What a treat Sunday morning to open up the Sunday New York Times and read an article about Tim Tebow and Florida 2009 by the program's most talented chronicler: Pete Thamel.
Read the whole thing here. It actually downplays Tebow -- I mean, he is at the center of the team's story, but Thamel goes way deeper: The team's depth, the coaches' sense of "urgency and paranoia" (love that), Tebow's role in hiring Loefler, new pro-style sets.
However, I wanted to point out one nuanced thing that Thamel points out that most "national" (ie, anyone but beat writers) almost universally fail to point out:
Punter Chas Henry and kicker Jonathan Phillips are insanely important.
Lost in Tebow as potentially the greatest player of all time or the Florida defense as potentially the greatest defense of all time is the Gators' special teams.
Let's add them to the mix: Florida's 2009 special teams may be the greatest special teams of all time. (Just look at how ridiculous they were last year.)
Urban constantly harps on special teams -- hell, he COACHES special teams. The players (even the starters) WANT to play on special teams for him.
Meyer has proven that excellence in special teams can and will be the difference between a championship-level team and a very good team. It is one of his four pillars of his "Plan to Win."
Henry may be the best punter in the nation (and the most overlooked talent on the team). Phillips is money inside of 40 (though untested beyond 40).
The team has allowed 100 punt-return yards over the last two seasons. Digest that for a second. The rush-team feels like they could block a punt on any given snap.
Brandon James is... well, I literally get jumpy when he trots on the field for a punt-return or kickoff, because I am so sure he will take any given ball to the house.
Why is Florida in 2009 as prepared as any team in the country to vie for "Greatest Team of All Time?"
Because they have one of the best offenses -- and perhaps the best offensive player. They have the best defense in the country -- perhaps the greatest defense of all time. And they have the best special teams in the country. Plus the best head coach. Plus the best recruiting. It's absurd.
But what is absurd isn't that I -- or anyone else -- has expectations that this team has the potential to be "Best Ever" in any number of categories, especially "Best Team Ever."
Read the entire article here.