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Absence of SEC titles hurts Leak
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07-29-2006, 06:04 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
HOOVER, Ala. — Chris Leak came to Florida laden with great expectations.
The quarterback is now a senior. His resume is void of SEC and national championships.
Leak has endured coaching changes, been asked to learn a variety of offenses. This is the first time he has had the same offensive coordinator for two years.
Despite some impressive numbers, it seems Leak has been judged more by what he can't do than what he has accomplished.
It comes with the territory.
Quarterbacks live with it. Especially Florida quarterbacks.
This is Leak's last shot at the hardware. He is 22-11 as a starter. His team won nine games last season, including an impressive bowl game. He beat Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State.
Still, critics fire away at him.
He can't run. He isn't suited for second-year Florida Coach Urban Meyer's offense. He can't do this. He can't do that.
"The bar has been set at Florida,'' Meyer said. "The 1992-96 teams won four SEC championships and a national championship. That's how you evaluate teams.''
It's also how quarterbacks are remembered at Florida. Blame former coach Steve Spurrier. It was his Fun 'N Gun offense of the '90s that made folk heroes of quarterbacks who benefited from a Spurrier-orchestrated offense that kept opposing SEC defensive coordinators awake at night.
Leak doesn't want to leave empty-handed.
He was invited by former Ole Miss and NFL star Archie Manning to serve as an instructor this summer in the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana.
Leak soaked up advice and information from the Manning family — Archie, Eli and Peyton. Not a bad sounding board for young quarterbacks.
"I wanted to know how they learned to be leaders. I asked them a lot of questions — how they grew as leaders and players,'' Leak said.
Leak's personality is one that finds him shunning controversy. His father was quoted in a recent online column as saying he feels there are some fans who judge Chris by the color of his skin.
Leak dodged the questions here Friday. He said he and his father talk every day, but they have never discussed the race issue, whether real or perceived.
"I worry more about what a defense is doing,'' Leak said.
Leak also has to fight the aura of freshman phenom Tim Tebow, who came to campus in January and looked impressive in the Gators' spring game. He has been tagged The Anointed One by some who forget Tebow is only 18 years old.
If Leak falters, fans will be screaming for Meyer to play Tebow. Spoiled by Spurrier's success, they have short fuses when it comes to Florida football.
Leak arrived with similar accolades. He was the nation's No. 1 quarterback coming out of the prep ranks in Charlotte, N.C.
"As a quarterback, it's important to me,'' he said. "The expectation as a Gator is to compete for an SEC championship."
He and his receivers have set a goal to put up 50 passing TDs.
One SEC championship is all the Gator Nation wants. n