The Return of Tebow (And Others?)

Gatorsports has it. Set phasers to hate.

But are Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes also returning?

From below the lede:

Talking about his decision with Sun Sports afterward, Tebow said: “I just love being here. I love being a Gator. I feel loyal to this place, and I want to stick it out and finish what I started here.

“It was (a tough decision). I prayed about it a long time, talked to a lot of coaches and a lot of people involved with the NFL and Coach (Urban) Meyer for a long time. It was a tough decision. But I am having so much fun here and I want to enjoy it one more year.”

But the more newsworthy aspect, at least to this observer, who expected Tebow to return, is what Harvin said (italics mine):

Fellow juniors Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes are also considering the NFL draft, but Gator fans are hoping the two will join Tebow in staying for their senior years.

“I don’t know yet,” Harvin said. “I’m kind of leaning towards coming back. I haven’t made the final decision yet. So I’ll sit down with Coach (Meyer) tomorrow and he’ll help me make that decision.”

If Harvin were to come out, mock drafts have him going near the end of the first round or in the second, perhaps to Tennessee at the 32nd pick or Jacksonville at the 39th slot; he would almost certainly be the third receiver selected, behind Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin, and his durability issues will come up constantly in war rooms.

I, personally, was skeptical about Harvin’s chances of being in Gainesville next year, because he was clearly not near full strength against Oklahoma and still dominated play with long runs predicated on his elusiveness and instincts rather than the top gear he was not able to reach. Certainly, for the porcelain-boned Harvin, jumping to the paychecks of the NFL while his body is healthy enough to earn them would make a lot of sense.

But this seems to throw all of that into doubt.

And there’s also no word from Brandon Spikes, who most pundits thought was the most likely of the three stellar Gator juniors to leave for the pros. Now, Florida Today is reporting that linebacker Brandon Spikes seems likely to follow Tebow, and that he told fellow defender Ryan Stamper he would return:

Numerous teammates also said they think linebacker Brandon Spikes will also return for his senior year – largely because of Tebow’s decision.

Asked after UF’s 24-14 win against Oklahoma on Thursday if he would do what Tebow decides, Spikes smiled and said, “That’s a good bet.”

Teammate Ryan Stamper said Spikes told him he was going to return, while on the team plane returning from Miami.

“Brandon told me personally, he’s coming back,” Stamper said. “This was after the game.”

Furthermore, the Orlando Sentinel has tight end Aaron Hernandez and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong both affirming that it looks like Spikes will stay.

The NFL Draft declaration deadline is this Thursday, January 15th, so there is still time for any of the three players to change their minds. But Tebow seems unlikely to waffle on his very public declaration, and there have been more whispers about Harvin and Spikes staying than going.

Should all three come back, the Gators would return every defensive starter from the national championship game, and all of the offensive starters except running back Kestahn Moore, used mostly in blocking, wide receiver Louis Murphy, and offensive linemen Jim Tartt, Phil Trautwein, and Jason Watkins.

It’s early, but it seems possible the orange and blue sunset from this year will turn into an even more brilliant sunrise next year.

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