Can Percy Harvin Break The University of Florida Wideout Curse ?
April 5, 2009 JunkyardJake.Com
As the NFL draft approaches, University of Florida receiver Harvin appears to be a lock to go in the 1st round. Over his three years at Florida, Harvin abused defenses for 1,929 yards and 13 touchdowns as a receiver, and then to add insult to injury, he also carried the ball 194 times for 1,852 yards and 19 scores. His most distinguishing attributes are his rare speed and great hands, and there is no denying that he is a menace in the open field with his absurd acceleration and cutting ability.
There were some questions about his route-running, but he helped alleviate those concerns with his March 19th pro day while catching everything thrown at him within a reasonable vicinity. Oh, and as far as the relative incidental factors that are sometimes overlooked like work ethic, instincts, field awareness and blocking, yeah he scores pretty high on that stuff too.
On the negative side, Harvin is only 5-foot-11 and about 195 lbs, and he does have a little bit of an injury history. These factors probably constitute minor nitpicking in the context of the more flagrant offense that Harvin is expected to perpetuate. That's right, Harvin is attempting to defy a history of futility that has lasted over a decade and includes the likes of Reidel Anthony, Travis Taylor, Taylor Jacobs and Chad Jackson. Evidently, Harvin has the audacity to fancy himself as a 1st day wide receiver selection out of Gainesville who can make an impact in the NFL.
Curse of the Timucua Indians?
Might there be some type of malevolent curse that hangs over University of Florida wide receivers, dooming them to an NFL career of best-case scenario abject mediocrity? Some possibly credible historians have postulated the existence of a 'Timucuan Indian curse' as the primary culprit behind this phenomenon. The Timucua Indians, as almost nobody recalls, were a tribe of American Indians indigenous to the Gainesville Florida area. They were first discovered around 1514 by adventurous sea-faring Europeans, who immediately began a 200 year campaign to extinguish them. By around the year 1700, when only 1,000 Timucuan were left, legend has it that Chief 'GerryCooney' of the remaining tribe finally decided to put a nasty curse on Gainesville Florida. As it turns out, the Timucua didn't so much mind a fair fight, or even occasional cheating at their casinos, but when it become apparent that their current British aggressors were inducing mercenaries into their ranks with non-sanctioned gifts of designer deer-skin jackets, and marinated Raccoon steaks this was the final straw. Coincidently, this was also the first recorded case of a possible NCAA recruiting violation.
Steve Spurious and the Fun 'n' Gun Defective Receiver Factory
Say you don't subscribe to the Indian curse thing, which is completely understandable, is it possible that the Florida offensive system has helped to inflate the draft values of at least a few of their receivers?
From 1990-2001, the Gators essentially operated under Steve Spurrier's Fun 'n' Gun offensive scheme. This offense was unique in that it used the pass to set up the run, almost always involved a whole bunch of receivers on the field and was mostly predicated on timing between the QB and the wideouts. Most commonly in the Fun 'n' Gun, you would have about 4 or 5 receivers running to general spots on the field, sometimes wearing clown shoes or on rollerblades. On occasion, even funny hats, unicycles and/or fake handlebar moustaches were involved.
Draft bust Florida receivers selected during the Steve Spurious era, 1997-2003
Reidel Anthony 1997 Round 1, Pick 16, Overall Pick 16 (Buccaneers)- Ahhh Reidal Anthony, or the 1997 1st round draft pick that many Tampa Bay Buc fans still refer to as 'Who ?'....Yeah those flighty fans can have such a short memory, afterall Anthony did have one productive season in 1998, with 51 catches, 708 yards, and 7 TDs. Problem is, he followed this season up with 30 catches for 296 yards, and then became pretty much invisible during his final two seasons. In his last couple years as a counterfeit receiver with the team,during autograph sessions Bucs fans would typically ask him if he wouldn t mind signing his name as Martin Gramatica.
Jacquez Green 1998 Round 2, Pick 2, Overall Pick 34 (Buccaneers)- Despite sometimes making up his own routes, and dropping more balls than Manny Ramirez when he insists on playing the outfield with his Chewbacca mask on, Jacquez Green did manage to have a couple 700 yard seasons for the Buccaneers. By his 4th year however, Green regressed and finished with 36 catches for 402 yards. It was at this point that Tampa area sportswriters began referring to the 5-10, 170 lb former Gator as 'Crappy Smurf' , and he ended up playing a couple more inconsequential seasons for the Redskins and Detroit. On a positive note,Jaquez Green did win the Madden Bowl in 2001, demonstrating that his experience as an imaginary football player was transferrable for some other purpose.
Travis Taylor 2000 Round 1, Pick 10, Overall Pick 10 (Ravens) - Travis Taylor has not had a horrendous career, but considering that Laveranues Coles and Darrell Jackson were both 3rd rounders in the 2000 draft, the only way that the Ravens could have made a bigger blunder is if they traded up to select Peter Warrick that year. Overall, Taylor has averaged a disappointing 575 yards and 3 Tds per season over his NFL career, but having been in ill-fated relationships with 6 different teams, he does score well on the Larry King Capricious Matrimony Meter, with a reading of 85. Taylor is also one of the only receivers in Vikings history to be tasered by the police, and perhaps his most notable role has been when he played 'Bartender Isaac Washington' in the Minnesota Vikings boat party scandal.
Jabar Gaffney 2002 Round 2, Pick 1, Overall Pick 33 (Texans)- Some might characterize Gaffney's NFL career as uninspired , some might say he simply has a fear of the public spotlight. Whichever camp you are in, and yes those are the only two choices, Gaffney has averaged 36 catches for 438 yards and 2 TDs per season since 2002. Not surprisingly, New England found him expendable heading into 2009, so expendable in fact, that they replaced him with 38 year old Joey Galloway. This former Gator brings his inconspicuous game to Denver this season, where he probably won't be noticed until he does a couple local TV spots for Crazy Fred's Chrysler/Jeep.
Reche Caldwell 2002 Round 2, Pick 16 Overall Pick 48 (Chargers) -Caldwell showed flashes of borderline adequacy in his years with the Chargers, but ultimately finished his 4 years in San Diego with some fairly flimsy numbers - 76 catches, 950 yards and 7 TDs. In other words, it took Caldwell 4 years to accumulate approximately the same numbers as current Charger WR Vincent Jackson achieved in 2008. Probably the highpoint of Caldwell's career came in 2006, when had 61 catches for 760 yards and 4 TDs for the Patriots. Unfortunately Caldwell negated any goodwill he had accrued over the regular season when he dropped two critical passes in the AFC Championship game that year. Over the next two years, Caldwell went on to be released by the Patriots, the Redskins and then the Rams before he even got off the plane in St. Louis.
Taylor Jacobs 2003 Round 2, Pick 12, Overall Pick 44 (Redskins) -Orange Bowl MVP, First-team All-SEC, and Biletnikoff Award semifinalist in 2002, huge megabust draft pick in 2003. I guess that's what you get when you draft a guy with a name that sounds like a professional golfers' accountant. But seriously, this guy was truly a big insult to all industrious professional golfers' accountants everywhere. Jacobs somehow lasted 5 seasons in the NFL, finishing up with 37 catches 384 yards and 2 TDs.
Ron Zook, Master of Intimidating Faces and Chad Jackson, Definitive Draft Bust
After Steve Spurrier and the beloved Fun 'n' Gun circus left Gainesville, current Illinois coach Ron Zook attempted to step into his very large clown shoes. Zook's reign as Florida coach lasted from 2002 to 2004, but that was far too long for many Gator fans, who were mostly unimpressed with the fact that the Gators lost more games in their home stadium during his three years than they did in 12 seasons under Spurrier.
Some of the more fanatical Gator fans were downright enraged by Ron Zook, and felt he had caused the football program to significantly regress under his tenure. For example, some activist Florida fans commenced an internet campaign to voice their grievances. For example, domain names such as these popped up during Zook's time at Florida:
http://ronzook-is an evil space zombie.com
http://ronzook-is melting the polar ice caps.org
To this day, many fans feel that Zook was such an affront to the University of Florida football program, that his name has achieved a new special connotation with it's own special Gator fan dictionary entry:
Anyway, what was the point of all this? oh yeah, Chad Jackson. Jackson was the first notable receiver to enter the NFL as an original Ron Zook recruit, and the results have been horrendous.
Chad Jackson 2006 Round 2, Pick 4, Overall Pick 36 (Patriots)-Oh my, this turned out to be a big mistake by the Patriots. They actually gave up their 3rd round pick to move up 16 places and select Chad Jackson in the 2nd round. In retrospect, this was sort of like being the highest bidder for the ferris wheel in Michael Jackson s Neverland Ranch liquidation sale. The former Florida Gator Jackson has totaled 14 catches for 171 yards in three NFL seasons. The Patriots ditched Jackson after two injury-plagued seasons, and he somehow ended up on the Broncos last year, where he caught one pass for 19 yards- hope Denver saved the receipt.
Urban 'The Legend' Meyer and Percy Harvin's Audacity of Hope
-In 2005, Urban Meyer replaced the abominable Ron Zook as head coach, and has already won national championships in 2006 and 2008. While 2008 3rd round pick Andre Caldwell was the last recruit from the Ron Zook era who went fairly high in the NFL draft, it was Meyer who recruited Percy Harvin.
Both Caldwell and Harvin played in Meyer's 'spread offense', which seemingly represents a better mode of preparation for NFL offensive systems. For example, the 2007 New England Patriots dabbled with a variation of the spread offense on their way to a 16-0 season and a league-record 582 points.
In contrast to the Fun 'n' Gun, Meyer's spread offense frequently features 2 and 3 receiver sets, and those receivers typically end up facing some variation of man to man coverage. One other significant requirement for receivers in Meyer's spread offense, is that they are sometimes expected to alter their routes based on the coverage they are seeing. This is also a skill that transfers well to the NFL.
Given that Percy Harvin was recruited by Meyer, and accumulated his gaudy 3,781 all-purpose yards and 32 touchdowns over three years in the 'spread offense' seemingly bodes well for this year's 1st round draft prospect. If we can dismiss the existence of an actual supernatural curse that still sabotages the pro careers of University of Florida receivers, Percy Harvin sure looks like he could be a dynamic playmaker at the NFL level.