Former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer opined during a football camp last week that his 2008 squad, winners of the 2009 BCS Championship, were the best team in the history of college football.
Though measuring such a claim is near-impossible, Meyer can rightly boast that his 2008 roster and coaching staff were supremely special.
One-fourth of the Gators’ official 120-man roster – which includes walk-ons – has either played a game in the NFL or is currently under contract with a team in the league.
Florida’s roster had 19 players eventually selected in the NFL Draft including six first-round picks, five second-round picks, a third-round pick, two fourth-round picks, four fifth-round picks and a seventh-round pick. Only three of those draft selections are no longer in the league (for a variety of reasons, see table).
Additionally, a total of 11 players signed after the process as undrafted free agents have either played in the NFL or are currently a member of an NFL roster.
UF’s success did not stop at the players on the field.
Though all still in college, half of the 10-member Florida coaching staff that year (including Meyer himself) are currently head coaches at other institutions: Meyer (Ohio State), assistant head coach Steve Addazio (Boston College), assistant head coach Dan McCarney (Marshall), offensive coordinator Dan Mullen (Mississippi State), defensive coordinator Charlie Strong (Texas).
It is tough to argue with the Gators’ success.
UF outscored opponents 611-181 in 2008, averaging nearly 31 points per game more than their adversaries. Florida’s lone blemish, of course, was a one-point loss to then-unranked Ole Miss at home during the fourth week of the 2008 campaign.
Yet even the Gators’ 1996 national title-winning team can compete with those numbers. That Florida squad also scored 611 points but did so in 13 games while allowing 221, averaging 30 more points per game. UF also lost a close game in 1996 but did so by three points to No. 2 Florida State, which it demolished just over a month later by 32 points to capture the national championship.
Whether 2008 Florida is the best team in college football history is of little matter in the long run. There is plenty of competition for that non-existent crown – Nebraska (1971, 1995), Miami (2001), USC (1972), Alabama (1961) and Florida State (1999).
Anyone that watched the Gators that year knows the team was great – one of the greatest – and has the hardware, statistics and professional success to prove it.
|QB Cam Newton^||1 (1)||Yes||Yes|
|CB Joe Haden||1 (7)||Yes||Yes|
|C Mike Pouncey||1 (15)||Yes||Yes|
|C Maurkice Pouncey||1 (18)||Yes||Yes|
|WR Percy Harvin||1 (22)||Yes||Yes|
|QB Tim Tebow||1 (25)||Yes||No|
|LB Jermaine Cunningham||2||Yes||Yes|
|DE Carlos Dunlap||2||Yes||Yes|
|OT Marcus Gilbert||2||Yes||Yes|
|CB Janoris Jenkins~||2||Yes||Yes|
|LB Brandon Spikes||2||Yes||Yes|
|S Major Wright||3||Yes||Yes|
|TE Aaron Hernandez`||4||Yes||No|
|WR Louis Murphy||4||Yes||Yes|
|S Ahmad Black||5||Yes||No|
|WR Riley Cooper||5||Yes||Yes|
|RB Chris Rainey||5||Yes||Yes|
|K Caleb Sturgis||5||Yes||Yes|
|OL Maurice Hurt||7||Yes||Yes|
|RB Jeff Demps%||UDFA||Yes||Yes|
|WR David Nelson||UDFA||Yes||Yes|
|WR Deonte Thompson||UDFA||Yes||Yes|
|DE Justin Trattou||UDFA||Yes||Yes|
|RB Brandon James||UDFA||Yes||No|
|P Chas Henry||UDFA||Yes||No|
|S Will Hill||UDFA||Yes||No|
|OT Phil Trautwein||UDFA||Yes||No|
|WR Frankie Hammond||UDFA||No||Yes|
|LB Lerentee McCray*||UDFA||No||Yes|
|OL Matt Patchan-||UDFA||No||Yes|
^ Newton transferred to Blinn College then Auburn before being drafted.
~ Jenkins transferred to North Alabama before being drafted.
` Hernandez would still be playing in the league if not for his murder charge.
% Demps would have been drafted but told teams he wanted to run track and compete in the 2012 London Olympics. He was signed after the games were over.
* McCray has not played yet due to injury.
– Patchan transferred to Boston College before being signed. He is a rookie.
Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press