What's up peoples? This is your guest Gator Clause author, Mike "Mike" McCall, filling in again for Joe, who is still pizza-wedging his way down the mountains of California.
First off, good news today (sort of) for Florida as quarterback Tim Tebow underwent successful surgery on his non-throwing shoulder to remove a bone spur and inflammation. Tebow hurt the shoulder last season and aggravated the injury early this year, which makes sense, because if you watched him closely, Tebow didn't look the same.
I've watched Tebow play in almost every game since his junior year of high school (don't worry, I went to school there, I'm not a stalker), and I've never seen him run the way he did this season. He used way more spin moves than I've ever seen him use before, opting out of his usual, punishing style. Granted, he still ran over his share of defenders, and the dude finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting and led the Gators to a national title, so who cares about a few extra spins, right?
Now that Tebow has decided to play his senior season, Florida will be favorites to win the 2009 title, but with linebacker Brandon Spikes and receiver Percy Harvin yet to choose between college and the NFL, is he the most important of the three?
Here's my rank of the Gators' talented juniors, in order of who I would take if I could only have one back:
1. Percy Harvin: I know, I know. He's not Tebow, but hear me out. All three are incredible football players, so I'm splitting hairs here anyway, but I think the Gators offense would be better with Harvin and without Tebow than the other way around. UF will still have Jeffery Demps, Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Moody to carry the ball next year, and all three proved to be effective throughout the season. But without Harvin against Alabama, most of the option plays and runs that worked all year started to fail. When Percy is on the field, he makes everyone else better because defenses have to commit at least one player to follow him around, and if he leaves, it makes life harder on everyone else, including Tebow. Besides, receivers David Nelson, Riley Cooper and Deonte Thompson are much better as second, third or fourth options than they are as the go-to guy. Call me crazy, but I think John Brantley could be an efficient passer, especially with a loaded rushing attack and solid defense, meaning he'd never have to carry the team.
2. Tim Tebow: I know Tebow is the heart and soul of the team, and if he left, Harvin and Spikes would probably bail too, but for the purposes of this exercise, examining each player independently, I rank him second. Since I believe in John Brantley, I think the most important thing Tebow brings with him is his emotional leadership, not his arm or legs. Players say they're even afraid to cuss in front of him, and that dynamic will be especially important next season. The Gators will go into the year expecting another championship, and Tebow is the guy who keeps everyone from getting complacent. Part of the reason the 2007 UF team sucked was because it expected everything on a silver platter, and Tebow won't let that happen again.
3. Brandon Spikes: He's my favorite person and player on this team, by far, but Spikes has some pretty good replacements behind him in case he leaves (although I think he'll stay). Ryan Stamper, Brandon Hicks and Dustin Doe would make a solid, experienced starting lineup, and I think Hicks will be the next great UF backer. A.J. Jones provides depth, and if John Jones, Lorenzo Edwards, Lerentee McCray and Brendan Beal pan out as expected, the Gators should have plenty of LBs flying around.
I know Tebow is the man and all, but if I have first pick from the Gators' roster, I want Harvin. But I think we can all agree that, if Harvin and Spikes both decide to stay, we'll be watching one of the best college football teams ever next fall.