Florida Football: Breaking Down the Gators' Depth Chart Heading into Spring Ball

D. PritchardContributor IMarch 16, 2011

Florida Football: Breaking Down the Gators' Depth Chart Heading into Spring Ball

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    John Brantley looks to hold on to the starting quarterback position during spring practice.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    On Monday, Will Muschamp held his first spring press conference and shed some light on a few roster changes heading into spring practice. Muschamp, who closed spring practice to the fans and media, suggested the team needed to work on its new identity. 

    "With a new coaching staff here teaching our system, we feel like minimizing our distractions is important." 

    This will add even more speculation to the April 9 Orange and Blue game.

    Muschamp also provided the media with an updated depth chart heading into spring, but confessed that most of the decisions comprise watching previous game film. What we see on April 9 may be much different.

Florida Football: Breaking Down the Gators' Depth Chart Heading into Spring Ball

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    Jeff Driskel looks to compete for the starting quarterback position this spring.

    Muschamp wasted no time addressing the quarterback situation, announcing that Jordan Reed would be moved back to tight end and Trey Burton would become an H-Back type player on offense, since Burton created matchup problems for opposing defenses.

    As expected, the competition at quarterback between senior John Brantley and true freshman Jeff Driskel has officially began. John Brantley has all the tools to be a very successful quarterback under Charlie Weis, however, his toughness was questioned a few times in 2010 and if he struggles again in game situations, do not be surprised if the coaching staff makes a move.

    Enter Jeff Driskel, a true freshman from Oviedo Hagerty and the Gatorade National Player of the Year. Driskel is strong and offers a lot more athleticism than Brantley. Weis suggested Driskel is a pure drop back passer and feels Driskel can be very successful in his offense.

    Weis realizes Driskel is the future for the Gators, so if Brantley struggles early, it may pave the way for the freshmen to get his opportunity.

Florida Football: Breaking Down the Gators' Depth Chart Heading into Spring Ball

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    Mack Brown redshirted in 2010, but looks to be healthy this spring.Doug Benc/Getty Images

    The running back situation in Gainesville looks very promising heading into spring, although Jeff Demps has been excused from spring practice so he can concentrate on track. The Gators are loaded with talent in the backfield.

    Redshirt freshmen Mack Brown looks to be the favorite this spring. With Demps sitting out, Brown will get a lot of work with the No. 1 offense. Brown showed great signs last year but injury kept him from contributing and ultimately led to a redshirt.

    This is one of the best things that came out of 2010 for the Gators. Brown's 50 carries for 300 yards would have done very little to change the outcome of the 2010 season. With him sitting out and getting the redshirt, the Gators gain a more polished runner with four years of eligibility remaining.

    Behind Brown will be freshman Mike Blakely and junior reserve Mike Gillislee. Blakely has all the intangibles to be a great back. However, he will have to show his talents early and often this spring or he may succumb to the same fate Mack Brown did in 2010.

    Gillislee has shown a lot of upside during his career, but has never been able to take over as the No. 1 guy. This may change with the new coaching staff, since Gillislee is such a hard worker. 

    In the end, I look for another running back by committee situation in Gainesville. With Brown and Demps sharing most of the time in the backfield.

Florida Football: Breaking Down the Gators' Depth Chart Heading into Spring Ball

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    Andre Debose is poised for a special year in 2011.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The wide receiver position is as equally loaded with personnel as the running back position.

    Deonte Thompson is destined to be a good receiver at some point, but time seems to be running out.

    Andre Debose looks to be a strong leader at the slot. Debose’s biggest problem seems to be that he is in between positions and is struggling to find an identity. If he works hard as a wideout, Weis could make him very rich in the next few years.

    Other wide receivers that could play big roles in next year’s offense are Frankie Hammonds, Omarius Hines and Stephen Alli, who has incredible size for a receiver (6’5", 220).

    Solomon Patton, Quinton Dunbar, Robert Clark and Chris Dunkley were all highly touted freshmen in last year’s class and provide a terrific rotation of receivers across the field.

    Chris Rainey has slowly moved to a wideout position, which is where he will see the most playing time next year. Rainey is very dangerous in the open field and Weis will try to capitalize on his ability as often as possible.

Florida Football: Breaking Down the Gators' Depth Chart Heading into Spring Ball

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    Xavier Nixon will anchor the offensive line in 2011.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Although the Gators lose plenty of talent up front, they have some very talented returning starters and some very talented young men waiting to get their opportunity.

    Xavier Nixon has had an impressive young career as a Florida Gator. Since moving into the starting lineup as a true freshman in the South Carolina game in 2009, Nixon has been a solid force on the outside.

    Jon Halapio saw limited action as a true freshmen in 2009; however, he made a splash in the lineup in 2010. Halapio became a starter at right guard and became a permanent fixture in the rotation. The 2011 season will move much slower for Jon, with a full year of SEC play under his belt.

    Two players along the offensive line that seem to be wild cards are Matt Patchen and James Wilson, both have struggled with injuries and consistency.

    Patchen battled a wrist injury for all of the 2010 season, but has shown plenty of versatility in his career at Florida. As a true freshman, Matt played on the defensive line and contributed mightily in the 2008 National Championship.

    Wilson has battled inconsistency and injury, but looks to have one more shot to make his presence known on the line.

    The offensive line will have a lot to prove this spring. There are plenty of positions that are up in the air and plenty of talent for solid competitions to play out.

Florida Football: Breaking Down the Gators' Depth Chart Heading into Spring Ball

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    Omar Hunter has seen a lot of experience on the interior line.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    On defense, some younger players that have shown great upside and look to be major contributors along the front in 2011 are Sharif Floyd (proven as good as advertised), Dominique Easley and Lynden Trail.

    Upperclassmen Omar Hunter, Jaye Howard, Earl Okine and William Green are solid forces that have progressed nicely over the past year or two. None of them have developed into dominating linemen, but all have shown the talent to be very successful once consistency is established.

    If Chris Martin remains at the defensive end position, the potential for a speedy pass rush off the edge is bright.

    Ronald Powell looks to play a linebacker/defensive end position and be moved all over the field. His ability to rush the quarterback, play the run and defend in coverage makes Powell an elite player. Look for Powell to make a lot of noise under Quinn and Muschamp's defense.

Florida Football: Breaking Down the Gators' Depth Chart Heading into Spring Ball

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    Outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins.Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic showed great potential in 2010. There were a lot of missed assignments in the middle, but one year of experience will pay dividends for these two linebackers.

    Lerentee McCray picked up some valuable experience in 2010 and should be a contributor either at linebacker or end in 2011. As a junior his time to excel has certainly arrived, and the coaching staff will expect great things from him.

    One move Muschamp brought up in his press conference was the move of Gerald Christian to linebacker. Muschamp also suggested Christian would play fullback in short yardage situations. Christian played linebacker in high school and has tremendous lower body strength.

Florida Football: Breaking Down the Gators' Depth Chart Heading into Spring Ball

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    Janoris Jenkins will lead the secondary in 2011.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The list of returning starters in the defensive backfield starts with Janoris Jenkins. He showed the ability to lock down star receivers such as Julio Jones and A.J. Green, just to name a few. Jenkins will likely be the most talked-about cornerback in college football in 2011.

    Matt Elam and Jeremy Brown gained valuable experience in 2010 and will be asked to step up in 2011. Especially Brown, who was inconsistent for most of the year. Granted he was young, but he will be pushed with talent behind him and will need to step up his play this spring.

    Cody Riggs, Joshua Shaw, Jaylen Watkins and Moses Jenkins all saw action last fall, with Riggs showing the most potential. All will be fighting for positions this spring and could provide instant depth at the position if the position battles are competitive.

    Shaw has been moved to the strong safety position this spring and will take over for Will Hill who left for the NFL.

Florida Football: Breaking Down the Gators' Depth Chart Heading into Spring Ball

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    Charile Weis looking to retool the Gator offense in 2011.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The Gators have plenty of talent to be real contenders in 2011. However, everything will depend on what happens in the spring. If young players buy in and accept change, the future looks bright.

    With spring practice being closed, the anticipation and speculation will only continue to grow. Making the annual Orange and Blue game just that much more exciting for GatorNation.