summer, allowing Black to assume the role. All reports claim that he has excelled during spring practices, so Black needs to watch his back.

 

Other Safeties

Cody Worton also tore his ACL during the 2008 season and missed the last 12 games. He’ll be used sparingly though (like fats & oils). True freshmen Dee Finley and Josh Evans will need to learn quickly, as they may have to assume the starting role next season. Finley was the 5th rated safety prospect, so I expect big things in the future.

 

I've already discussed the QBsRBsWRs/TEsOLsDLs, and LBs. Look for the Special Teams preview tomorrow!

 

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Posted on: July 29, 2009 9:00 am
 

2009 Florida Gators Football Previews: LBs

Written by Chris Canada, Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder

The long and dull offseason is finally coming to a close. Anticipation has never been higher in Gainesville, as last year's BCS champions are looking to do what no team in the BCS era has been able to accomplish: win a second consecutive championship.

With all of the players from last year's team coming back to defend their title, introductions are probably not needed. However, the Gatorsfirst.com team will give you the positional breakdowns you deserve to be fully ready for the 2009 season.

We now cover the linebacking corps, which like the rest of the defense, returns every starter and backup from last year’s national championship team. This is the best set of linebackers I’ve seen at the University of Florida. They are the #1 squad in the nation, and second isn’t even close. They bring back multiple future NFL stars and have the most depth in the country. They’re experienced and hungry to win another title...

 

Returning Starters

The captain of the defense Brandon Spikes (Sr., No.51, LB, 6'3'', 258lbs) is the heart and soul of this defense, replacing Tony Joiner before him. He’s every bit Tim Tebow on defense, as he commands respect and expects greatness on the field.

I’ve had my radar on him since his freshman season, when he played in eight games, including the national championship game. He made some bone-crushing tackles, and I knew we’d have another great Brandon at middle linebacker after Siler left (this happened shortly thereafter). Last year, he didn’t put up the gaudy tackle stats from the year before (93 vs 131). But he did have an excellent season with eight tackles for loss, two sacks, and four interceptions resulting in two touchdowns.

Spikes turned down a sure 1st round NFL draft selection to come back to Florida. Now both James and I have said that if a player has a shot at guaranteed money in the pros, go a take it; ask Brett Nelson. However, we will gladly take him back, as we took back the famed “oh-fours”.

Spikes is a special linebacker that has the natural ability to sniff out offensive plays and make an immediate impact. He’s similar to Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, as he seems to make all the big plays, and he’s a vocal leader. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he has in store for this upcoming year!

This linebacking group isn’t just made up of one guy. There are two other starters that make this unit special. A.J. Jones (RJr., No.16, LB, 6'1'', 226lbs) will be starting at strongside linebacker. Last season he had 35 tackles, and a fumble recovery. He’s extremely quick, and will be primarily be used as a pass rusher.

On the weakside, Ryan Stamper (RSr., No.41, LB, 6'2'', 235lbs) took over last season and ended up starting 11 games. He recorded 45 tackles and one sack. He controls the middle when Spikes is out of the game, and you rarely see him miss a tackle.

 

Backups

Stamper better watch his back, because Dustin Doe (Sr., No.32, LB, 6'0'', 231lbs) has been shining during spring practices. He’ll see plenty of action, as he used to be the starter before Stamper took over. He had 30 tackles and one interception last year.

It’s quite possible that the next great Brandon may be Brandon Hicks (Jr., No.40, LB, 6'2'', 221lbs). Hicks started six games last season recording 34 tackles and two sacks. He’ll be in the main rotation, backing up both the strong and weak sides. He’s coming back from shoulder surgery, so we’ll have to watch his progress.

The last man of the main rotation is Lorenzo Edwards (Jr., No.26, LB, 6'1'', 236lbs). He came to Gainesville as a safety prospect, but was converted to linebacker. Using those skills, he is very good against the pass and has been known to lay a few people out from time to time. He recorded 27 tackle last season, and will be the main reserve for A.J. Jones.

 

Other LBs

With three seniors in the main rotation, and two possible early departures (Jones & Hicks), the young guys better get some work in to hone their skills and be ready for the 2010 season. Luckily, the Gators don’t lack talent in the wings.

This offseason produced two big-time recruits in Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins. Bostic is expected to compete for the middle linebacker role in the future, while Jenkins was the highest rated outside linebacking prospect. Jelani means “Mighty” in Swahili, and the Gators hope he’s very mighty for years to come.

Alongside the newest guys, sophomore Lerentee McCray is coming back after a solid freshman season where he played in eight games. Redshirt freshman Brendon Beal is coming back from a torn ACL last spring and looks to get his college career started.

Former walk-ons Chris PintadoScott Peek, and Michael Ross don’t expect to see much, if any, playing time.

 

I've already discussed the QBsRBsWRs/TEsOLs, and DLs. Look for the Secondary preview tomorrow!

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Posted on: July 28, 2009 12:25 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2009 1:54 pm
 

2009 Florida Gators Football Previews: DLs

Written by Chris Canada, Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder

The long and dull offseason is finally coming to a close. Anticipation has never been higher in Gainesville, as last year's BCS champions are looking to do what no team in the BCS era has been able to accomplish: win a second-consecutive championship.

With all of the players from last year's team coming back to defend their title, introductions are probably not needed. However, the Gatorsfirst.com team will give you the positional breakdowns you deserve to be fully ready for the 2009 season.

The entire defensive line that terrorized the SEC last season, and kept Sam Bradford on his back in the national championship game this past January is back for another season.

Here is a detailed preview of this year’s squad.

 

Returning Starters

Jermaine Cunningham (Sr., No.49, DE, 6'2'', 252lbs) returns for his senior season to anchor the defensive line. He had a great season last year, totaling 52 tackles and six sacks. Not only that, he forced three fumbles and deflected four passes. He does everything.

Cunningham is going to be a stud in the NFL. Gator fans need to appreciate what they’ve got as his days in Gainesville are fading fast.

 

Carlos Dunlap (Jr., No.8, DE, 6'6'', 290lbs) also returns to secure the other defensive end spot. He led the team in sacks last season with nine, good enough for second in the SEC.

After a slow start to last season, he heated up and straight dominated the last seven games. He ended up being named the defensive MVP of the national championship game with four tackles and 1.5 sacks. In fact, he wasn’t technically the starter, even though he got the majority of playing time.

Dunlap is tall and agile, and he gets to the quarterback with ease. Opposing QBs will have trouble sleeping the night before playing the Gators this season.

I was really surprised by the great play of our defensive tackles last season. Lawrence Marsh (RJr., No.90, DT, 6'4'', 304lbs) had 28 tackles and three sacks, while Terron Sanders (RJr., No.92, DT, 6'2'', 309lbs) had 21.

Although Sanders didn’t record any sacks, he was constantly causing havoc in the backfield, pressuring the quarterback into bad passes. He also had a fumble recovery against Georgia, which he returned for 20 yards.

 

Backups

Justin Trattou (Jr., No.94, DE, 6'3'', 264lbs) actually started 13 of the 14 games for the Gator defense in front of Carlos Dunlap at defensive end. Although Dunlap saw more time on the field, Trattou was crucial for the success of the line, garnering 27 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

I think Dunlap is going to see more starts, but wouldn’t be surprised if Trattou sees a bunch of starts.

Duke Lemmens (Jr., No.44, DE, 6'3'', 260lbs) and Jaye Howard (RJr., No.6, DT, 6'3'', 296lbs) will be relied on heavily to spell Jermaine Cunningham and Terron Sanders, respectively. Both got some playing time last season, notably Lemmens, who seemed to make some big tackles when we really needed them.

I’m really looking forward to seeing former 5-star prospect Omar Hunter (RFr., No.99, DT, 6'0'', 308lbs). He got to play in three games early in the season, but was granted a medical redshirt midway through the 2008 campaign.

As a big nasty in the middle of the defensive line, I expect him to spell Lawrence Marsh at nose tackle and gain the experience he’ll need as a mega-star in the future.

 

Other DLs

Brandon AntwineWilliam GreenTroy Epps, and Edwin Herbert will all get some playing time, but it will be limited, due to the depth in front of them. The cupboard is full on our D-Line with new freshmen stars Gary Brown and Kendric Johnson coming in, as well as sophomore Earl Okine.

However, they will probably be learning from the veterans from the sidelines all season. Lamar Abel and Glen Watson will probably not see the playing field.

 

I've already discussed the QBsRBsWRs/TEs, and OLs. Look for the Linebackers preview tomorrow!

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Posted on: July 27, 2009 8:48 am
 

2009 Florida Gators Football Previews: OLs

Written by Chris Canada, Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder

The long and dull offseason is finally coming to a close. Anticipation has never been higher in Gainesville, as last year's BCS champions are looking to do what no team in the BCS era has been able to accomplish: win a second consecutive championship.

With all of the players from last year's team coming back to defend their title, introductions are probably not needed. However, the Gatorsfirst.com team will give you the positional breakdowns you deserve to be fully ready for the 2009 season.

The offensive line took a had this offseason as three starters graduated. Phil Trautwein, Jim Tartt and Jason Watkins will sorely be missed. However, with a string of injuries last season, a lot of quality young linemen got their chance to show off their skills. Here is a 2009 preview for the offensive line...

 

Returning Starters

The menacing twins Mike Pouncey (Jr., No.55, RG, 6'5'', 320lbs) and Maurkice Pouncey (Jr., No.56, LG, 6'5'', 318lbs) are back to protect Tim Tebow and create gaping lanes for our speedy RBs to run through. Both have started many games in their first two seasons. Mike will be at right guard and Maurkice will start at left guard.

Coming off All-SEC team selection last season, both will be watched closely by NFL scouts. If they both play up at the same they have for the past two years, I can very well see them leave for the NFL following this season.

Carl Johnson (RJr., No.57, LT, 6'5'', 342lbs) is a big boy. At 342 lbs, he is our biggest starter. He started eight games last year at left guard and was a beast. This season he’ll be moving to left tackle to take over for Phil Trautwein.

 

New Starters

Marcus Gilbert (RJr., No.76, RT, 6'5'', 320lbs) started two games last season, replacing Jim Tartt who was injured. He’s played in 26 games in his career, so he has plenty of playing experience.

Another new starter is Sam Robey (RFr., No.50, C, 6'4'', 291lbs). Robey was slated to get a ton of playing time last year, but was derailed by a pre-season injury. He dressed for the SEC and BCS championship games, but did not play. This season he should be starting at center, which will move Maurkice Pouncey over to left guard.

 

Backups

There are plenty of good young players eager to get some playing time. James Wilson (RSo., No.66, OL, 6'5'', 329lbs) got plenty of playing time last year, as did Maurice Hurt (RJr., No.74, OL, 6'2'', 305lbs). Both should be backing up the Pounceys at the guard positions, and will see a lot of playing time.

Corey Hobbs (RJr., No.79, OL, 6'3'', 300lbs) played in eight games last season, and will be vital in backing up Sam Robey at center. David Young (So., No.78, OL, 6'4'', 303lbs) will also be a back up for Marcus Gilbert at the right tackle position, but could see some time at center, as he's been used there during spring practice.

One of the most interesting stories this offseason was the move of Matt Patchan (So., No.71, OL, 6'6'', 260lbs) back to offensive line. He played in 11 games last season as a defensive tackle. He was a highly touted offensive line prospect in high school, so moving back to his natural position will probably work out the best for the Gators. He’ll be backing up Carl Johnson at left tackle.

 

Other OLs

The Gators did a great deal of recruiting for the offensive line this past off-season. They ended up signing seven OL recruits: Xavier Nixon, Nick Alajajian, Jonotthan Harrison, Cole Gillam, Christopher Guido, Jon Halapio, and Kyle Koehne. Nixon, Alajajian, and Harrison are players to look at for the future and expect to get some playing time, but not much. The others are expected to redshirt. 

Jim Barrie, Shawn Schmieder, Gary Beemer, William Steinmann, and Bryan Jones are on the team roster, but aren’t expected to see much playing time.

I've already discussed the QBsRBs, and WRs/TEs. Lok for the Defensive Line preview tomorrow!

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com