Friday, January 16, 2009

The Champs and 2010

Just a week ago, the Florida Gators once again won the college football national championship. It was a tense game, much more so than any of their three other championship game appearances. Florida was blown out by Nebraska in 1995, but won easily against FSU in 1996 and Ohio State in 2007. A couple of things really stood out from the game

Sam Bradford is the next Gino Toretta. I can't take credit for saying that. One of my friends made that claim while we were eating lunch on game day. Now given this guy is from Texas and is a huge Longhorn fan... But I think he has a point. Maybe saying Bradford is the next Matt Leinart would be just as accurate. He has really benefited from having amazing talent around him. He is not used to facing any pressure from a pass rush and he is used to throwing to receivers who dominate defensive backs. He faced pressure against Florida, but most of all, his receivers could not dominate Florida's DBs. He threw two picks, but neither were bad throws on his part. However his receivers were far from wide open and Florida's DBs made great plays. Toretta and Leinart suffered from the same "problem" and never adjusted in the NFL.

Urban Meyer is a great coach. The Gators were shaky in the first half. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was rust, who knows. Their gameplan was sound, but it took two improbably defensive stands to keep the game tied going into halftime. Who knows what happens if the game would have been 21-7 in favor OU at half? Meyer showed his ability to communicate and motivate his players. They didn't come out in the second half and drastically change their gameplan. But they did execute much better.

Florida is really going to miss Percy Harvin. Does Florida win either of its two recent championships without Percy Harvin? I really don't know how things will turn out for him in the NFL. People talk about how Tebow isn't a traditional QB, but Harvin isn't a traditional WR. He was most productive at running the football in the BCS championship. He clearly can't be a RB in the NFL, but his height will be an issue at WR. A lot of people have described him as a "slot receiver" in the NFL, but do you really want him going over the middle and taking big hits? Anyways, he's always been a ticking bomb in his college career. Every time he touches the ball, there is a big play ready to happen. This year he averaged 1 TD for every 6.5 touches of the ball. He did this playing against the best defenses in the country. The only other recent college player who was as electrifying was Reggie Bush. Like Bush, it seems unlikely that Harvin's pro career can be anywhere close to his college career.

Speaking of players going pro... Obviously I was thrilled that Tebow is staying. I did not think he would leave, though. I was thrilled that Brandon Spikes is staying for his senior year. Honestly I don't know why. Everything I had seen indicated that Spikes would be a first round pick. Given his position (LB), it is hard to imagine him improving his pro stock. Whatever. With Spikes back, Florida is returning all of its defense. That's right, a defense that held the highest scoring team ever (OU) to 14 points will return all of its starters next year. Next year is going to be fun.

Going to other teams, I was absolutely shocked that Sam Bradford is returning. A lot of folks had him as the #1 pick overall and everybody had him as a top 10 lock. So why come back? There's no way their offense can be better than it was this year. A lot of things have to go you way to have a historical season. If throws in a couple of stinkers next year, then he could easily drop in the 2010 draft. And then there's "I" word, especially given his lean stature. Similarly I can't belive their TE Gresham is going back either. Maybe these guys think they have something to prove...

One player not going back is Mark Sanchez. I was pretty surprised to see Pete Carroll rip into Sanchez for leaving early for the NFL. You have to wonder if Bradford staying influenced this, as Sanchez may be the second QB taken now behind Georgia's Matthew Stafford. I am very happy to see Stafford go, as I think he will be great in the NFL. Plus he A.J. Green is an NFL caliber receiver, and the prospect of Green and Stafford was just scary. Green had a great year last year as a true freshman.

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