Gators will unveil a new era


Published: Friday, September 3, 2010 at 5:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 3, 2010 at 5:22 p.m.

Merry Christmas.

Happy season.

The present is there under the tree and you have no idea what it is. Is it socks and underwear or Beatles Rock Band? Is it a sweater from grandma or a baseball glove from grandpa?

This isn't a transparent present like the time your dad tried to wrap that surfboard he gave you.

You know, like last season.

Last season we knew what the present was. We knew what the team was going to look like, feel like. We knew what the players would say about the coaches and the coaches about the players. We knew that team would win big. We just weren't sure how big.

This year, we aren't really sure what's hidden underneath the fancy wrapping.

And that's what every season is, isn't it? A present under the tree, waiting to be opened and played with. Friday night is like Christmas Eve, butterflies trying to escape your belly. The stadium is your living room, the goalposts the tree. Let's see what Santa Urban brought us this year.

"I'm excited," he said this week. "I can't say I was excited several months ago. But now I've seen Jelani (Jenkins) practice and I've seen Jon Bostic practice. And most importantly, I've seen what John Brantley has done in practice. I'm looking forward to the John Brantley Era of Florida football."

We'll always look back at the Tim Tebow Era as something special but there is a sense of excitement in the Gator Nation. Because this will be something different, something new. We have an idea of what it will look like but really have no clue. Because the Season of the Weird has morphed into the Summer of Secrets. Behind fences covered with blue tarps, these new Gators have tried to perfect their imperfections and iron out their flaws. Information has been difficult to come by.

Typical was Meyer's comment this summer about Xavier Nixon's knee injury.

"They found something in there," he said.

What? Termites? Amelia Earhart? My lost remote?

The Summer of Secrets has only added to the suspense. Florida is a blind date about to open the door for the first time. You've waited a long time to see it. Saturday is the first look.

At the defense with a new coordinator.

At the shuffled offensive line.

At the new cornerback, new middle linebacker, new free safety.

At the new playmakers.

At the freshmen.

"I'm probably like Gator Nation," Meyer said. "I have thought about it a few times, to see how those freshmen run around out there. I think we're going to be pleased."

Heck, Gator Nation is just pleased to have some football to watch.

Pleased to open another present.

You've been waiting for this day for months.

The Brantleys have been waiting for it for years.

On Thursday evening, father and son along with Mike Pouncey sat at The Swamp restaurant — a weekly tradition — munching on dinner and talking about the family record for touchdown passes, career.

"I still have it," said the dad.

He threw 13 as a Gator.

Johnny has 10 and has never started a game.

That changes Saturday. The Brantley record may as well.

A lot changes Saturday because you will have something to talk about other than what you've heard.

Is the Percy position back after a year off?

Is Deonte Thompson ready to explode?

Are these young defensive linemen ready to dominate?

Who isn't dressed out?

It's Opening Day, a day like no other. Miami of Ohio has been paid handsomely to be the Washington Generals. As great as it will be for Gator fans to finally see their team, they will also know the real tests are down the road.

It will be hot. It will be sticky.

Someone will pass out, for one reason or another.

You won't feel like your seat is wide enough or your drink cold enough.

You will get goosebumps when the video starts before this team, your new team, runs out onto the field.

You will second-guess and second an emotion.

You will eat food you wouldn't serve at home.

Typical Christmas.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. You can listen to The Pat Dooley Show weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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