Sorry, Dawg fans. But Gators look like the class of the SEC East again

 It was a busy weekend of Spring Football. So what did we learn?

 1. SEC East opponents who are expecting—or hoping—for a huge drop off at Florida may be disappointed. Of course Florida will not be as good this season as the past two seasons when the Gators went 26-2. The personnel losses—QB Tim Tebow, CB Joe Haden, DE Carlos Dunlap, LB Brandon Spikes, TE Aaron Hernandez—are just too great. But Florida clearly has its quarterback in John Brantley, who completed 15 of 19 passes for 201 yards in the spring game. The Gators obviously have a lot of guys who can catch the ball like Andre Dubose, a big time recruit who sat out last season after hamstring surgery, Carl Moore and Chris Rainey. They have two options to run the “Tebow package” in Trey Burton and tight end Jordan Reed. Yes, there is a lot of work to do on defense. But when you look at the schedule, Florida will be favored in every game it plays except for an Oct. 2 trip to Alabama and possibly a Nov. 27 trip to Florida State. The rest of the SEC East has even more issues than the Gators. Somebody in that division, like Georgia or South Carolina, is going to have to step up. Florida is coming back to the field this  season, but not that much.

 

2. It’s official. Tennessee is building for the long haul. Dave Hooker of the Knoxville News-Sentinel made this point over the weekend and I agree with it. The departure of quarterback Nick Stephens, who was losing his first team snaps, is further confirmation that new Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is in the process of changing the football culture back to something more stable and reliable than the blip of the Lane Kiffin area. The coaching staff pretty much knew Stephens was not going to be the guy, but at least he had played. They could have given him enough snaps to keep him in the program for insurance for this season.

 Whereas the Kiffin regime was all about selling Tennessee as the Southern Cal of the East and as a spring board to the NFL, Dooley wants to create a more stable environment and sell the entire experience at Tennessee: program, tradition, education, football, etc. I still think that approach can work with NFL obsessed teenagers and parents if it is sold correctly.

But it is a long-term approach that requires patience. Will the Tennessee fans have patience? The Tennessee fans I talk to absolutely know the deal and are prepared for the struggle ahead. It will be an interest process to watch.

 

3. All Clemson can do is wait for June: This much seems pretty clear after Clemson’s spring game on Saturday. If Kyle Parker returns as the Tiger quarterback, Dabo Swinney’s bunch can win the ACC Atlantic division for the second straight year. Despite a practice schedule interrupted from time to time by his commitment to the Clemson baseball team, Parker completed seven of 15 passes for 75 yards in the spring game. The numbers don’t tell Parker’s story. His presence does. Parker is expected to have a big decision to make after the Major League Draft in June. If the up-front money is good, does he walk away from college football and turn the job over to redshirt freshman Tajh Boyd? Boyd, who was once committed to Tennessee, is going to be a very good quarterback. He just isn’t ready right now.

 

4. Stephen Garcia would be wise to do a lot of throwing—and a lot of thinking—this summer. As a third-year starter you would think that the light is starting to come on for South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia. Unfortunately for the star-crossed junior there continues to be a short between his talented arm and his less than finely tuned decision making process. After Saturday’s spring game, a time when a quarterback with 16 starts should be in control, head coach Steve Spurrier refused to even acknowledge Garcia as the starter. “Stephen should be our best player but sometimes he doesn’t act like it or perform like it,” Spurrier told The State newspaper in Columbia. My advice to the young man: Don’t go to the beach this summer. Don’t go out partying with your friends. Spend every free moment throwing to your receivers and watching film.  In other words, work on your game. Your head coach thinks you’re lazy and has made it clear that he will not go into this season with you as the only option at quarterback. Spurrier once benched Danny Wuerffel, 1996 the Heisman Trophy winner. If freshman Connor Shaw proves to be a viable option, the Head Ball Coach will bench you.

 

5. A healthy Christian Ponder will contend for the Heisman Trophy: Ponder, Florida State’s rising senior quarterback, was playing as well as anybody in the country last November when he decided to tackle Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel during an interception return. The monster hit caved in Ponder’s right shoulder and he was done for the year. There was some concern that he might not be ready for spring ball, but last Saturday he completed 16 of 34 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. Despite missing the last four games of the 2009 season, Ponder led the ACC in total offense with an average of 321.8 yards. “He’s gotten better every day that he has been on our campus,” head coach Jimbo Fisher told me. “He knows exactly what he is doing out there.” With a veteran offensive line and improving receivers, I think this guy is going to have a monster year.

 

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242 comments Add your comment

dagnabit

April 12th, 2010
7:17 pm

I’ve got to disagree with you Tony. Florida will be a monster this year. Look out world!

TampaGator

April 12th, 2010
7:19 pm

No questions are truly answered in the spring. Issues that remain for Georgia. Can any of their QBs play in the SEC with no experience. No answer yet. Will the defense be better? No answer yet. Do the Dawgs have a lot of talent on offense other than QB. Answer: Yes!!! Gators: Is John Brantley a top SEC QB…answer: yes!!! Is he a leader: still to be determined. Is there a CB to replace Joe Haden. Answer: Yes…pick one: Jeremy Brown, Josh Shaw, Jaylen Watkins, Mo Jenkins. They are all very good and very talented. Brown is a potential all-SEC CB real soon. Shaw will be in a couple of years. Ditto with Jaylen Watkins. Next question: Who replaces Dunlap and Cunningham? Answer: None yet, but talent is there. Who replaces Spikes? Answer: Pick one: J. Jenkins, Joe Bostic, Brandon Beal. They are all very good. Jenkins is a remarkable talent who can easily play any of the 3 LB positions. Will the Gator offense be better this year? Yes!!! Much better and much more explosive with Brantley and the many talented WRs on this team. I think it is clear that clearly Florida is by far the team to beat in the East…and nothing is based on the spring game….but on spring practice and what the players and coaches are saying about each other. Florida might be the surprise team, not in the SEC, but in the entire nation this year.

Only Stat That Matters...

April 12th, 2010
7:19 pm

UGA vs Fla 2-7 in the Mark Richt era.

"Tan Man"

April 12th, 2010
7:20 pm

Gee, then why do they call it the “golden” era??

TampaGator

April 12th, 2010
7:25 pm

dagnabit….the monster this year is going to be Matt Elam at strong safety for the Gators. He may be the most impressive freshman safety I have ever seen. Very strong, very fast, very smart. And he plays like a senior already. He will start in the nickle formation for the Gators, which they play about 3/4 of the time. Watch out SEC for this guy. I can see why the Vols, Dawgs, and those Noles wanted him so badly. He is big time!!!

You're Not It

April 12th, 2010
7:26 pm

Just looked at SW Missouri States scrimmage and spring game stats and they are much better than Georgia’s. Sorry UGA but you are NOT the MSNC after all…DIVERT THE TROPHY! DIVERT THE TROPHY!

UT Aerial Ass'salt

April 12th, 2010
7:34 pm

Berger made melted cheese out of that makeshift UGA secondary in that now epic spring game. Maybe Nick “pick-nic” Stevens might wanna come back just for the Georgia game. After all, Jon “bounce-pass” Crompton didn’t do too bad against them last year.

Let's get Mikey, he won't eat it...

April 12th, 2010
7:51 pm

Hey Mike the Spring Game Stat collector. Do you understand what a spring game is?? It’s an opportunity for the fans to come out and see their team in full uniform. It’s a production, a show a display, an opportunity for the fans to come to the stadium and talk football. At many SEC schools, they don’t even keep score like they do at “ACTUAL FOOTBALL” games.

The coaches from either side often tell each other what they’re going to run so they can highlight a particular aspect of the game or give a QB some confidence.

If you are collecting spring football game stats from your favorite team and comparing them to another team…..well…..you are an idiot. You might as well compare stats from the spring football game to the summer basketball league stats. Think about this for a moment……hear it comes…..thats it….focus. Now put down your bong and get a job.

Debose

April 12th, 2010
8:13 pm

2009 Orange and Blue Game :

Orange 31 Blue 21 = 52 points………….oh no!

Tennessee – 13 points
Kentucky – 7 points
LSU – 3 points
Georgia – 17 points
South Carolina – 14 points
FSU – 10 points

174 points allowed all year, 12.4 average per game, 18 TDs allowed

That Spring Game really showed what the D would be like all year

Red & Black Tanning Goggles

April 12th, 2010
8:19 pm

Please “Mikey Won’t Eat It” Please! Please!!…try not to bring logic to this conversation. It does not compute here. Only Spring Football stats do. Now…Praise the Lord and pass the goggles!

Red & Black Tanning Goggles

April 12th, 2010
8:26 pm

Dubose…I mean Debose…please…again…no logic… please. And those stats…THOSE don’t look like Spring Football stats to me!! Those look like actual team scores in real games. Those are NOT allowed and do not support our theory. Please try to control yourself in the future! …………..Nanu nanu.

Bama Ramma

April 12th, 2010
8:44 pm

It will be bama and florida again in the SEC title game–no other SEC teams are even close. Bama beats florida by 13 on the way to another BCS title (#14!!!)–take it to the bank!

jumbeauxtiger

April 12th, 2010
8:53 pm

I don’t see how anyone can believe right now that any SEC East club has closed the gap with the Gators. Florida has some key players to replace but they are still the best team in the division.

I think the West is by far stronger. Although Bama is the favorite, Ark, LSU and Auburn all have the potential to be very good. I just don’t see that kind of competition in the East.

I don’t understand how any reasonable Dawg fan can expect a quick fix with their problems. You will have a QB with no college game experience, assuming Murray or Mett starts, and that is a huge issue. Don’t kid yourself as LSU has found that out over the last 2 years. We all know about the D and that will take some time to improve.

Personally I don’t think the Dawgs will be a better team than last year. I think the record will be better but that is because the East is down.

kerryb

April 12th, 2010
8:55 pm

Tony, UF has to show they have a defense after most of them left for the NFL and they’ve gone through two DC in the off season. I don’t even know who the new guy is after the last one quit after a month. You can have a good offense but defense wins championships. Your defense does’nt look good when an average QB like Brantley carves them up.

fanfromathens

April 12th, 2010
8:57 pm

Tony,

I think that what UF lost this off-season is comparable to what UNC lost after winning the NCAA basketball championship last year….and look what happened to them. Fact of the matter is, no matter how many blue chips you’ve got on the bench, you don’t lose guys like Hansbrough or Lawson (or Tebow) and just expect things to carry on as before.

No matter how athletic or highly recruited the rest of the team is, they’ve spent the last 3+ years letting Tebow do most of the heavy lifting. They’ll be in for a surprise when they realize they aren’t as good as they thought they were now that defenses are no longer solely focused on Tebow.

Just like UNC, I’m betting they have a bad lose or two early and eventually fall apart b/c of it.

kerryb

April 12th, 2010
9:00 pm

jumbeauxtiger, offense is not going to be UGA’s problem. How the defensive players pick up a new defense is going to be the test. The offense is returning 10 starters, a deep offensive line, probably one of the best set of receivers, and one of the best set of RB’s in the SEC. UGA will rely on the running game to start the season and won’t need the QB, whoever he is, to win the game.

Debose

April 12th, 2010
9:09 pm

UGA defense gets 2009 G Day Game ball!!!!

2009 UGA defense = 25.9 points allowed per game, 337 points allowed, 41 TDs allowed

????????

neuce

April 12th, 2010
9:23 pm

“Dooley at Tenn. = Shula at ‘Bama!”

Keep in mind Dooley is following that moron Kiffin, Anyone else is better.
Dooley has as good of credentials as Jimbo Fisher at F$U and they seem to think he was a good hire. (doubt it)

Bama fan

April 12th, 2010
9:47 pm

Mike,

The spring contests really don’t tell you much about how a D will do vs someone else’s D. As a neutral fan I do have to disagree with you about some of what you’re thinking about Florida. For starters Chris Rainey is one of the fastest players in the country, he will be taking over the Percy Harvin role. Also, they have some receivers Debose and one other guy that both missed last season that are supposed to be lights out from what non Florida observors are saying.

As far as their defense goes the talent they have stepping in is sick. How you can say that your defense is better than florida’s is beyond me. You base that on a spring game? Florida had a defense that was 1st or 2nd throughout most of the year last year and the year before and I believe they finished top 3 in total defense each of the last 2 years. They lose some good players but like I said. The talent filling in is sick.

Bottom line: Florida aint going nowhere. They’re going to be right there at or near the top of the sec for the foreseeable future and are the odds on favorite to rule the east yet again.

Bama fan

April 12th, 2010
9:57 pm

kerryb,

Offensively UGA should be good with a strong O-line returning. Your running backs are okay but not great. No Herschel or Garrison Hearst or Robert Edwards that I can see. So if opposing defenses put 8 or 9 in the box and shut down the run then keep in mind you’re going to be having to rely on a first time starting freshman qb to save the day with some key plays. That could be a lot to ask of a freshman qb making his 2nd start in a hostile setting such as a night game in Columbia.

mike

April 12th, 2010
10:24 pm

Florida doesn’t have Charlie Strong anymore. Remember that folks.
You will all remember that come October, trust me on this.

Georgia didn’t have Todd Grantham last year. Now they do. He’s better than the Florida D Coach and Kirby Smart COMBINED. You will see.

ed

April 12th, 2010
10:35 pm

meyer the class of the SEC East?

let’s watch this video to the guy Meyer in action:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgqQshESm8s&feature=related

Tech Master

April 12th, 2010
10:48 pm

Georgia’s losing 4 games, including tech. Look for another minor bowl dawgs, but maybe better than the terrible shreveport bowl! Tech–wins the ACC easily, again!! That $750,000 on an overrated D coordinator will be a big waste of taxpayer cash.

Observor

April 12th, 2010
11:15 pm

Mike,

If Grantham is such a great D coach and he is better than Kirby Smart and the Florida D coordinator “COMBINED” then why was Grantham Richt’s 4th or 5th coaching coach after Kirby(choice no. 1) said no, then Muschamp said no, and then 1 or 2 other guys said no before Richt settled on Grantham.

The reason he was Richt’s 5th choice is because he is only a position coach. His one shot as a D coordinator in the NFL his defense at Cleveland was 30th for 2 years in a row out of 32 teams. No wonder he got fired, demoted to a position coach, and was then richt’s 5th choice. Gee, you got a real winner there pardner. Better than Smart and the Florida coordinator “combined”. Just another delusional dawg fan.

Reptillicide

April 12th, 2010
11:21 pm

Good god, Barnhart. I would have thought you would have waited until at least August to resume your gator butt-kissing, but I guess not.

What does it say about sports journalism when you’re naming the “class” of the SEC East based off of scripted Spring scrimmage games and comments from UF players and coaches? Humor me for a second, Tony, and read this post seriously.

The problem I see with your “analysis,” is that you are judging the Gators based off a gator measuring stick. Brantley was 15/19 for 200 yards… against the Gator defense (which we have no idea how good they will be, given the departure of those big time playmakers and DC Charlie Strong). I don’t place much stock in anybody’s numbers in the Spring game, and I don’t think an esteemed journalist such as yourself should, either. Furthermore, you nonchalantly mention that they have two QBs to play the “Tebow” position, as if to completely ignore the fact that NEITHER ONE OF THEM ARE TIM TEBOW. If we are to believe what you and many other people say, that Tim Tebow is one of, if not THE GREATEST, college football player ever… than how can you sit there and try and tell us that they have two QBs who are going to play the Tebow position? For what it’s worth… how many times did we hear before the 2009 season about how a certain player was going to play the Percy Harvin position?

I’m sorry Tony, but it sounds like you’re just toting the UF line, or regurgitating what the UF PR people want you to repeat. Bottom line: nobody can fill Tim Tebow’s shoes, and there was not a more effective short yardage back in the country last year than Tim Tebow. Even if the Gators had Ryan Mallett back their throwing the ball (which they don’t), there is not a soul on that roster who is going to come in on 3rd and short (with everyone knowing what they are coming in for) and do what Tebow could do.

I’m not asking you to tell me that Georgia is the favorite in the East, Tony. But please come to the table with more than “Florida has a lot of talent and won’t lose that much.” I can go to any numbskull Gator fan off the street and get equally insightful information. I thought the purpose of you being “Mr. College Football” was to offer more than just the opinion of a team’s players and coaches of how good they think they’re going to be.

Chuck Uga

April 12th, 2010
11:32 pm

Tony,
UF may have the best team in the East in 2010, but the best team does not always win the division nor the title. UGA will be in Atlanta in early December. Also, we will see of Derek Dooley can make it at UT. This isn’t 1964 in Athens. He has to annually face Meyer. Spurrier, Richt and Saban. Scary. Now if Richt can just get that offense to perform with consistency and have a defense that performs like it did under VanGorder….the talent is certainly there.

Reptillicide

April 12th, 2010
11:33 pm

You mailed this one in, Tony. You know you did, too.

Chuck Uga

April 12th, 2010
11:38 pm

Forgot to mention FSU will not come close to beating Florida anytime soon. Maybe one upset in ten years, but certainly not 2010.

Oh yeah, always can count on a Bama fan or UT fan to jump on a comment blog about UGA football and tell us what we do and do not have on our roster, who is good and who sucks, who will play and who will sit on the bench, etc. To that point, guessing Washaun Ealey is average. Just hope that average RB gets a shot at Bama in the Dome in December. He’ll average 7 yards a carry!

Red & Black Tanning Goggles

April 12th, 2010
11:46 pm

Again…Bama fan and Observor…PLEASE!…please refrain from using logic and reason on this blog. And please be WARNED…Anything other than obscure, meaningless spring statistics will not be tolerated! Any information involving actual real games between two teams that are actually relevant to a real world comparison will not be accepted. Thank you for your co-operation and participation. Praise the Lord and pass the goggles!

#2 BAMA FAN

April 13th, 2010
4:40 am

As the greatest college football coach Bear Bryant said if Florida could get act together all the other SEC schools would be playing for 2nd place. Old Ball Coach got it rolling and Urban Meyer has taken it to a different plateau!! Florida will all ways be good only if they hire somebody like Ron Zook again
or get caught cheating from the NCAA. Throw the rest of the sec east in a box and pick a winner for 2nd place. RTR

The Old Ball Coach

April 13th, 2010
7:20 am

That’s why they play them on the field. Florida has recruited well and is loaded. Georgia is pretty loaded too. It’ll be interesting to see where this new defensive staff take Georgia. I’ll be throwing my visor again in Columbia.

Grungydog

April 13th, 2010
7:21 am

UF is always going to have players but so will UGA,UT<AU,UA and LSU. Getting the right coach is the reason one of these teams is dominate just look at bama. yeras of struggle until Saban. CMR has done well but went down when Vangorder left so we will see what happens with Grantham and UGA under Richt. I predict we win the secc this year in a surprise.

[...] doesn’t sound like Tony Barnhart gives Georgia much of a chance in the SEC East this season. SEC East opponents who are [...]

JD

April 13th, 2010
8:02 am

I agree that Florida is and should be the favorite with the talent they still have, but there D is young & suspect. If Garcia can get his act together, S. Carolina has the talent and experience to be hard to deal with this season also.

hsf

April 13th, 2010
10:40 am

Tennessee’s defense should be good enough to get the regular W’s from the schedule (Vandy, KY, GA, SC) plus UT Martin, Memphis, and UAB. That’s 7 wins. TN defense may be good enough to beat Ole Miss and/or Oregon, both in Knoxville… and maybe good enough to surprise one of FL, AL, LSU. At worst 7-5. At best 9-3.

Tony Barnhart Fan

April 13th, 2010
2:52 pm

Tony,

You are one of my favorite sources of college football analysis. It is nice to see you pick the Gators since I figure you’re as likely as anyone to get it right in the preseason. I hope the UF offense is more explosive this year. It could happen. It looks like the D could be pretty nasty, but we’re gonna need someone to step up at DE now that we finally may have some SEC caliber tackles coming along.

I’m a lot more worried about Alabama than I am about UGA, but the beauty of college football is you just never know.

I would love to see Derek Dooley have success at UT(as long as he only wins about 1 out of 4 against Florida), but if he never wins a game, it is a great relief to have someone with the Dooley pedigree take over for the Lamester(Coach Kitten). We don’t need clowns like that in the SEC. He is much better suited to the ACC, where football doesn’t really matter, or someplace far away, like the PAC 10.

Gatorz1

April 13th, 2010
3:39 pm

TampaGator,

Wish I had said that. Nice Job!

Gatorz1

April 13th, 2010
3:46 pm

TampaGator,

What do you think about D Tackle? That seems to be improving from what I gather. Hopefully we don’t fall of at end now, just when the tackles start kicking butt.

Meta Tide

April 14th, 2010
7:53 am

Alabama and Florida will be in the SEC title game for years to come. The rest of the SEC will be looking up at the 2 dominant programs every year, and getting table scraps. Bama beats Florida twice this year: October and December, on the way to another title–mark it down.

Buzz Rule

April 14th, 2010
11:16 am

With all the talent in the state of Ga and the southeast, why can’t uga recruit enough talent to beat florida on a regular basis, or at least more than 3 times in 20 years?????? Florida will blow Ga out again in 2010, but richt always gets a pass because he is a “good guy” apparently.

Bob

April 15th, 2010
11:32 am

UF will not be an underdog playing at FSU. By the time that game comes around UF will have possibly one blemish on its record..FSU will have several , playing in the Almost Competetive Conference.

D

April 15th, 2010
6:32 pm

Yes, the Gators are still the favorites in the East, and anyone saying otherwise is delusional. Of course Tebow was special, but we won a national title in 2006 with a starting QB less talented than the one we’ll have this year. Brantley is ready to go. He’s a 4th-year junior with a world of talent, not some freshman or sophomore who we’re not real sure about. He’s going to have a big year. Bet that.

And there’s no comparison between our 2007 defense and our 2010 defense. The ‘07 defense has ZERO experience at all on it, and was comprised of nothing but freshmen and sophomores who had barely played if they had played at all. We’ll have 11 different guys on this year’s defense who have been starters at some point. Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders, Omar Hunter, Jaye Howard, Justin Trattou, AJ Jones, Brandon Hicks, Will Hill, Janoris Jenkins and Ahmad Black are ALL still at UF and have all been solid to very good players for us. We’ll have the fastest LB core in the SEC, and proven starters at 3 secondary spots and 3 DL spots.

And per usual, we’ll have the fastest collection of skill guys in the conference, even if you haven’t yet heard of all of them. The defense will still likely take a step back, but the offense will be more explosive. We’ll hit more big plays down the field with Brantley, and we’re already making adjustments for Brantley to do more pro style, under-center stuff.

I think this is the year that people start to understand just how well Urban Meyer has been recruiting the last several years. I’m not saying we’re going to beat Bama or win it all, but we’ll still be the best team in the East by a fair margin, and may very well still be in national contention by the SEC title game.