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Grading the Florida Gators position groups after fall camp

GAINESVILLE -- Fall camp is over. Players are recuperating. Let's grade the team entering its practice-run game week...

Grades based on experience and depth.


Florida’s only known commodity on offense, the line returns four starters, including a few potential All-Americans. Mike Pouncey, a three-year starter, moved from guard to center for his senior season. Tackle Marcus Gilbert is a returning starter as well. Guards Carl Johnson and James Wilson will have no problems running the option. Sophomore tackle Xavier Nixon started the Gators’ last five games in 2009. There is also plenty of depth beyond the likely starters, including tackles Matt Patchan and Kyle Koehne, guards Maurice Hurt and Jon Halapio and center Sam Robey.


Starting quarterback John Brantley has waited patiently for his chance to lead the Gators. The redshirt junior has a great arm and he’s been effective in mop-up time over his two-year career, completing 71 percent of his throws for 645 yards and 10 touchdowns (one interception). He hasn’t started a game since high school, however, and road games in the SEC are tough on any seasoned veteran. UF’s depth at quarterback is thin. The back-ups — Trey Burton of Venice and Tyler Murphy of Connecticut — are both true freshmen.


The Gators can’t rely on their former quarterback/first-down machine anymore. Bruising former All-American quarterback Tim Tebow led UF in rushing for three seasons. Will UF have a featured running back this season? Who’s the short-yardage option? Who gets the ball on the goal line? Redshirt senior Emmanuel Moody has never lived up to his potential due to injuries. Junior Jeff Demps is fast but small. Can he carry the load? Sophomore Mike Gillislee could even contribute now that Chris Rainey has moved to receiver.


Florida always seems to have at least one returning star at receiver. Not this season. Everyone is unproven. Start with redshirt junior Deonte Thompson. He’s caught a lot of balls in practice from quarterback John Brantley over the years but little else. Next is redshirt-senior Carl Moore. The former JUCO transfer has done nothing at UF. Redshirt freshman Andre Debose is an unknown quantity as well. The same goes for bulked up redshirt sophomore Omarius Hines. There’s potential here but nothing is proven.


It doesn’t seem like UF did much in the way of preparing for life after Aaron Hernandez, last year’s tight end and the team’s leader in receptions. The Gators’ projected starter at this position is a redshirt freshman, Jordan Reed of Connecticut, who was initially recruited to UF as a quarterback. Reed’s back up is true freshman Gerald Christian of West Palm Beach Dwyer. Little used defensive lineman Earl Okine has been asked to help out in a pinch. Fullback T.J. Pridemore could be used in certain situations.


Finding a consistent pass rush among UF’s current defensive ends could be a challenge this season. Senior end Justin Trattou has been a third-down specialist until now. Senior end Duke Lemmens has recorded two sacks throughout his career with one start. Junior William Green is an unproven talent. Junior Lerentee McCray is a former linebacker. Freshman Ronald Powell was highly recruited but, well he’s a freshman and this is the SEC. Depth at defensive tackle — Omar Hunter, Jaye Howard, Terron Sanders, Lawrence Marsh and Brandon Antwine — could help.


Replacing former two-time All-American Brandon Spikes with either redshirt-freshman Jelani Jenkins or sophomore Jon Bostic could come with growing pains. Senior strong-side linebacker A.J. Jones, a three-year starter, provides experience. Speedy Brandon Hicks is back at weak-side after a strong finish to 2009. Depth is a concern. Sophomore Dee Finley is a converted safety. Senior Lorenzo Edwards has never started a game.


Must replace three contributors to either graduation or the NFL Draft, including All-American Joe Haden. Junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins is now a veteran starter but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Who starts opposite Jenkins? Moses Jenkins is the senior who has patiently waited his turn. The Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson grad is long-time special teams contributor. Redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown returns from an injured back that sidelined him for two years.


The back line is easily the Gators’ defensive strength. Strong safety Ahmad Black is a three-year starter with a reputation for consistent tackling and excellent awareness. Free safety Will Hill is long and athletic with plenty of speed but positioning has been an issue in the past. Freshman strong safety Matt Elam practiced at nickel back during the preseason. Depth is concern beyond Black and Hill. Sophomore free safety Josh Evans is inexperienced.


As usual, Florida will feature some of the best special teams players in the country. Punter Chas Henry likely has a future in the NFL. Kicker Caleb Sturgis has plenty of leg but could work on his accuracy from last season. Return specialists are many with receiver Chris Rainey likely getting the first crack at replacing Brandon James on punts and kick offs.






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