NCF Nation: Cornelius Ingram
It sounds crazy, it really does, but the similarities are there. The offense isn’t exactly pretty, but the defense is stellar. Both running games have bulls in the backfield (2006 had a young Tim Tebow and power back DeShawn Wynn). Urban Meyer used more of a pounding spread, while Will Muschamp (also in his second year, like Meyer) has his team grinding along and outplaying everyone in the second half.
But somehow, the wins kept piling up, as toughness, not flash, got it done ... just like this year's team.
But can these Gators make a run to the national championship, or even the SEC championship? Can a team that has averaged 69 passing yards in its past two games really make it through the rest of its SEC schedule and beyond?
So far a mediocre passing game has been enough with that tremendous defense and rugged running game. But for this team to get on the 2006 team’s level, some things have to change, especially with No. 7 South Carolina venturing into the Swamp on Saturday.
For starters, the Gators have to be a threat to throw. In 2006, Chris Leak, who eventually became Florida’s all-time leading passer, was very much a passing threat. He didn’t throw for a lot of yards, averaging just 210 yards a game, but defenses had to account for a balanced Gators offensive attack.
This year’s team doesn’t really have that in Jeff Driskel. He’s a tremendous athlete and can throw a good ball, but he’s averaging just 139 yards a game and has four touchdown passes.
Now, Driskel doesn’t have the receiving threats Leak had. Frankie Hammond Jr., Quinton Dunbar, Jordan Reed and Andre Debose just don’t generate the same excitement as Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell, Dallas Baker and Cornelius Ingram.
Sure, the Gators haven’t exactly needed to throw the ball with their running game and defense, but when Driskel has to pass against good defenses, will he be able to? It’s still a mystery, and that has to be concerning.
When you compare the defenses, the pass rushes are very different. The 2006 team had Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey, who combined for 18.5 sacks. That team had 34 sacks. This one has just 12. Quick passing teams hurt Florida’s pass rush to start the year, but it has to be more consistent in SEC play.
This year’s team does win the kicking battle with All-American hopeful Caleb Sturgis, and you could argue that the running game is stronger with Mike Gillislee.
Even with Tebow and Harvin helping out Wynn, those Gators averaged 160 rushing yards a game. Having more of a passing game cut into the rushing numbers, but Wynn wasn’t Gillislee, who leads all SEC running backs with 615 rushing yards and is one of only two backs to average 100 or more yards a game (102.5). Wynn finished the 2006 season with just 699 yards.
When it comes to points, both teams are pretty even. The 2006 team averaged 29 points and gave up 9.5 through the first six games (all wins as well), while this year’s team is scoring 27.8 and allowing 12.3. This year’s team is also averaging around 20 yards fewer (378.3) and giving up 40 more yards (297.2).
So the similarities are obvious, but this team doesn’t have the experience the 2006 team had, and you have to wonder if that will eventually catch up to it.
I have to admit I was very surprised to see Florida at No. 2 in the first BCS standings. Don’t get me wrong, the Gators have been impressive with those back-to-back SEC road wins, the second-half pushes, the win over LSU, and that defense and running game.
But No. 2?
In the right light, is this Florida team really a 2 or is it more like a 4, or even a 5? We’ll find out with South Carolina and Georgia next.
Florida might be a tough team to truly figure out, but the 6-0 start is a pleasant surprise. A team that was expected to be nothing more than a distant third in the East could be playing in Atlanta in early December.
That’s something the 2006 team would be very proud of.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- When Cornelius Ingram went down with his freakish knee injury during the preseason, Florida's offense took a big hit.
|J. Meric/Getty Images|
|Aaron Hernandez's five touchdown receptions led all SEC tight ends.|
One of the most athletic and best pass-catching tight ends in the country, Ingram was primed for a huge senior season.
But even more importantly, the Gators had a two-tight end package in along with sophomore Aaron Hernandez that they thought would give opposing defenses fits.
"Almost half of the offense was going to be with two tight ends," said Ingram, who tied for the team lead with seven touchdown catches in 2007. "We had a lot of stuff in, and I was really looking forward to it. But I knew we wouldn't miss a beat with Aaron."
The Gators had to tweak their offense some without Ingram, but the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Hernandez quickly developed into one of the best playmaking tight ends in a league full of talented tight ends.
There was D.J. Williams at Arkansas, Richard Dickson at LSU, Jared Cook at South Carolina and Nick Walker at Alabama, just to name a few. But no tight end in the SEC caught more touchdown passes than Hernandez's five, and he also ranks third on Florida's team this season with 29 catches for 324 yards.
"It's awesome to be a tight end in this offense," Hernandez said. "You get to do such a variety of things. They use you a million different ways, as a fullback, an H-back, a wide receiver, a true tight end. It just makes you that much better."
Senior receiver Louis Murphy says Hernandez has "just scraped the surface" of what he's capable of doing at Florida.
And Florida coach Urban Meyer still winces when he thinks about teams having to match up with both Ingram and Hernandez on the field at the same time.
"I don't even want to think about it," Meyer said. "To have C.I. and Aaron Hernandez would have been a tough one to stop."
|Chris Livingston/Icon SMI||Ronald Martinez/Getty Images|
|Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno top a list of talented SEC offensive players.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
I'll be taking the rest of this week off to gear up for the unofficial start of the SEC season next week. The SEC Media Days are scheduled for July 23-25 in Birmingham, and I'll be there with wall-to-wall coverage all three days.
But to get us through the rest of this week, I've put together a package on the "Best of the SEC," which I'm sure won't create any debate, second-guessing or lively conversation.
We'll start today by ranking the 10 best offensive players in the SEC. Check back on Tuesday for the 10 best defensive players. We'll rank the 10 most underrated players on Wednesday, the 10 most likely breakout players on Thursday and the 10 best impact newcomers on Friday.
Let me hear who we've left off, who's ranked too high or too low and who's ranked about where they should be.
In a conference as talented as the SEC, it's almost impossible to pick just 10 players for each of these lists. But here goes:
1. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida: The first sophomore in history to win the Heisman Trophy and the only player in NCAA history to rush for and pass for 20 touchdowns in the same season. And, no, he doesn't wear a cape.
2. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia: Joined exclusive company last season with 1,334 rushing yards. The only SEC freshmen to rush for more were Herschel Walker, Emmitt Smith and Jamal Lewis.
3. Percy Harvin: WR, Florida: Keep an eye on him, because he might line up anywhere. The SEC's most versatile weapon, Harvin has averaged nearly 10 yards per carry and 15 yards per reception.
4. Andre Smith, OT, Alabama: A starter from the day he stepped foot on campus, Smith is the prototypical left tackle and the most devastating blocker in a league ripe with great blockers.
5. Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss: Took a long look at turning pro following his junior season. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Oher has gained upper-body strength and will be even better in 2008.
6. Jonathan Luigs, C, Arkansas: One of the most complete offensive linemen in the country, Luigs won the Remington Trophy last season as the most outstanding center in college football.
7. Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia: He doesn't wow you over with eye-popping statistics, but the big Texan can make all of the throws and has the kind of physical tools you can't teach.
8. Kenny McKinley, WR, South Carolina: If Harvin's the SEC's best receiver, McKinley's not too far behind. He led the league in receptions (77) and receiving yards per game (80.7) last season.
9. Arian Foster, RB, Tennessee: His total of 1,650 all-purpose yards last season was the second best mark in school history. Has the size, vision and pass-catching skills to hurt teams a variety of different ways.
10. Cornelius Ingram, TE, Florida: Came to Florida as a quarterback. Ingram caught seven touchdown passes a year ago. If this physical specimen takes his blocking to another level, look out.
In closing: I could have easily picked a few more offensive linemen for this list. The SEC is stacked with NFL-caliber offensive linemen for 2008. And if Harvin is 100 percent healthy after coming back from heel surgery, he gets my nod as the best playmaker in the league.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
2:00 PM ET Washington State Colorado State 3:30 PM ET 20 Fresno State 25 USC 5:30 PM ET Buffalo San Diego State 9:00 PM ET Tulane Louisiana-Lafayette
6:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Bowling Green 9:30 PM ET Utah State 23 Northern Illinois
2:30 PM ET Marshall Maryland 6:00 PM ET Syracuse Minnesota 9:30 PM ET Brigham Young Washington
12:00 PM ET Rutgers Notre Dame 3:20 PM ET Cincinnati North Carolina 6:45 PM ET Miami (FL) 18 Louisville 10:15 PM ET Michigan Kansas State
11:45 AM ET Middle Tennessee Navy 3:15 PM ET Ole Miss Georgia Tech 6:45 PM ET 10 Oregon Texas 10:15 PM ET 14 Arizona State Texas Tech
12:30 PM ET Arizona Boston College 2:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 17 UCLA 4:00 PM ET Rice Mississippi State 8:00 PM ET 24 Duke 21 Texas A&M
12:00 PM ET Nebraska 22 Georgia 12:00 PM ET UNLV North Texas 1:00 PM ET Iowa 16 LSU 1:00 PM ET 19 Wisconsin 9 South Carolina 5:00 PM ET 5 Stanford 4 Michigan State 8:30 PM ET 15 UCF 6 Baylor
7:30 PM ET 13 Oklahoma State 8 Missouri 8:30 PM ET 12 Clemson 7 Ohio State