|Defending champion Gators have no shortage of speed and talent around Tebow|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 22 August 2007 09:00|
The list has grown considerably since his first season. Meyer's options now are seemingly endless.
Although the defending national champion Gators have concerns on defense after losing nine starters, they have no such worries on offense. In fact, Tim Tebow's toughest task in his first season as Florida's No. 1 quarterback might be keeping all his playmakers happy.
``Offensively, we're on a different planet than we were our first year,'' Meyer said.
Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell, Cornelius Ingram and Jarred Fayson return, giving the Gators one of the best sets of receivers in the country. Speedy freshmen Chris Rainey and Deonte Thompson make Florida's spread-option offense deeper and even more dangerous.
``We have a lot more speed out there at the skill positions,'' Caldwell said. ``We've got a lot more players that when they touch the ball they can take it to the end zone anytime.
``You can see the speed out there, and it's going to show. We've got a lot more game-changers.''
It starts with Harvin.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound sophomore was the difference in wins last season against Florida State and Arkansas, then came up big again in the BCS championship game against Ohio State.
He ran four times for 86 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown run, against the Seminoles. Despite leaving the game with a neck injury, he played the following week against the Razorbacks and ran six times for 106 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 62 yards and a score.
He was nearly as effective against the Buckeyes in the title game, gaining 82 total yards and scoring once in the 41-14 blowout.
``If Percy Harvin stays Percy Harvin, watch out,'' Meyer said. ``I love speed and I love skill, and the ball will be in his hands.''
Harvin needs to stay healthy, though. He missed most of fall practice last year with a hip flexor, then sat out one game and was slowed in several more because of an ankle sprain.
Now, he has Achilles' tendinitis - a nagging injury that has limited him during fall practice this year. The sixth-ranked Gators believe he'll be ready for the Sept. 1 season-opener against Western Kentucky.
``We better make sure the ball's in his hand an awful lot,'' said offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, who has lined Harvin up at running back, quarterback and receiver. ``He gives you a lot of flexibility.''
The same could be said about Caldwell, a senior who caught 57 passes for 577 yards and six touchdowns last season. He also ran 21 times for 102 yards and a score, and threw a 5-yard TD pass in the Southeastern Conference title game.
Caldwell, whose brother Reche plays for the New England Patriots, probably could have left school after his junior season and been selected in the NFL draft. But he decided to come back for a shot at repeating.
``I see how good a team we have and all the playmakers,'' Caldwell said. ``We can be right back in the big show like we were last year, competing for another national championship.''
Ingram, a former basketball player at Florida, began his football career as a quarterback. He moved to tight end late in the 2005 season and emerged as a pass-catcher last season.
He finished with 30 receptions for 380 yards, but he caught 20 passes for 267 yards in the final five games. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder is playing mostly as a wideout.
``He's one of our primos,'' Meyer said. ``He will have his own little list of plays.''
Fayson will, too.
Although he played sparingly as a freshman, Fayson's role has expanded significantly this year. Not only is he working at receiver, he's also taking snaps at running back along with starter Kestahn Moore.
Rainey and Thompson, meanwhile, were two of Meyer's top recruits.
``You've got several guys who you can get them the ball and they have the ability to go all the way,'' Tebow said. ``It is pretty comforting. It takes off the pressure and lets you run the game. ... It is about getting it in the hands of the playmakers and letting them do something with it.''
With Tebow under center, and all that speed and talent around, the Gators expect to look much more like Meyer's offenses at Bowling Green and Utah.
Bowling Green averaged 40.8 points a game in 2002. Utah averaged 44.3 points in 2004. Florida averaged 28.6 points in Meyer's first season and slightly more last year while the coaching staff tweaked the offense around Chris Leak and several possession receivers.
Things could be drastically different this time around - much like Meyer's list of players who need to touch the ball.
``Tim has a luxury that Chris didn't have,'' Meyer said. ``He's got some guys.''