2011 Florida Gators Football: A Look into the Future Shows Promise
Yeah, so the Gator Nation is a bit disgruntled this week. OK, maybe calling the diehards decked out in orange and blue "disgruntled" is like saying Nick Saban can be grouchy at times.
It is accurate, but probably understates things a bit.
But Florida faithful, hang on. Complain if you like. That is your right.
However, cut first-year coach Will Muschamp and his staff some slack. They are building a program they can call their own and one you can be proud of.
The Gators may be 4-4, and going 0-for-October may not have been on your agenda. But it wasn't on theirs, either.
And, trust me, no one's stomach churned harder after winnable losses at Auburn and against Georgia than Muschamp's did.
However, before you call for his clipboard, take into account a few items.
He is doing this the right way
Remember, this team could have Janoris Jenkins, a first-round NFL talent, lined up one one side of the field. That would be an island in The Swamp, and would benefit younger players now trying to learn their roles without arguably the nation's best cover corner providing a cushion.
But after multiple arrests for marijuana possession, Muschamp told his best player to light up opposing offenses elsewhere (which turned out to be North Alabama).
Which word best describes where you sit when looking at Florida's future?
Muschamp also has suspended numerous starters during the season and didn't rush back talented but injured standouts like quarterback John Brantley, running back Jeff Demps and defensive end/outside linebacker Ronald Powell before they were ready.
Think about the attention Demps would have garnered at Auburn had he played eight snaps merely as a decoy. His presence alone might bring a safety closer to the box, allowing Andre Debose one-on-one coverage on a post. And that night, the Gator offense could have used all the help it could get.
His players aren't complaining
Have you heard or read any gripes from anyone inside the program this season?
No doubt, there are quite a few guys who would like to see their roles expanded or altered, and none of them are used to or want to lose games.
However, to the public, the front has been unified. Here are a few examples.
There was full-throttled support for a pair of freshmen quarterbacks (Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett) who weren't ready for the rigors of the Southeastern Conference but gave it all they had anyway.
John Brantley wasn't caught verbally pancaking any offensive linemen after he was physically pancaked all afternoon against the Bulldogs.
And true freshmen defensive backs Pop Saunders and Marcus Roberson were given back-slaps and not butt-kicks after allowing fourth-down touchdown receptions last weekend in Jacksonville.
Have you seen the Class of 2012 recruiting class?
Assuming the losses to Alabama and LSU were unavoidable, which loss bugs you the most?
While Meyer looked for athletic quarterbacks as adept at running (sometimes more so) than passing, Weis prefers dropback specialists who can thread a ball between two defenders. The spread also calls for smaller and quicker running backs and receivers and doesn't call for much out of tight ends.
So far, Muschamp has commitments from two of the nation's top six tight ends (Kent Taylor of Land O'Lakes, Fla. is first, while Warminster, Penn. prospect Colin Thompson is sixth).
A pair of 4-star tailbacks also have pledged to be Gators.
Mike Davis of Stone Mountain, Ga. is ranked ninth nationally at his position, while Seffner (Fla.) Armwood's Matt Jones ranks 12th. Each weighs in at right around 200 pounds right now, and while Davis already may be close to his ideal playing weight, the 6'2" Jones could lift and eat his way to 225.
Florida also remains in contention for the country's top all-purpose back, Keith Marshall of Raleigh (NC), who made one of his five official visits to Gainesville.
And 6'1", 190-pound commitment Latroy Pittman, like Davis a Meyer commitment, of nearby Citra North Marion High School is bigger than most of the wide receivers currently on UF's roster.
The Gators also are in contention for the nation's top two receiving prospects, 6'6", 220-pound Dorial Green-Beckham of Springfield, Mo., and 6'0", 185-pound Stefon Diggs of Olney, Md. Of the two, Diggs is the more likely signee, having been a standout at this past summer's "Friday Night Lights", while someone close to Green-Beckham told me he'd be surprised if the multi-sport standout (football, basketball, track and field) leaves the Midwest.
Knowing that the Gators have two true freshmen quarterbacks on scholarship, what position does UF need to upgrade the most through recruiting?
Don't be surprised if UF doesn't try to sign Miramar (Fla.) receiver Malcolm Lewis (No. 26 WR) and defensive back Tracy Howard (No. 1 CB) as a package deal.
The Gators also have made inking mammoth offensive linemen a priority, and the country's No. 1 (6'5", 265-pound D.J. Humphries) and No. 13 (6'6", 315-pound Jessamen Dunker) tackles have committed to Muschamp.
Florida is looking to sign a large number of defensive backs, and have commitments from four already with Pittman also a possibility at safety.
Muschamp also prefers bigger linebackers than Meyer does, and 6'3", 220-pound Antonio Morrison (who has the frame to end up 240) fits that Alabama-type look.
The Gators also are going jumbo on the defensive line with commits Quinteze Williams, Dante Phillips and JaFar Mann, the "smallest" of whom is 6'4", 275 pounds. UF also remains in the mix for several major-name uncommitted ends and tackles.
So, Gator fans, remember that running a football program is a process. And with a process comes time.
Be patient. I promise, someday in the not-too-distant future, you will be happy.
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