The Bears 2017 Remains Unclear

The 2016 Chicago Bears season was chock full of injuries, poor performances, losses, and ultimately disappointment. It’s difficult to pull the good out of a 3-12 season, but there were certainly flashes of what could be the future of the Bears. But how bright will that future be–what can we expect out of the Bears next season? As it turns out, the future might not be so clear.

 

Is Howard the Answer?

When the Bears spent a fifth round pick on Jordan Howard last year, expectations were somewhat muted. He was the tenth running back taken in the draft, falling behind the likes of CJ Prosise, Kenyan Drake, and Tyler Ervin, among others. Howard outperformed every single one, with the exception, of course, of Ezekiel Elliott. While Drake, Prosise and Ervin combined for a total of 356 rushing yards, Howard went off for 1,313 and 6 scores on the ground. Next year, the Bears will be forced to determine if Howard’s explosive rookie year was a fluke or the real deal. My inkling says it’s the latter.

 

Healthy Players

What do Bobby Massie, Kyle Long, Kyle Fuller, Kevin White, Josh Sitton, Eddie Goldman, Mitch Unrein, Alshon Jeffery, Leonard Floyd, Pernell McPhee and a number of others have in common? All missed time for the Bears this past season due to a combination of injuries and suspensions. Next year, most of these should become non-issues. With White and Jeffery back to full health the receiving corps will be back to full health, giving whoever is under center a few strong targets.

 

Cut Cutler

Cutler’s time in Chicago may be winding to a close. After seven years of a strong arm that was seemingly best suiting for throwing interceptions and missing targets, it’s time to end the Jay Cutler era. The issue that cutting Cutler won’t clear up is the lingering question of who will start under center in his absence. Neither Matt Barkley nor Brian Hoyer are ideal replacements. The 2017 free agent class is also less-than stellar. The possibility for a trade remains–New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo and the oft-injured Tony Romo are often cited as trade candidates for teams in search of a QB this summer.

 

The Top 4 Tim Tebow Sport Moments

Tim Tebow is an American football quarterback, who is one of college football’s most iconic players. During his collegiate career at the University of Florida, Tebow, was known as the “sparkplug” for the Gators offense because of his leadership on and off the field. He was difficult to defend because of his “dual threat” ability to either pass or run the football. In 2010, Tebow was drafted by the Denver Broncos as the 25th pick in the NFL draft. After playing two seasons in Denver, he would be playing for the New York Jets and have a brief stint with New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles decided to release Tebow after their final preseason game last year. Currently, he is working for the SEC sports network as a TV analyst, with the hope of getting another chance in the NFL. We look back at some of the top sports moments of Tim Tebow’s career.

Win the Heisman Trophy
Tebow had a much smaller role in the Gators offense during his freshman year. Many people were skeptical about Tebow’s passing ability and felt it was the only thing he could do well was run the ball. Well, let’s just say they were all wrong. After being named the starting quarterback in his sophomore year, he would go on to have an unbelievable season. He threw for 3,286 yards, 32 touchdowns and be a force on the ground, rushing for 895 yards and 23 touchdowns. After having so much success in his sophomore year, he would win the Heisman Trophy, which is given to the most outstanding college football player of the year.

The Speech
After having a successful sophomore season, Tebow’s goal was to help lead the Gators to a National Championship in 2008, but it did not come easy. In the beginning of the season, the Gators would be upset by an unranked Ole Miss team. This truly put a damper in their title hopes as many believed the Gators would not be able to recover from their catastrophic loss. However, during the post game interviews, Tim Tebow gave the Gator Nation a legendary and inspiring speech that will always be remembered. After this game, the Gators would bounce back and run the table winning their last 10 games in dominating fashion, which included a second National Championship in 3 years. Below you can find the speech in its entirety.

Wins 2nd National Championship against Oklahoma
Tebow and the Gators took on an extremely talented Oklahoma team in the 2009 BCS Championship. Florida struggled in the first half as Tebow through a career high 2 interceptions. However, the Gators would not be denied a shot at a National Championship. After a another motivating speech by Tebow at halftime, he and the Gators came out rolling. With 3 minutes to play in the game, Tebow put the icing on the cake with his signature jump pass, putting Florida up for good, 24-14.

First NFL Playoff Win
In 2011, Tebow leads the Denver Broncos to their first playoff appearance in six seasons. Denver would take on a heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers team in the AFC wild card round. No one believed the Broncos had a chance to win this game, but Tebow proved his doubters wrong once again and defeated the Steelers in overtime in a game winning 80 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.

For more of Tebow’s top sports moments, please read this article: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2449836-top-12-tim-tebow-sports-moments/page/13

Gator’s Heisman History

As a consistent powerhouse football team in college football’s most competitive conference, the Florida Gators have time and time again demonstrated efficiency, excellence, and exceptional dedication. In no part of the prestigious school’s history is this more prevalent than in its development of numerous Heisman winning quarterbacks.

Steve Spurrier, now a tremendously successful coach, exhibited an awareness that was simply unheard of during his time as a player. His precise play calling and 6’2”, 203 lb stature led to a 2,012 yard passing season and 16 touchdowns to land the Gators an 8-2 record in 1966 (see here). He went on to be drafted by the 49’ers after deservedly receiving the Heisman. The first Gator to be awarded this honor, this future coach established the University of Florida’s precedent for superb success. However, Spurrier is only one example of Florida’s deft training and keen eye for talent.

Steve_Spurrier's_Heisman_Trophy

Now hired as Florida’s coach, Spurrier actually discovered and developed UF’s next college superstar and protege, Danny Wuerffel. Red-shirted his first season, Wuerffel took the necessary time to train and refine the skills that would lead to his Heisman victory in 1996. Throwing for an astounding 3,625 yards and 39 touchdowns (for reference), Wuerffel led the Gators to their first national title. By the end of his college career, Wuerffel broke the SEC record for both passing yards and touchdown completions. The only other Florida quarterback to approach these numbers, of course, is none other than Tim Tebow.

Distinguishing himself early, Tim Tebow became the first sophomore in NCAA history to receive college football’s most respected award in 2007. Rushing and passing for 51 touchdowns in addition to throwing for 3,286 yards (as seen here), Tebow established his Florida legacy with vigor. Tebow went on to be drafted by the Broncos and to lead them in a spectacular playoff win over previous Super Bowl champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Known for his palpable energy, incredible physique, and agile running ability, Tim Tebow was one of the best Division I football players to ever play the game. Not soon to be forgotten, Tebow’s likeness was constructed as a statue alongside Heisman peers Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel.

These legendary NCAA players are testament to the University of Florida’s legacy as one of college football’s most admired programs. Thriving year after year for over two decades, the Gators hold a special place in history, as well as a special place in the proud hearts of its alumni.

All Eyes Look Towards the 2016 Football Class

As the Florida Gators enter the new year, it’s time to look forward to the new recruiting class. With a roller coaster year for the team, Coach Jim McElwain has stated that he is bringing in 25 to 30 new players for the 2016 season. The Gators started out strong when the new head coach first arrived this year. Winning the first six games, they were on par with No 3 Ole Miss. However, things didn’t take a turn for the better for the rest of the year.

The Gators saw the suspension of quarterback Will Grier in the early fall, lost the final three games of their season, and then got crushed by the Michigan Wolverines in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. They lost to the Wolverines 41 to 7; one of the worst performances the team has ever had in their history. Needless to say, the Gators went home with the taste of disappointment in their mouths and their tails between their legs. McElwain seemed to be chipper after the game though.

Austin Appleby in a game against Iowa. Photo courtesy of Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Appleby in a game against Iowa. Photo courtesy of Marc Lebryk – USA TODAY Sports

He stated to reporters during his postgame press conference that;  “Maybe that’s my fault about being upbeat. Yeah, I’m disappointed. We’re all disappointed. But you also got to learn from disappointment, and we will.”

As four upperclassmen declared for the NFL Draft, McElwain shifted his focus on the players that will shape the years to come for the Gators. Seeing them as leaders, the coach will depend on them to help guide the newcomers over the year. As a result of this new responsibility for returning team members,  the excitement for next season seems to be returning. A crop of fresh and talented newcomers are set to start early in order to be eligible for the fall season. Ten out of the twelve of them have arrived already for spring classes and received a warm welcome from the head coach.

In addition to these new team members, Austin Appleby has announced that he will be transferring to the University of Florida as a graduate student. Currently, Appleby is the head quarterback at Purdue University. The addition of the older player will add an interesting contender for who might the starting QB next year. As I already wrote about in a previous blog post, there are four other contenders for the starting position. However, Austin  is the only one that already seems to fit what the head coach looks for in a starter. He is the same height as all of the other QB’s who played under McElwain’s other teams, can take care of the ball well and has the experience of playing under pressure already.

Whatever the outcome of the transfer window, the Gators seem to be taking the steps towards laying down a solid foundation for the team. It’s an exciting time for both fans and teammates as everyone looks forward to a successful 2016 season.

Who is the next Gators Quarterback?

As the new year lingers on the horizon, many Gator fans are asking themselves – who will be the 2016 starting quarterback? As I said in my last blog, Will Grier looked like the next big thing for Gator’s football. This changed when Will, the current starting quarterback, decided to transfer from Florida leaving the spot open to new prospects. However, as Grier has been suspended, he would have missed the first six games of the new year if he had stayed with the Gators anyways. It leaves the open ended question of who is going to take over the starting spot.

Photo courtesy of http://thechtonsports.com/

Photo courtesy of http://thechtonsports.com/

With so many other questions lingering, I’ve broken down the current starting options for 2016. There are four different players that could fill the role, each having a variety of strengths and weaknesses.

      • Treon Harris – This might be the clear answers for most people. As he will be a junior in 2016, it leaves Harris with plenty of time to grow with the Gators. After Gier was suspended, Treon was appointed to take over the quarter back role as well. However with a poor start to the year, it looks doubtful that he will continue in the new year. He has only completed 49% of his passes, managed five interceptions and seven touchdowns since he took over in October. His specific skill set doesn’t fit in with coach’s Jim McElwain’s style of play either which has caused friction in the Gator’s world.
      • Kyle Trask – As a freshman in 2016, Trask will be enrolling early at Florida. This will help him gain experience and boost his development as a college player. It’s his inexperience at a higher level of the game that will probably hold him back from the starting position though. His height and weight make him an interesting prospect for the role, but most people think he won’t be ready for the starting role in his first year.
      • Feleipe Franks – Franks is the clear cut winner amongst the Gator fans. With a massive arm and weight behind him, his style is the most similar to a pro-style game. As the third best quarterback in the 2016 class, Franks holds an impressive record for a high school senior. Enrolling early, Franks will be a freshman in 2016 but like Trask, will lack the experience of a higher level of play. Many feel that exposing him to the game from the sideline will be more beneficial to the younger player then throwing him into the game right away. Due to the lack of prospects though, he will having the potential to become a starter right away.
      • Luke Del Rio – As the son of Oakland Raider head coach, Jack Del Rio, Luke has been impressing Gator’s coaches over the summer. As a transfer from Oregon State, Luke was not allowed to play in the current NCAA season due to transfer rules. As a walk on to the Alabama football team, Luke later transfer to Oregon before making his final move to Florida. His pro-style makes him a good fit with the coaches training techniques, but also a good fit with the offensive team. However, it doesn’t mean it would be a long lasting thing. If he does get the starting job, it could just be temporary as the Gators groom the younger players.

University of Florida: The Quarterback

A lot of the Florida Gators success over the last 20 year has a lot to do with the play of their quarterbacks. Now you’re probably thinking, “every good college football team has a great quarterback, right?” Not necessarily. Take a look at a team like LSU. They had a stellar defense with a guy like Jordan Jefferson at quarterback. Or even Ohio State today, who recently made a switch at quarterback despite being ranked #2 in the country. Florida has had such great quarterback play that many of them went on to play at the NFL level. Let’s take a look at a couple of them.

Rex Grossman 2000 – 2002

Grossman had a fantastic career at the University of Florida. A Consensus All-American, Grossman was the 2001 Heisman Trophy Runner-up to Eric Crouch of Nebraska. Grossman was also named Associated Press Player of the Year. During his time in Gainesville, Grossman threw for 9,164 yards and 77 touchdowns. His success allowed him to be selected 22nd overall in the 1st round of the 2003 draft by the Chicago Bears. Grossman had a rocky NFL career but played 12 seasons.

Doug Johnson 1997 – 1999

Doug Johnson of Florida

Doug Johnson quarterbacking the Gators

Doug Johnson had a stellar career with the Gators. The one knock on him perhaps is that he didn’t progress as many would have liked. In 1997, he finished with 2,023 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In 1998, he threw for 2,346 yards, 19 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. During his final year, Johnson threw for 2,574 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. While his numbers were somewhat stagnate, they were impressive nonetheless. Johnson was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Atlanta Falcons and played 7 seasons in the NFL.

Tim Tebow 2007 – 2009

Tim Tebow, the legend. Tim arrived at Florida highly touted. Tebows prolific college career went something like this:

  • 66.4% completion rate
  • 9,285 passing yards
  • 88 touchdowns (against just 16 interceptions)
  • 2,947 rushing yards
  • 57 rushing touchdowns
  • 2x National Champion
  • 2x SEC Champion
  • 3x All-SEC
  • 2007 Heisman Trophy Winner
  • 2008 SEC Offensive Player of the Year

Tebow was a 1st round pick (25th overall) in 2010 by the Denver Broncos. After experiencing some early success, Tebow’s career derailed after stints with the Jets, Patriots and Eagles. He officially has played 2 seasons with the Broncos and 1 with the Jets.

Can Will Grier be the next great Florida quarterback? Only time will tell.

The Gators Take on New Mexico State

The Florida Gators football season opens up on Saturday September 5th at home against New Mexico State at 7:30pm. Florida is looking to rebound in 2015 after having an underwhelming 2014 season finishing 7-5 and 4-4 in SEC play. While it wasn’t a terrible season, it was certainly not up to U of F normal football standards. New Mexico State opened last season 2-0 but lost their final 10 games. Florida will have Treon Harris under center to start but don’t be surprised if red-shirt freshmen Will Grier sees some action. The two have been battling this summer for the starting quarterback duties. Harris is a 5’11” sophomore who experienced some success last year after taking over for Jeff Driskel. Harris went 4-2 as the Gators quarterback and finished the season with 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He also added 332 yards rushing and 3 additional touchdowns on the ground.

Demarcus Robinson looks to improve on his 2014 campaign.

Demarcus Robinson looks to improve on his 2014 campaign.

After being the #2 running back for Florida playing behind Washington Redskin draftee Matt Jones, Kelvin Taylor is now the starting running back. Taylor ran for 565 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2014 at a 4.9 yards per carry clip. The Gators will also return their top receiving target in Demarcus Robinson, a 6’1 junior from Fort Valley, Georgia. Last year, Robinson finished with 833 yards on 53 receptions and 7 touchdowns. It’ll be interesting to see if he can greatly improve on these numbers without having the erratic Jeff Driskel at quarterback. Ahmad Fulwood will also start at receiver and figures to give Harris a great target to throw to. Although he only had 199 yard last season, Fulwood stands at 6’4″ and should make for a great red zone target. I fully expect the Gators to take care of business this week at home vs New Mexico State. Florida plays in the ever-so talented SEC whereas NM St. has struggled to keep up in the Sun Belt Conference.