Florida Gators Football: A Look Ahead at the Possible 2012 Starters on Offense

John PattonContributor IDecember 28, 2011

So the 2011 college football season didn't quite bring Florida Gators fans the success they hoped for.

That's fine and understandable, but take solace in two things:

First, Florida (6-6 heading into next Monday's Gator Bowl against Ohio State) was competitive in all but two games this year, and those two teams (Alabama and Louisiana State) are playing each other for the BCS National Championship.

And second, the Gators sure do have a lot of talent set to return in 2012.

Today, we'll project the starters on offense (and at placekicker) next season, and later this week, we'll look at the defense and punter.



With John Brantley graduating, this should be a showdown between sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel.

Driskel was higher up on the depth chart early in the season, but Brissett claimed the No. 2 job around midseason—when Driskel got hurt—and never relinquished it.

With no other scholarship quarterbacks on the roster (and none really being courted heavily in recruiting), Florida needs both players happy and healthy heading into spring practice.

The coaching staff cannot afford to have either player even consider a transfer with redshirt sophomore-to-be Tyler Murphy the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster. Murphy was not even deemed worthy of an opportunity when injuries plagued the position at midseason.

Do-it-all Trey Burton also could be used here in a pinch, as could starting tight end Jordan Reed.



It's tough to believe it, but projected starter Mike Gillislee will be a senior next year.

He's been a really good teammate, not complaining while Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey got the bulk of the carries this year.

But 2012 should see Gillislee leading the way, with third-year sophomore-to-be Mack Brown the likely backup. Brown is intriguing because he hasn't seen the field much at all, but he was highly touted coming out of Lithonia (Ga.) King High School.

Burton also will play some tailback, and true-freshman Matt Jones could make an early impact. The Gators also may look to sign at least one more back in February.



Hunter Joyer is the only scholarship fullback on the roster, and at 5'10", 242 pounds, the sophomore-to-be packs a wallop.

Burton also could be used here, as could tight end A.C. Leonard, but those would be more as receivers out of the backfield. Joyer is the best option as a bruising lead-blocker.


Wide Receivers

This unit is expected to lose only senior Deonte Thompson, the starter on one side.

Speedy Andre Debose, the starter on the other side, will return, and he has the ability to be a real playmaker on offense and in the return game.

Potential starters opposite Debose include senior-to-be Frankie Hammond Jr. (who has opened the game on the field in three-wide sets this year), sophomore-to-be Quinton Dunbar and senior-to-be Omarius Hines.

Special teams standout Solomon Patton, 6'6" Stephen Alli and redshirt-freshman Ja'Juan Story also could be in the mix.

This is a spot where a talented true freshman could make an early impact, ala Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Southern California's Marqise Lee.


Tight End

Florida looks pretty stacked here with incumbent Jordan Reed and standout true-freshman Leonard returning. Hines also has played some tight end.

Add two of the nation's top eight tight-end prospects—Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson—in the Class of 2012, and UF has enviable depth.

The likelihood is that either Taylor or Thompson will redshirt next season, allowing the Gators to get a year between them. The possibility also exists that both could play or both could redshirt.

As is the case with many positions, Burton also could see snaps here.


Offensive Tackle

Xavier Nixon, a senior-to-be, and Chaz Green, a redshirt sophomore-to-be, are the projected starters on the left and right sides, respectively. 

However, don't count out versatile Matt Patchan on either side.

All three candidates are very athletic, but Florida could use some added strength to become elite blockers in the Southeastern Conference.

Junior-to-be Kyle Koehne also could compete for playing time (though he is listed as the No. 2 left guard for now), as could incoming-freshmen D.J. Humphries (the No. 1-ranked OL prospect in the class of 2012) and Jessamen Dunker.


Offensive Guard

Jon Halapio has been a powerful and steady right guard this season, and the 6'3", 324-pounder should compete for All-SEC honors next season as a fourth-year junior.

The Gators have options at left guard.

Jonotthan Harrison is expected to start the Gator Bowl there, but he spent much of the season as UF's starting center before moving a step to his left after some shotgun-snap issues. He could play either spot next year.

Other candidates include Koehne, Nick Aljajian and Ian Silberman, perhaps the most intriguing player in the bunch, as he went from spring starter to never playing in short time. Look for redshirt-freshmen Trip Thurman and Tommy Jordan, as well as junior-to-be Cole Gilliam, to compete for playing time, as well.



Harrison likely will get another shot here, as Dan Wenger (who moved back to center, his position for three seasons at Notre Dame, from guard when Harrison had the shotgun troubles) will be lost to graduation.

Alajajian and fifth-year senior-to-be Sam Robey also could earn playing time—if not the starting job.



Second-team All-American Caleb Sturgis will return for his senior year, and junior-to-be Brad Phillips is a capable backup.

Other kickers on the roster include walk-ons John Crofoot and Francisco Velez.

Ideally, UF would be able to redshirt 2012-commitment Austin Hardin.


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