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November 18, 2008
GAINESVILLE, Fla. ? Only his mother knows for sure, but Percy Harvin must have started walking when he was about 6 months old.
"The first time I watched him in practice I said, 'You have the best first step I've ever seen, and I've seen some really good first steps,' " Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "I've been around some really good players. If he's not the most dynamic player in college football, then he's one of the top two or three."
South Carolina defenders likely would nod in agreement after Harvin rushed for 167 yards in Florida's 56-6 victory this past Saturday.
South Carolina's defense was ranked third in the nation and had allowed an average of just 101.4 rushing yards per game. Harvin beat that on two carries ? a 26-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and an 80-yard blast on the first play of the second half, which left no question that he's thoroughly recovered from heel and ankle injuries that have nagged him in the past.
On the 80-yard run, Harvin took a handoff over left tackle, broke into the open field and, in the blink of an eye, sped away from a posse of Gamecocks that momentarily had been within arm's reach.
"The coaches noticed the counter was effective all day," Harvin said. "I scored on a counter in the first half, and we came back to it on that play. (Tight end) Aaron Hernandez had a great block and I took it the distance. My ankle is feeling really good, so I knew if I got into the open field I could score."
Though listed as a receiver, Harvin leads the Gators in rushing with 476 yards and seven touchdowns on 52 carries. He's also their leading receiver with 33 catches for 519 yards and seven touchdowns. That's an average of 11.7 yards each time he touches the football. He also averages a touchdown every six times he touches it.
Those stats would confirm that he's one of the nation's most dynamic players. Perhaps even more impressive, he's emerging as the best player on a Florida offense which features Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow.
Some in Florida would consider blasphemous any suggestion that Tebow isn't the best player in the country and would point to the 2007 Heisman to prove their point. But Harvin has the ability to upstage Tebow. If not for so many other great players on Florida's offense, Harvin might win the Heisman, too. It's happened before.
In 2005, USC running back Reggie Bush won the Heisman while playing alongside quarterback Matt Leinart, who had won the trophy the previous season. But they did not win a national championship in '05. The Gators might win it this season.
Harvin and Tebow played key roles on Florida's 2006 national championship team, and Harvin said this season's team might be better. The Gators rank among the nation's top five in scoring offense and scoring defense.
"If we're not better, we're pretty close," Harvin said. "Offensive-wise, we have a lot more playmakers than we did that year. We were conservative on offense in '06. This year, we make one man miss and we're out of there."
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.