August 31, 2009

Florida Gators Football - Replacing Percy Harvin - Part I

The 2009 Florida Gators football season is now literally upon us, as we enter the final few days until the defending National Champions kick off against Charleston Southern.

With today's piece, I'll take a look at one area that really concerns me as the Gators head into the 2009 season: the offense.

Gone is Percy Harvin, the team's do-it-all superstar who lit up the college football scene throughout his career at Florida. With Harvin goes a huge chunk of Florida's offensive production, and perhaps the most reliable playmaker on the field in any given game.

While I don't think it will be impossible for the Gators to win without Harvin, it will certainly be more difficult. Sure, people like to point out that Florida has players with better speed than Harvin (Jeff Demps), better moves than Harvin (Chris Rainey) and better power than Harvin (Emmanuel Moody). However, what the Gators really lack is one player who can do all three the way that Harvin did.

Like I said, I think it's naive to think Florida can't win without Harvin, but at the same time, it will certainly be more difficult. What Harvin gave to Florida was a consistent threat of a first down, regardless of the down or situation. In fact, Harvin was such a versatile player that he was almost always a first down threat from any formation.

Harvin could get a first down on a running play on 3rd-and-12 just as easily as he could get a first down catching a pass on 3rd-and-2. This type of versatility is what made Harvin so dangerous. It's also what will keep the Gators from truly replacing Harvin this season.

I doubt many Florida fans would disagree with anything I've said to this point, except perhaps that Jeff Demps or Chris Rainey can't do everything Percy Harvin could do. If you disagree with me on that, you're entitled to your opinion, but I'll base this article on the assumption that they can't (which I believe is a very fair and reasonable assumption).

What Harvin's loss does to Florida is force the coaches into smarter play calls in crucial situations. It also means the Gators will likely see a slightly decreased efficiency in third down situations.

This doesn't mean Florida can't win. It simply means that the offense loses a bit of its unpredictability and increases the chances that defensive coordinators will be able to properly identify the plays Florida is likely to call based on personnel.

Again, it will take smarter play-calling and it will take guys stepping up to relieve the pressure on Tim Tebow. Execution from the other guys is the only thing that will make up for Harvin's departure.

The real bottom line is that Percy Harvin is irreplaceable in the Florida offense. He's the type of player that comes around once in a decade, if not once in a lifetime.

That doesn't mean Florida's offense is doomed, it just means that Florida's offense will have to adapt, something they've been extremely adept at since Urban Meyer arrived.

I'll touch on this more tomorrow, but today I want to let the fact that Harvin won't be replaceable set in. Tomorrow I'll take a look at what the Gators must do to overcome Harvin's loss.

But in closing, let me ask you this:

On 3rd-and-12, who would you feel most comfortable having lined up in the backfield or in the slot... Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps or Percy Harvin?

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