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Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

On the Spot: Four or Five Guys at Florida

Florida fans will take this as heresy, but Tim Tebow wasn't the Gators' best--or most important--offensive player last year. The guy who really kept opposing defensive coordinators up at night was Percy Harvin.

Jump passes and stirring speeches are cool and all. But whether he was lined up behind center or split out wide, Harvin provided coach Urban Meyer with a unique multipurpose weapon who was a threat to take it the house whenever he got his hands on the ball. Think Reggie Bush, Rocket Ismail, Desmond Howard--Harvin was that kind of playmaker par excellence during his time in Gainesville. So, if you're looking for the biggest chink in the consensus number one's armor, I think this is it.

(Yes, Homerism realizes that Florida beat Alabama in the conference championship with Harvin on the sidelines, so it's not like he's irreplaceable. The flip side: in my opinion, Harvin was the difference in the national championship game.)

Heading into 2009, Meyer will look to a host of Gators young and old to give his offense that Harvinesque spark.

-Brandon James
The diminutive James has made some electrifying plays on special teams for Florida, returning four punts for touchdowns in the past three seasons. He has yet to make much of an impact otherwise. In his entire college, James has just 357 total yards and four touchdowns.

Hammond redshirted in 2008, making him somewhat of an unknown. The 6-0 wide receiver is cut from the classic Gator mold, though. In other words, he has plenty of speed to burn (4.4 40-yard dash). 

-Jeff Demps
Demps may be the fastest of the heralded speedsters Meyer brought in with his 2008 recruiting class. Listed on Florida's roster as a classic all-purpose "athlete," Demps made immediate contributions in a variety of ways during his freshman season. He averaged 7.8 yards per rushing attempt, scoring seven touchdowns. Five of those scoring scampers covered more than 35 yards. He also caught 14 passes for an average of 9 yards per reception and blocked two punts.

Debose, a true freshman, was rated as the second-best wide receiver in the country by ESPN coming out of high school. Despite being listed as a receiver, expect to see Debose line up as a running back frequently in '09. With his speed and athleticism, there's no question Debose has the skills  to be a home run hitter in the UF offensive scheme. How much of that scheme he can absorb in his first season is a big question, though.
Debose, Demps, Hammond and James clearly have the talent and athleticism to thrive in Florida's offense, which feasts on friendly match-ups in space. Here's the problem: none are Harvin.

Just because a committee of players can replace a departed superstar's production, that doesn't mean they can replace all the benefits he brought to the offense. For example, USC's backfield has been populated by a fleet of outstanding players since Bush left campus, but not one has been able to match the Heisman winner's brilliance. USC's offense has continued to click in the past three seasons, but not to the level of the Bush era.
Like Bush, Harvin impacted a game in ways that were both measurable and not. Now that Harvin's gone, who's going to preoccupy opposing defenses? Who's going to open up opportunities for the offense's other players? And, most importantly, who's the go-to guy when the Gators are in a tight spot?