Thu Jan 15 04:39pm EST
As far as preseason expectations go, losing Percy Harvin to the draft probably doesn't change anything for Florida: The second Tim Tebow sent the Swamp into apoplexy by announcing His Return, the Gators were locked in at the top of this summer's preseason polls. It helps that Brandon Spikes will be back, meaning UF will be returning every single member of the defensive two-deep from last week's mythical championship win, pending academics and offseason shenanigans. The Gators are still stacked.
Of all Florida's weapons, though, none have been remotely as versatile as Harvin, whose career rushing (1,852 yards) and receiving (1,929) numbers are almost identical, and whose consistency as a big play threat is unmatched anywhere in the country: For his career, Harvin had 14 games in which he broke a 15-yard run and hauled in a 15-yard reception, and did one or the other 34 of the 36 times he stepped on the field.
Harvin's role in Urban Meyer's offense was unique, and they were so perfectly suited for one another. Meyer has plenty of blazers who can run, and plenty more who can catch, but no one who's so lethal in both regards, from almost anywhere on the field. Even if UF has every reason to expect its 40-point barrages to continue behind Tebow and his band or merry speedsters, corks should be popping in defensive meeting rooms across the South by coaches who don't have to "prepare" for this guy anymore, as if they could to begin with. The only things that ever really stopped Harvin were his own ankle and hamstring, which just aren't evolved to handle that much torque.
Here's another really scary thought re: Florida's speed: C.J. Spiller's family urged him to commit to the Gators out of high school, and he was close to transferring after his first semester at Clemson. The place has obviously grown on him: The electric all-purpose demon will be back for his senior season, ignoring his mother again ($) and passing up a likely first round grade to have the Tiger backfield all to himself for the first time.
Spiller's return is a surprise, but maybe it shouldn't be: Even in the midst of Clemson's fall from preseason grace and midseason coaching change, this was his best year, and he exploded -- five games over 180 all-purpose yards in the last six -- after Dabo Swinney was promoted to the interim job in place of Tommy Bowden. Spiller said he was coming back if Swinney took over full-time, and he's honoring that commitment, even when nobody really expected him to.
Plus, we're still waiting for him to top this:
In other early entry news, Ohio State cornerback Donald Washington is joining the parade of early exits, but Ole Miss defensive end Greg Hardy has bucked earlier reports that he'd be leaving school and will be back with the Rebels instead, on what should be another pretty solid outfit in Oxford.