Florida Gators Football: 5 Freshmen Who'll Compete for Starting Jobs in 2011

Joe MorganSenior Analyst IJanuary 13, 2011

Florida Gators Football: 5 Freshmen Who'll Compete for Starting Jobs in 2011

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    With new head coach Will Muschamp taking over after a tough 8-5 campaign this season, there are bound to be many changes for the Florida Gators in 2011.

    And while the Gators have many talented players on their roster already, not many turned said talent into production in 2010, so several position battles will likely be wide open come spring practice.

    And at a school like Florida, where five-star prospects keep pouring in year after year, no job is safe, especially after a sub-par season.

    Here are five incoming recruits who could see the field early and often during Muschamp's first season in Gainesville.

    Read the original article on GatorRaid.com.

HB Mike Blakely

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    If one thing was missing during Urban Meyer's wildly successful six-year tenure at the University of Florida, it was the presence of a legitimate running back.

    The inadequacies and inconsistency of halfbacks such as DeShawn Wynn and Emmanuel Moody forced players like quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receiver Percy Harvin to shoulder the burden of the running game.

    The Gators will be running a pro style offense under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and in a system like that, having a solid running back who can handle a lot of carries is a necessity.

    Despite being built like Jeff Demps, Blakely is a bruiser and can play through pain, as evidenced by his more than 1,900 rushing yards during his last high school season despite tendon and ankle injuries.

K Kyle Christy

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    With Ray Guy Award winner Chas Henry gone to graduation, Kyle Christy will have some big shoes to fill as the Florida Gators' new punter.

    However, Christy's impact may not stop there.

    Before suffering what turned out to be a season-ending cracked vertebrae, kicker Caleb Sturgis was shaky for the Gators, missing two extra point kicks as well as two field goal attempts in four games.

    If Sturgis has any hiccups upon returning from injury next season, watch Kyle Christy take over the kicking duties as well.

    It's a lot of pressure for a youngster like Christy, but the kid with a cannon leg is more than capable of kicking it up a notch.

QB Jeff Driskel

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    With just 2,061 passing yards, nine touchdown passes, and 10 interceptions this season, it's safe to say that John Brantley probably hasn't solidified his spot as the starting quarterback in 2011.

    New head coach Will Muschamp will want to hit the ground running during his first season in Gainesville and in order to that, he may need to start over completely at the quarterback position.

    Jeff Driskel, the nation's top-ranked quarterback recruit, brings both a rocket arm and blazing speed to the table--two attributes that Brantley cannot compete with.

    Granted, Brantley is definitely the more experienced of the two, but Muschamp may be willing to sacrifice that factor is No. 12 doesn't vastly improve over the offseason.

    It all depends on how the two quarterbacks adapt to Charlie Weis' offensive scheme.

S Jabari Gorman

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    With Ahmad Black graduating and Will Hill leaving school early to enter the 2011 NFL Draft, the Florida Gators will undergo a major makeover at safety next year.

    Rising sophomore Matt Elam will likely start as the strong safety in 2011, the free safety spot is wide open for Jabari Gorman to take.

    Defensive backs Josh Shaw and Josh Evans may have something to say about that, but Gorman's public commitment to the Gators at the Under Armour All-American Game will likely result in a similar commitment from Will Muschamp and his staff.

    Equipped with freakish athletic ability and great instincts, Gorman has the potential to join the ranks of past head-hunting Florida safeties like Reggie Nelson and Major Wright.

WR Ja'Juan Story

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    If this doesn't scare the Gator Nation, then nothing will: Deonte Thompson will be Florida's leading returning wide receiver again in 2011.

    Although Thompson had career-high numbers with 38 catches and 570 receiving yards this season, let's not kid ourselves--Thompson has had a very underwhelming career.

    That being said, he'll likely lock up a starting spot in 2011, but he'll face a stiff challenge from Ja'Juan Story for the No. 1 spot if Story stays true to his previous verbal commitment to the Gators.

    Story, who has been taking other visits since Urban Meyer resigned, has been ranked by ESPN as the nation's fifth-best wide receiver recruit and he boasts a 4.41 40-yard dash time.

    Story's combination of size and speed makes him a very dangerous playmaker and if he decides to stay with Florida, then Thompson could see a decline in his own numbers next season.