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 first position we will dissect is none other than the leader of the offense: Quarterbacks. I could simply state the obvious. I mean, when I asked JB for his input he responded ''Here's my preview 'we're going to be f***ing spectacular at QB this season. That is all'''. However, I thought I'd give it the preview it deserves...
Tim Tebow (Sr., No. 15, QB, 6'3'', 245lbs) - All-world stud QB Tim Tebow is back for his final collegiate season. Mr. Tebow has accomplished pretty much everything you could imagine. During his freshman year, he was the bruising fullback mold that spelled Chris Leak on the way to the BCS championship.
During his first full year as a starter as a sophomore, he had what can be argued as the great single season ever by a quarterback, let alone a dual-threat quarterback, as he amassed 55 total TDs (32 by air, 23 by ground) while only throwing 6 INTs. The Heisman Trophy could not lock the doors on underclassmen any more as Timmy picked up the trophy, deservedly so. The Gators, however, struggled to a 9-4 record, including a Capitol One Bowl loss to Michigan.
Tebow refocused his efforts to lead the Gators to the BCS championship once again, totaling 42 TDs (30 by air, 12 by ground) while only throwing 4 INTs. His post-loss speech following the Ole Miss game will forever go down in Florida Gator lore, as well as college football history. In the championship celebration held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Tim riled up Gator fans once again by proclaiming that he would indeed come back for his senior year.
Tim enters this year with passion and purpose, something all that follow him know he doesn't lack. He has repeated stated that he wants to leave a legacy here at Florida, not to place his name all over the record books (well, he's gonna have a hard time doing that...), but rather as a motivated leader to guide this special group to another title, and to put Florida at the apex of the sport.
Urban Meyer lost his offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen to be the head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. He handed over the reins to Steve Addazio, the team's assistant head coach and offensive line coach. Addazio is very familiar with Coach Meyer's system, but hopes to add a few wrinkles to spice up an already potent attack.
To do so, former Michigan Wolverine quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler was brought in. Loeffler has plenty of experience building budding talent into superstar quality QBs. His proteges include Tom Brady, Brian Griese, Drew Henson, John Navarre, and Chad Henne. Loeffler looks to add a few I-Formation sets for this Gator offense.
I am really looking forward to seeing Tebow's progress with new QB coach Scot Loeffler. His expertise with the I-Formation should help Timmy in the long run, as he's sure to expect to play out of those sets in the pros. There have been many reports of minor tweaks and adjustments made to Tim's throwing motion to allow for a crisper pass down field. He's also been working on his footwork to guarantee a steady motion dropping back, something he rarely needed to do in the shotgun. For what it's worth, the I-Formation gives Tim just one more way to run the option, and that makes him even more deadly than before.
Although he did not win the Heisman last season, he still received the most first place votes. All three finalists from last year's Heisman race are back again for another go-round. Reigning Heisman winner Sam Bradford will certainly be at the top of the short list, as will fellow Big-12 compatriot Colt McCoy.
However, if Tim plays the way he's played over the past two seasons, and the Gators go undefeated during the regular season and win the SEC championship game, voters will be hard-pressed to deny Tim from his second Heisman, quite possibly the second man ever to do so. He also has a chance to win a third Maxwell Trophy, something no one has ever done before.
Combine all of that with another BCS championship, and when it's all done, you may be able to tell yourself that you witnessed the greatest and most accomplished college football player in the history of the game. I'll never bet against Tim Tebow. Time will only tell...
John Brantley (RSo., No. 12, QB, 6'3'', 217lbs) - Brantley, nephew to former Gator All-American LB Scot Brantley, will be entering his second full season as backup QB to Tim Tebow. His 2008 campaign was very impressive, as he posted 235 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, and a 163 passing efficiency during late game appearances. He has the pedigree and poise to lead this team in the future, and will be learning all he can from the leadership that Tebow shows.
Urban Meyer has hinted at using Brantley quite bit this year to relieve Tebow at times during the upcoming season. As a pure pocket passer, the introduction of Scot Loeffler's I-Formation sets will benefit Brantley greatly, as he'll definitely use those in his future with the Gators. NFL scouts are drooling over Brantley, and each time he gets playing time is another opportunity for Florida Gator fans to see the future after Tebow. Although it's impossible to truly replace a player like Tim Tebow, I think the Gators have found a really good kid in John Brantley. The future looks bright in Gainesville.
Other QBs - With the departure of mammoth Cam Newton to JUCO ball in Texas, the Gators are left without a third QB. Last year's rise of John Brantley left Cam Newton eager to leave the program. That, and him stealing a laptop, writing his name on it, and then throwing it out his dorm window upon questioning...
Former walk-on Andrew Blaylock played the role of signal caller from the sideline in the two games that he dressed for, but he was nothing more than a glorified spectator. The roster also had a fifth QB in freshman Zack O'Quinn, however, I haven't heard anything about him, and so he's as good as gone to me.
Freshman recruit Jordan Reed from Connecticut is someone to look forward to in the future, however even though I expect him to dress, I see him redshirting this year.
Look back tomorrow for our RB preview!
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