Florida Football Recruiting: Top Positional Needs for 2011
After suffering the worst season in the past 20 years, the Florida Gators football program has serious needs. Let's face it, when Urban Meyer decided to retire for a second time, he knew the cupboard was going to be bare for the 2011 season.
I'm just saying...
The 2010 squad had glaring needs as the season progressed, and now that seniors and some underclassmen have decided to leave early for the NFL, we can take a hard long look at the areas where Florida needs to focus with high school and junior college talent.
Let's take a look at all areas of the team, and determine what level of need each has.
James Walker is a National and Syndicated Writer for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He can also be contacted via Google Talk/Buzz and Yahoo Instant Messenger as BRJamesWalker.
Special Teams: Kicker and Punter
It will be interesting to learn Will Muschamp's theory of special teams now that Urban Meyer has departed. When you played under an Urban Meyer coached team, you were expected to play on special teams immediately upon arrival if you were a skill player.
What will Will Muschamp do?
Also, will kicker Caleb Sturgis return from his season-ending back injury and pick up where he left off? Who will come in and replace punter Chas Henry, who graduated after a solid career as a Florida Gator?
It was quite clear that Sturgis' absence was felt in several games as the aforementioned Henry did his best to fill in. However, Chas is a punter, and missed a few key field goals at crucial times.
Chas Henry was a clutch punter who kept Florida in many games during his career. Someone will be needed to fill in his big shoes.
Part of the 2011 recruiting class is kicker Kyle Christy, who enrolled this month and will participate in spring practice.
Need: A big one.
Secondary: Defensive Backs and Safeties
When Janoris Jenkins announced that he would return for his senior season, surely Will Muschamp smiled along with the Gator Nation. Then Jenkins went and got busted for rolling a joint in a Gainesville nightclub bathroom.
That smile got turned upside down.
Jenkins has not seen his day in court yet, so who knows what will happen? However, Ahmad Black and Will Hill are gone, so soon-to-be sophomore Matt Elam, Moses Jenkins, Jeremy Brown and others will need to step up.
Need: Little. However, the Gators have picked up De'Ante Saunders, Jabari Gorman and Loucheiz Purifoy with their 2011 recruiting class to solidify their defensive backfield.
Brandon Hicks, A.J. Jones and Lorenzo Edwards have graduated, leaving little experience at the position. Jelani Jenkins (how many players with the last name Jenkins are there?), Jonathan Bostic and Dee Finley remain, as well as highly-touted, soon-to-be sophomore Ronald Powell.
The Gators are seeking the services of Tony Steward, Stephone Anthony and Curtis Grant—any and all would be welcomed additions to the Florida defense.
Need: Somewhat. If Florida fails to pick up 4- or 5-star recruits in 2011, then there may be a talent gap for a season or two.
Defensive Line: Ends and Tackles
One of the most glaring weaknesses of the 2010 Gator defense was at defensive end. Duke Lemmens and Justin Trattou have come and gone, leaving Lerentee McCray and William Green as the only ones with any experience.
Defensive tackle is not in such disarray. Studs Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley are ready to take their rightful place as starters with Jaye Howard ready to provide backup.
The Gators are soliciting defensive tackles Tim Jernigan and Delvon Simmons and defensive end Ray Drew to become citizens of Gator Nation.
Needs: Big at defensive end, but little at defensive tackle. One of the top recruits in the 2011 class is Clay Burton, a defensive end out of Venice, Fla. and younger brother of QB Trey Burton.
Offensive Line: Tackles, Guards and Center
Mike Pouncey, the last of the Pouncey brothers, has graduated and will soon join his brother Maurkice in the NFL. Carl Johnson, too, has graduated and will test his success in the NFL. Now, new faces will have to step up, especially in Muschamp's pro-style offense.
Matt Patchan has been hindered by injury, and Xavier Nixon has seen considerable playing time. Opportunities for Ian Silberman, Chaz Green, Jonothan Harrison and Sam Robey will present themselves. Only time will tell if they become the new soldiers of Gator trenches.
Also, Jake Fisher, a one-time shoe-in for the Michigan Wolverines, may be flirting with the Florida Gators this recruiting class.
Need: Somewhat, good linemen are always needed.
Receivers and Tight Ends
On paper, the Gators are strong at wide receiver. Reality, however, is another story. Senior Carl Moore has graduated, but Deonte Thompson, Omarius Hines and Andre Debose remain.
Thompson has been a disappointment, Hines has shown signs of greatness and Debose has been hampered by injuries albeit spectacular on kick returns. Some may blame the passing game, but overall the receiving corps is mediocre at best.
At tight end, the Gators are very light especially if Jordan Reed remains a QB. Three soon-to-be sophomores—Gerald Christian, Michael McFarland and Desmond Parks—may have an opportunity to shine.
High school athletes that may add immediate depth are Junior Pome'e, Jay Rome and Nick O'Leary. The latter player is definitely a long shot, but in the sights of Muschamp's staff.
Needs: Big. Huge. Tremendous. Will Muschamp wants to install a pro-style offense; the Gators need pro-style receivers fast. Incoming freshmen Ja'Juan Story (a soft verbal), A.C. Leonard and Javares McRoy are on the list of 2011 recruits that could be future stars for Gator Nation.
Halfbacks and Fullbacks
One of the strengths of the Florida Gators during the Urban Meyer era has been the running game. Two players come to mind first and foremost—Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey—and both will return for their senior seasons in 2011.
Emmanuel Moody, the one-time USC Trojan, has graduated with very little fanfare, and waiting to become superstars are Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown.
Already signed and enrolled for the 2011 recruiting class is Mike Blakely. Unfortunately, he will miss spring practice due to an injury, but should be ready to go for the start of the season.
The one area that had little use during the Urban Meyer era was fullback, but that should change in Muschamp's offense. There are four fullbacks on the roster: Steven Wilks, Jason Traylor, T.J. Pridemore and Michael Ross. Perhaps we will get to know these young men soon now that Will Muschamp and Charlie Weis are running the offense.
Needs: Somewhat, especially in the area of fullback since the current ones are unproven.
There is no position under heavier scrutiny than quarterback, i.e. John Brantley. Now that a pro-style offense will be employed, the use of Trey Burton and Jordan Reed is questionable at best. John Brantley, the troubled and beleaguered heir apparent of Tim Tebow, returns after contemplating transferring after his redshirt junior season.
Incoming phenom Jeff Driskel will push for playing time now that he is enrolled and ready to participate in spring practice.
Need: Ranked No. 1 of team needs. Since John Brantley is still unproven, Burton and Reed are questionable for a pro-style offense, and Driskel is a true freshman. This could become Will Muschamp's biggest area of concern come spring.