Top 25 teams: No. 1 Florida Gators
Published: Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 11:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 6:38 p.m.
1. FLORIDA GATORS
2008 record: 13-1
Returning starters offense/defense: 8/11
Strength: Defense. Florida returns all 11 starters from a unit that ranked ninth in total defense in 2008. Star middle linebacker Brandon Spikes’ decision to stick around for his senior season means the Gators have a lethal combination of talent and leadership. Florida’s second-team defense alone would constitute a solid starting unit on any other team in the SEC.
Weakness: Wide receiver. Florida’s biggest losses this offseason came when Percy Harvin entered the NFL draft and Louis Murphy graduated. Add in the possible loss of Riley Cooper to Major League Baseball, and the depth chart at receiver begins to look even thinner. Florida’s hopes are that Deonte Thompson continues to improve, Carl Moore overcomes the growing pains of 2008 and heralded freshman Andre Debose picks up where Harvin left off. If that happens, the Gators’ biggest weakness would only be the complacency of winning the BCS trophy in 2008.
Biggest star: Tim Tebow. Two national championships and a Heisman, with an opportunity to add one more of each, it doesn’t get much bigger than that.
Rising star: Aaron Hernandez. The tight end finished the 2008 season with just 381 receiving yards, but was able to shine in Florida’s last three games of the season. His performances against Florida State (4 rec., 61 yds, 2 TDs), Alabama (3 rec., 43 yds) and Oklahoma (5 rec.. 57 yds) thrust him into the spotlight and he became a focal point for the offense this spring. Look for his numbers to resemble the last three games of 2008 for the entire 2009 season.
Toughest game:Oct. 10 at LSU. If Florida can triumph over the Tigers in Baton Rouge, the schedule sets up very well leading to a showdown with Georgia in Jacksonville on Halloween.
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