If Tim Tebow’s departure wasn’t enough of a storyline to keep Florida’s Spring 2010 interesting, Florida head coach Urban Meyer was more than willing to provide a little spice of his own.
On Dec. 26, Meyer announced his resignation as the head coach of Florida, citing health reasons.
On Dec. 27, Meyer announced that his resignation would instead be a leave of absence and Steve Addazio, the team’s offensive coordinator, would take over as interim head coach.
For whatever reason, the leave of absence never materialized. Meyer instead stayed on the job for recruiting, earning the Gators a number one-ranked recruiting class, and returned to coach in Spring 2010.
With Meyer back and seemingly ready to go for the 2010 season, the team got to work on finding a new identity for a team that has undergone sweeping transformations at a number of key positions.
The Gators offense will definitely have a new look.
Redshirt junior John Brantley, who has the unenviable task of replacing college football legend Tim Tebow, shined throughout spring and has shown that he is ready to take over the Gators’ pass attack.
However, Brantley’s receivers have not answered many questions thus far.
Outside of inconsistent junior Deonte Thompson, none of the receivers expected to contribute have ever seen significant playing time with the first-team unit, and no receiver emerged as a clear-cut starter opposite him.
Not for lack of talent, however. Two promising redshirt freshmen, Steven Alli and Andre Debose had to sit out the majority of spring with injuries.
This may lead to a greater dependency on the Gators’ talented rushing attack, though the talent at running back was largely invisible this spring.
A variety of circumstances thrust promising fourth-string runner Mike Gillislee into the starting lineup. Gillislee continued to show his potential to emerge as a solid rushing threat for the Gators down the line.
Instead, excitement was provided from two unlikely places. One of these places was quarterback. Not Brantley, but freshman Trey Burton.
Burton had a big day in the Orange and Blue game, the Gators’ spring scrimmage, rushing for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns – including a 76 yard mad dash.
The second of these positions was tight end, where ex-quarterback Jordan Reed lined up in the Wildcat formation and showed ability to run with toughness as well as pass out of the formation.
But for 2010, perhaps the most burning questions of all come from the defense, from the top down.
Gone are the days of Charlie Strong in orange and blue. Now, Teryl Austin will have to find a way to fill Strong’s shoes. It remains to be seen what exactly Austin’s philosophy will be and what he will do with his personnel.
Aside from the new defensive coordinator, cornerback is the biggest concern the defense has.
Freshman Joshua Shaw appears ready to start opposite junior standout Janoris Jenkins, but behind those two, depth and experience are a major concern.
To help shore up the position, Matt Elam, a five-star prospect who shined throughout spring, will likely get looks at nickel back.
More questions lie in the Gators’ defensive end situation.
Though they picked up high school star Ronald Powell, he did not show up in spring, and the Gators looked to last year’s rotational players to fill the shoes of Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham, both second-round picks in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Redshirt junior Jaye Howard is the favorite to start opposite Powell, with solid-but-unspectacular senior Justin Trattou rotating in.
Sophomore Jonathan Bostic, who impressed fans and coaches alike with his limited performance last season, will take over full-time at middle linebacker, replacing star Brandon Spikes. Bostic’s entrance will likely be one of the few seamless transitions on defense.
Overall, the offense appears to take a step forward from what many pegged as a down year for the unit. Brantley showed all spring that he is ready for the task, and will be supported by four talented runners as well as a wide receiver corps filled with potential.
The defense is a complete unknown following spring. A new mixture of talent will need to come together with a new coordinator, and some of the key cogs are freshmen who have not yet arrived on campus.
The Gators are hoping to be able to answer all the questions this fall.