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December 2, 2010The Florida Gators' 2010 regular season will not be fondly remembered by most in the Gator Nation. It began with snapping issues in Gainesville and ended with a thud in Tallahassee. Today, we look back at the highs and lows.
FIVE WHO CAME TO PLAY
1. Ahmad Black, SS: The team's best tackler brought his lunch pail to work every Saturday. One of the program's most underrated players in recent memory.
2. Janoris Jenkins, CB: Prototypical shutdown corner had success against some of the country's elite receivers.
3. Chas Henry, P/PK: Quite possibly the greatest punter in Gators history. And this program has had some studs.
4. Chris Rainey, RB/WR: How mediocre was the Gator offense? Despite missing five games after a September arrest, Rainey arguably still is the MVP. Averaged 102.6 all-purpose yards a game.
5. Jaye Howard, DT: Slowed by a sprained ankle the last half of the season, he still ranked second on the team in tackles for loss (11) and sacks (three).
FIVE WE EXPECTED MORE FROM
1. John Brantley, QB: The one-time national prep player of the year does not rank in the top 75 in passing.
2. Will Hill, FS: Hyped last summer as a potential All-American candidate, he was dogged by poor tackling and inconsistent play in coverage.
3. Deonte Thompson, WR: Even though Thompson leads the Gators in receiving, he was plagued by dropped passes and showed little game-changing ability.
4. Emmanuel Moody, RB: The former five-star recruit finished senior season with 265 rushing yards -- five more than quarterback/tight end Jordan Reed.
5. Mike Pouncey, C: Pouncey didn't completely bomb as some have suggested, but his early season snapping woes set the tone for a poor offensive year.
FIVE FOR THE FUTURE
1. Jordan Reed, TE/QB: Plain and simple, good things happen when he touches the ball. It would be a surprise if he's not the team's starting quarterback in 2011.
2. Sharrif Floyd, DT: In backup role, he ranks fourth on the team in tackles for loss (seven). Probably should have played more.
3. Ronald Powell, DE/LB: A great blocker on special teams, Powell also ranked 11th on the squad in tackles.
4. Cody Riggs, CB: A future star, Riggs started a handful of games even though he didn't begin practicing with the team until August.
5. Matt Elam, SS: Should have no problem transitioning into Black's old starting spot in 2011.
FIVE WHO VANISHED
1. Mike Gillislee, RB: Is he even still on the team? Seriously? It's a mystery why he carried the ball only 54 times.
2. Carl Moore, WR: Was Mr. Third Down early in the season, and Mr. No Down by the end of it.
3. James Wilson, OG: Former five-star recruit was early season starter before getting hurt and hasn't been heard from since.
4. Stephen Alli, WR: Coaches raved about his ability before the season. Then he caught 3 passes.
5. Lawrence Marsh, DT: A full-time starter on the 2008 national championship squad, he recorded nine tackles.
FIVE QUESTIONABLE MOVES
1. Switching Pouncey from guard to center. Why in the world would anyone move an All-American to another position? His snapping issues set the offense back weeks.
2. Moving Reed from quarterback to tight end last spring. The Gators, figuring they were set at quarterback and weak at tight end, trained Reed at the latter all spring. Oops.
3. The offensive line shuffle. Marcus Gilbert started at right tackle. Xavier Nixon started at left tackle. First, the Gators flopped them. Then they regularly played right guard Maurice Hurt at right tackle in place of Nixon. While all these switches were being made, offensive coordinator/line coach Steve Addazio preached the importance of chemistry and consistency up front.
4. The three-quarterback system. Some would say it gave the offense a spark. Others would say it made it obvious to defenses what they should key on.
5. Closing practice and backing away from speaking engagements. When head coach Urban Meyer did this, he essentially divorced himself from many of Florida's biggest fans. Did it affect the product on the field? No. But what's wrong with putting the fans first?
FIVE MEMORABLE PLAYS
1. Henry's 37-yard field goal in overtime to lift the Gators to a 34-31 win over Georgia in Jacksonville. Henry was forced into placekicking duties when Caleb Sturgis got hurt, and to that point had struggled.
2. Andre Debose's 99-yard kickoff return to open the game against South Carolina. From there, however, it was all downhill.
3. Hill's interception against Georgia in overtime. After picking off an errant Aaron Murray pass, he made it all the way to the Bulldogs 4 before going out of bounds.
4. Trey Burton's 51-yard touchdown run against Georgia with 4:36 left. Florida had blown a two-touchdown lead and that helped stop the hemorrhaging.
5. Debose's 88-yard kickoff return for six against LSU. Florida trailed 26-14 at the time and that sparked a terrific comeback that ultimately fell short.
FIVE FORGETTABLE ONES
1. Brantley's first-half interception at Florida State. The Gators trailed 24-7 and were driving late in the second quarter. Reed had been fantastic on the series, but was pulled. One play later, Brantley threw to a well-covered receiver and was picked. The Gators never recovered.
2. Against LSU at home on Oct. 9, Florida held a 29-26 lead over the Tigers with 35 seconds left as LSU lined up for what would have been a 52-yard field goal. The Tigers called timeout, then faked the kick as holder Derek Helton pitched to placekicker Josh Jasper, who scooped the ball up after it hit the ground and ran for a first down. Four plays later, LSU scored the go-ahead and game-clinching touchdown.
3. On Florida's opening drive at then-No. 1 Alabama, the Gators moved to the Bama 1. But on fourth down, Florida attempted a jump pass. Trey Burton's throw was intercepted in the end zone, and the Gators were thumped 31-6.
4. Henry's missed 42-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining against Mississippi State that would have tied the game.
5. In a 48-14 Week-4 win over Kentucky, the Wildcats fooled Florida on an apparent field-goal attempt when Chris Matthews appeared to run off the field on fourth down. But he stopped shy of the sideline, then ran to the end zone and was left completely uncovered. Randall Cobb threw him the ball for six on a play that was both shocking and, for Florida, quite embarrassing.
FIVE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
1. Meyer. This just in; he's making $4 million a year for a reason. Was this a great coaching job? Not at all. But everyone deserves a mulligan. Especially this guy.
2. Skilled youth. Florida has several young and talented players who shined in 2010 and will be anxious to assume more important roles next season.
3. Luck. Some years you get it with injuries; some years, you don't. In 2010, the Gators seemed to be a bit cursed at times, and the loss of some key players certainly hurt the team's on-field performance.
4. Hunger. Florida is no longer on top of the college football world. Or on top of the Southeastern Conference. Or on top of the state. It's time for the Gators to break out the drawing board and get back to work. Everyone associated with the program will be pushed to prove outsiders 2010 was a fluke.
5. Two words: Jeff Driskel. The incoming recruit just might be Florida's answer at quarterback.
FIVE FINAL THOUGHTS
1. Wanted: Prima-donnas
2. Air Florida: Like the failed airline, only not as efficient.
3. Embarrassment is the greatest motivator.
4. Snap, crackle, pop.
5. Is it March yet?