The State of the Gator Nation
As I brainstormed ideas for my first post on SECJams, I realized that today marks the eve of the president’s State of the Union Address. So, other than enjoying a few “Obamas” – the local bars endearing nickname for a half-and-half Guinness and Presidente – I thought, what would be more festive than a comprehensive overview on Florida athletics? Brilliant idea? I thought so…
So here is Part One of a two-part look regarding the state of the Gator Nation.
With Tebowmania in the rear-view mirror (almost), it’s time to give an overdue ‘attaboy’ to the five players who ensured the Gators will be represented in the Super Bowl for a 10th consecutive season: Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Spikes, Gerard Warren, Jermaine Cunningham (all with the New England Patriots) and Justin Trattou (New York Giants). Hernandez continues to be one of the Patriots most versatile and dynamic weapons on offense, while the play of Spikes and Warren on the defensive side seems to have finally ignited a unit that was the NFL’s worst throughout the regular season. Though Super Bowl XLVI may not feature the team that most the world, outside the other 11 SEC fan bases, wanted to see, it’s sure to produce a fair amount of Gator Chomps and Orange-and-Blue-stamped moments. A rematch of Super Bowl XLII? Ah, I wonder if Oklahoma State thinks they deserve to play in this one also…
On the home front, the Gators picked up two commitments this weekend in DE Bryan Cox, Jr. and DE Alex McCalister that should help shore up a pass rush that often times seemed inept in 2011. With those announced, it’s expected to be quiet from now until National Signing Day, when Florida is still hoping to land commitments from several of the top prep recruits in the country (Tracy Howard, Nelson Agholor, Stefon Diggs, et al.) Will Muschamp has put together a solid recruiting class for his first full year and the job he’s done keeping players in Gainesville rather than seeing a mass exodus to Columbus and Lawrence really should not be underestimated.
And finally, after a strong week of practice, enigmatic former Florida QB John Brantley had yet another frustrating afternoon, going 1-for-6 for 21 yards in Saturday’s East-West Shrine game. Color me biased, but I still think that, given the right coaching, the kid can be a sleeper at the next level. Though, I’m really starting to feel I’m the only person left that cares...
The Gators used a strong night from junior forward Erik Murphy to get past LSU for their 16th consecutive home victory on Saturday. Florida still leads the country in three-point percentage, which is no small feat considering the vast amount of ill-advised bombs they jack up. What remains to be seen is how long they can maintain that sort of play. There is enough talent and oh-my-goodness guard depth on this roster to truly be an elite team. But too often it seems like there is a lack of focus, as can be easily seen by their team FT % (which is steadily improving) and their knack for playing light-switch defense. The keys for a successful season, however, have not changed from those at the beginning of the year. Patric Young is an absolute beast, and he’s really the only option the Gators have in the post until Will Yueguete and Cody Larson prove they can handle a more consistent load. Florida does a phenomenal job of staying out of foul trouble, only having one player foul out of a game in the last two seasons (Beal, 1/7). But if I were an opposing team, my game plan would start and end with getting Young to pick up some early fouls. No team has been very successful in doing so yet, but I’ve got to imagine the closer we get to March, SOMEBODY will figure that out. I just hope the Gators will be prepared for WHEN it happens. With that said, I really believe this team has more talent than the Elite Eight squad from last year. If Billy D can get them to continue focusing on defense and consistentcy, they’ve got a real chance to make a deep run again in 2012.
Look tomorrow for Part 2, which will feature gymnastics, baseball, and softball.
Now, I said Tebowmania was ALMOST out of the way. So since I know there can’t be anyone that’s had enough of him yet, I’ll leave you with his latest gem – a singing debut complete with screaming girls! Enjoy!