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Gators have plenty of firepower besides Tebow

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow speaks during the Southeastern Conference football media days in Hoover, Ala., on Wednesday, July 23, 2008.
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow speaks during the Southeastern Conference football media days in Hoover, Ala., on Wednesday, July 23, 2008. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Here’s the challenge: Write a story about Florida football without mentioning Tim Tebow. Starting now.

There are many reasons Florida, not Georgia, has been picked by the media to win the SEC East. And many of those reasons don’t involve you-know-who.

It definitely helps to have the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, especially one who is as dangerous running the ball as he is throwing it. But he has to have someone to throw it to, blockers to pave his way, and a defense to let him on the field.

The Gators seem to have those pieces.

Start with Percy Harvin, the second-most famous offensive player in Gainesville. Part receiver and part tailback, Harvin figures to repeat his hybrid role, though coach Urban Meyer said he was tempted to do otherwise.

“There’s a part (of me) that says line him up at tailback and let him go,” Meyer said. “I think he’d be one of the best tailbacks in the country.”

Holding that up is the Kestahn Moore, a senior who led all Florida running backs with 580 yards. (Only at Florida could the team’s leading tailback be the third-leading rusher.)

Then there are the other skill position players. Meyer recruited freshman Josh Demps, who at the U.S. Olympic team trials ran the fastest-ever 100 meters for a teenager. But Demps was challenged to a race last month by redshirt freshman Chris Rainey, who won.

“I wasn’t there, but I would have liked to,” Meyer said. “Could have probably sold about 10,000 tickets for that. ESPN GameDay probably would have been there as well.”

All this would be mitigated by a bad front, but Meyer feels good about that too. Tight end Cornelius Ingram is the preseason All-SEC first-team pick, and Meyer said he could go seven-deep on linemen.

That leaves the defense, which returns almost everybody. The headliner is junior linebacker Brandon Spikes, who was a first-team All-SEC pick last year by the coaches and writers.

And for good measure, kick return specialist Brandon James was the preseason first-team pick.

“We have a talented team, a host of talented athletes. Our goal is to spread it out a lot and get everyone involved.”

That was said by a certain someone who shall not be named. You probably know who.


About the Gators

COACH: Urban Meyer (31-8 in three seasons at Florida)

2007 RECORD: 9-4 overall, 5-3 in the SEC

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Tim Tebow (895 rushing yards, 23 rushing TDs, 3,286 passing yards, 32 TDs, 6 INTs in 2007), WR-RB Percy Harvin (764 rushing yards, 858 receiving yards, 10 TDs in 2007), TE Cornelius Ingram (34 catches for 508 yards, 7 TDs in 2007), LB Brandon Spikes (131 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss in 2007).

THE SKINNY: There were a couple big reasons other than Tebow that the media picked Florida ahead of Georgia. One was the returning talent, including eight starters on each side. The other was the schedule. Florida gets LSU at home, and its toughest road games are at Tennessee and Florida State. The SEC East title, and a spot in the national title game, could very well come down to the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville on Nov. 1.


Aug. 30 Hawaii
Sept. 6 Miami
Sept. 20 at Tennessee
Sept. 27 Mississippi
Oct. 4 at Arkansas
Oct. 11 LSU
Oct. 25 Kentucky
Nov. 1 vs. Georgia*
Nov. 8 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 15 South Carolina
Nov. 22 The Citadel
Nov. 29 at Florida State

* at Jacksonville