Gainesville, Fla. – After months of speculation, University of Florida head football coach Urban Meyer unveiled the newest iteration of the spread option offense he helped popularize at Bowling Green and Utah: next season the Gators will depart for games before senior quarterback Chris Leak can get on the team bus.
“Nothing is set in stone, but for right now that’s our game plan,” Meyer said.
“We still have a lot of kinks to work out, such as what happens when we’re flying to an away game? Even if we manage to leave Chris behind he could always drive himself to the airport. Luckily [offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach] Dan Mullen likes to think ahead: there’s always the bus at the airport that we can use to leave #12 behind.”
“We can’t really call it the ‘leave before Chris Leak gets on the bus to or from the airplane or stadium’ offense, though. [Athletic director] Jeremy Foley was definitely against that one. I guess it doesn’t print well on T-shirts.”
Meyer, right, points out to offensive coordinator Dan Mullen exactly who the Gators won’t be waiting for to get on the bus.
Despite throwing for 8,271 yards and 65 touchdowns in three years – with a quarterback rating of 138.13 – Leak, 21, has been written off by many Florida fans as well as college football pundits and analysts across the nation. The Charlotte, N.C. born quarterback has been a popular pre- and early season Heisman favorite ever since taking over the starting job in his freshman year. Though he has considerable name recognition and plays in one of the more visible programs in the nation, Leak has never garnered an invitation to the New York City ceremony. That, coupled with Florida’s 22-11 record with Leak as a starter, has caused many who follow college football to dismiss Leak before the new season has even begun.
“Certainly, we took [the perception of Leak] into consideration when we were drawing this stuff up. In the eyes of a lot of people Chris is practically a ghost: he doesn’t register, and no matter what he does he just won’t ever live up to their expectations of him. In this new offense, he really is a ghost. If it seemed like he was never really there before, he’ll definitely won’t be there now,” Meyer said.
“I love the kid, so this is obviously the best way. If we can keep up the illusion that we just keep forgetting to wait for him before every game it’ll make things a lot easier for everyone involved. I’m asking that you guys in the media help out with this. You’re creative, so think of a couple of good excuses like switching to daylight savings time or something. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I also don’t want to win seventy-five percent of my games again. Ugh.”
The second year head coach was referring to last season’s 9-3 campaign, in which Leak, a classic pocket passer with a relatively light frame, was unable to truly fit into the spread option attack. Meyer’s previous stints as head coach included impressive turnarounds of moribund football programs in Bowling Green and Utah utilizing a scheme which incorporated classic option elements with a high percentage short passing attack. Leak was completely unfamiliar with the ground based portion of the offense, and it showed in the thirty-two sacks he took in 2005; more than that, however, was a feeling that the former blue chip recruit would never truly fit into a scheme that was the new coach’s strongest selling point. Things came to a head in a 30-22 loss to South Carolina, which was led by former Florida head coach Steve Spurrier.
“Easily the most devastating event of my life,” lifelong Gator fan Greg Heinrich said.
“Imagine you’re one of the Jews following Moses through the desert. For years and years you march behind the guy, knowing that in the end he’ll deliver you to the promised land, which he does: the 1996 national championship. That’s all gravy until a decade later he shows up again with a squadron of Egyptian charioteers and mows you and your goats down. And he’s grinnin’ the whole time. That’s how that felt. Chris is a helluva player, and he’s a damn fine person, but man… every Gator fan knew what was comin’. I appreciate what he’s done for us, which is why I say he should never take a snap in a Florida uniform ever again. Tebow in ’06!”
Heinrich was referring to Tim Tebow, a highly recruited prep quarterback out of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The 6’3″, 220 lbs. Tebow committed to the Gators over Alabama, USC, Michigan and LSU in a nationally televised announcement marked by a total eclipse of the sun and a two week long state wide holiday characterized by many as “atavistic” and “grossly inhuman”. Excited Gators fans have noted that the prep signal caller excelled in an option system at Nease High School – as evident by his impressive performance in Florida’s annual spring game – and that Tebow has thighs the size of redwood trunks.
“Tim Tebow’s arm is made of granite and he can throw a football from Gainesville all the way to Colorado. He could probably make it all the way to California, but he’d keep it short so there’s enough velocity left over to penetrate into NORAD. In a high school game I heard he once killed six defenders on one play by running them over. He pitched the ball in the end so his running back could get the score,” Heinrich said.
“Again, I love Leak and everything he’s done for Florida, but it’s high time we start a teenager not named Leak. Tebow is that teenager. Even his name sounds awesome: Te-bow. “The Bow”. Like he’s this weapon of medieval destruction, which he is. That kid probably shits Heisman trophies.”
Though Meyer has denied the Colossus of Rhodes-like freshman quarterback was the reason for the switch in offensive philosophies, most analysts agree that the presence of Tebow was a major factor. They point out that Tebow seems to be a perfect fit for the spread option, as well as the fact that Gainesville residents have already erected a tent city around a statue made of Fierce Melon and Fierce Wild Berry Gatorade bottles in the image of the high school recruit.
“One of the bigger storylines of the 2006 college football season was how Leak, Meyer and Tebow would mesh in the second year of the spread offense. Well, Meyer has answered that question: scratch Leak off that list. You don’t even have to pencil in Tebow, because Meyer seems committed to a Leak-less season. I’m confident that Florida will stick to its plan and start a rooster under center if need be, but Chris Leak will not be seeing the inside of a team bus anytime soon, let alone The Swamp,” ESPN College Game Day host Lee Corso noted.
“Now I don’t know about you, but that spells P-E-S-T-O in my book! Who wants some human skulls? I like Thursdays because of the lint!” Corso said before being dragged back into his off-season cage.
Florida psychology professor Candace Lee said that situations like Leak’s are very common.
“People always want something better. It’s cliched, but the general feeling is that the grass really is greener on the other side. It’s difficult to explain to them that just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s better, and that sometimes that newness contributes to that very aura of being better. Plus, some people just don’t get that [Leak]’s won in Jacksonville and Tallahassee. He’s led the team to three straight bowl games, and he’s got a laser for an arm. Now they don’t even wanna let him ride to the stadium with them? It’s a classic lack of reality apprehension,” Lee said.
“Having said that, though, I hear this Tebow guy eats lightnin’ and craps thunder. Literally. I’d pay to see that, especially if it means Tennessee gets shit stomped.”