Which Gators legend would help Florida most in 2016?

When a team like Florida loses nine starters to the NFL Draft, and a quarterback to transfer, it’s easy for the fans to sometimes say “If only we still had …”

What if the Gators could bring back one alumnus from any past team, and in this hypothetical scenario get that player at his collegiate peak?

Emmitt, anyone?

With Kelvin Taylor gone and UF coaches leaning toward a committee approach at running back, it would be tempting for Gators fans to want to bring back Emmitt Smith in his late 1980s prime.

Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, holds the school record for most rushing yards in a single season (1,599 yards, 1989). Thousand-yard rushers are relatively rare at Florida, and Smith’s ability to find the hole and make defenders miss would do wonders for the offense.

He also holds the school record for rushing yards in a game (316 vs. New Mexico in 1989) and in an SEC game (224 vs. Alabama in 1987).

Is Tebow a good fit?

But why stop with the ground game when you can impact both it and the passing game with two-time national champion Tim Tebow?

The Gators have yet to find a longterm solution at quarterback since Tebow left in 2009, so perhaps more Tebow is the solution.

Credit: Tim Casey/Florida UAA

While there would be a natural concern about trying to fit Tebow’s dual-threat skill set into Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier’s pro-style offense, readers should remember he threw for 32 touchdowns and 3,286 yards in 2007 when he won the Heisman Trophy. In 2008, he threw 30 touchdown passes to just four interceptions while leading the Gators to their second title in three seasons.

Gators need receivers, too

Of course, there’s another way to boost the running game and passing game in a more conventional method: Bring back Percy Harvin. Whether he lined up as a tailback or a wide receiver, Harvin would be Florida’s best player every time he’s on the field. For many Gators fans, there will never be a more fun player to watch with the ball in his hands than Harvin, who scored a touchdown in the 2006 and 2008 national championship victories.

If Harvin had been able to stay healthy in 2007, he might have logged a 1,000/1,000 season in rushing yards and receiving yards. He played in only 11 of UF’s 13 games, finishing with 764 rushing yards on 83 carries, along with 59 catches for 858 yards. At 9.2 yards per carry, Urban Meyer would have been wise to have Harvin carry the rock a few more times in 2007.

Any of the above three would be a significant upgrade, but they’re not the best fit to help the 2016 Gators.

Why WUERFFEL Makes most sense

If one believes that the McElwain-Nussmeier offense can create a productive passing game, then Wuerffel is the obvious pick. The current system is designed to get receivers open, and game tape from last year shows it did that (even when Treon Harris could not find the open target). No Florida quarterback past or present would do a better job than Wuerffel of getting the ball to the open receiver.

Danny Wuerffel

Credit: UAA/Florida

While no one will ever describe Wuerffel’s arm as a cannon, he was certainly capable of hitting the deepest routes drawn up in Steve Spurrier’s “Fun ‘N’ Gun.” His ability to put the ball where only his receiver could make a play (on many a perfectly thrown fade route) led to an array of impressive career numbers, a Heisman Trophy and a national championship:

  • 10,875 career passing yards (then a record; now No. 2 in school history to Chris Leak’s 11,213 yards)
  • 3,625 passing yards in 1996 (then a record; now No. 2 to Rex Grossman’s 3,896 yards in 2001)
  • 114 career passing touchdowns (school record, 26 ahead of No. 2 Tebow and Leak)
  • 39 passing touchdowns in 1996 (single-season school record)
  • 708-of-1170 (60.5 completion percentage)

In an offense that depends on the quarterback reading the defense and knowing where his receivers will be, McElwain and Nussmeier could not ask better for a better suited signal-caller than Wuerffel. An Associated Press profile from 1997, Wuerffel’s rookie season with the New Orleans Saints, shows that the Gator great was more than just the perfect match for the Fun N Gun; give him a playbook and he’ll learn it inside and out:

“All I can tell you is when he’s got the ball, he gets it where it has to go,” Saints quarterback coach Tom Clements told the AP.

One could even say he had a coach-like understanding of X’s and O’s:

From the AP story: In fact, Wuerffel has analyzed offensive plays to the point he’s made the coaches aware of design flaws, offensive coordinator Danny Abramowicz said.

“He’ll say, ‘Coach, we can’t do that the way it’s drawn up,”‘ Abramowicz said. “You know, sometimes when you script that many plays, you might make a mistake. Well, he’s so sharp he picks that up on the script.”

Quarterback is the most important position on the field, and the Gators have no idea what they’ll be getting at the position in 2016. Even with a relatively unproven receiver corps beyond Antonio Callaway, the Florida offense would march up and down the field and score at will with Wuerffel in his prime as signal-caller.

Source: Saturday Down South

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