Funny, I look at Florida’s four losses last year and the fact that it finished at the bottom of the conference in pass defense and figure that for the Gators to contend for the SEC championship, they’ve got to close that gaping wound.
Evidently that ain’t it at all.
7. Does Florida need a true feature back to win the SEC? It was a familiar refrain last season: If Florida just had a good tailback, it would’ve won the SEC East.
That refrain already has started this season. But it needs to end because the statement is wrong.
Yes, every team wants a standout tailback it can give the ball to 20 times a game. But Florida doesn’t need a great tailback; it just needs its projected tailback-by-committee approach to net 1,200 rushing yards. If that happens, the Gators win the East – and probably the league as a whole.
I say evidently, because I don’t think he’s looking in the right direction. First of all, that’s a question that ignores the way Meyer structures his offense.
… The closest Meyer ever came to using an every-down back was in 2003 at Utah, when Brandon Warfield carried 237 times for 976 yards and 11 touchdowns. In fact, 2003 was the only season in Meyer’s seven as a head coach that he didn’t have at least three players with at least 75 rushing attempts.
The numbers don’t lie. In seven seasons, Meyer has never coached a 1,000-yard rusher.
Second, it implies that Meyer is going to take the ball out of the hands of two proven performers in order to put them in the hands of, well… not so proven performers. Florida’s top three runners last year gained over 2,200 yards on the ground. As Kestahn Moore was one of the three, that means that in order to feed the tailback committee its yardage, either Florida is going to have to find an additional 600-700 yards of offense, or take the ball away from Tebow and Harvin to make up the difference.
Now maybe Harvin’s injury will make that a valid possibility, but if you’re Urban Meyer, why would you want to take the ball out of your best player’s hands? Sunday Morning Quarterback labels Tebow Florida’s closest thing to a force of nature, and while that may be a tad hyperbolic, you can’t argue with him when he says “… as long as he’s in the lineup, Florida is a contender to outscore anyone.”
The key word there being “outscore”. As SMQ points out, Florida scored 45 points in seven of its games last season and averaged 24 points in its four losses – as well as 61 yards and 13 points per game more than the unit that won the mythical championship in ‘06. The Gators’ weakness was on the other side of the ball.
Florida looks to be better in ’08. The schedule is more favorable than last year’s, as Auburn drops off in favor of Arkansas and the Gators don’t travel to Baton Rouge. And the simple fact is that the pass defense has nowhere to go but up (although if you attribute the rough year to youth, it ought to be a little disconcerting to note that the Florida pass defense didn’t really look much better at year’s end).
So, yeah, I expect a lot to be riding on the WLOCP this year. I’m just not convinced that Emmanuel Moody’s rushing yardage is going to be the key as to why so much will be on the line in Jacksonville.
UPDATE: Orange and Blue Hue’s GatorPilot has more thoughts on this here. (Bonus points for Celebration reference!)