Florida Gators: 5 Players on the Rise in Fall Camp

Stephen Sheehan@@StephenPSheehanCorrespondent IAugust 15, 2012

Florida Gators: 5 Players on the Rise in Fall Camp

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    With junior safety Matt Elam leading the way, there's a quintet of impact players who are on the rise in fall camp for the Florida Gators. 

    The hard-hitting emotional leader of the secondary has been a mainstay for Will Muschamp, but he isn't the only player who's garnering some preseason buzz. 

    On the offensive side of the ball, the Gators feature a veteran back who's averaged 6.3 yards per carry and a potential star at tackle. 

    Thanks to a great recruiting class and the impressive leadership of Muschamp, there's plenty of optimism surrounding UF's 2012 season. 

    Let's take a look at five players who are on the rise as fall camp wages on. 

Matt Elam, Safety

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    Whether it was Reggie Nelson, Major Wright or Ahmad Black, Florida's defense has always featured a playmaking safety.

    Entering his second season as a starter, junior Matt Elam is the unquestioned leader of UF's young secondary.

    Checking in at a rock solid 5'10", 202 pounds, the former 5-star prospect knows how to lay the wood. 

    Although he isn't an elite ball hawk, Elam has displayed the ability to play the slot and impressed with two interceptions and seven pass breakups in 13 starts. 

    As noted by Ben Cornfield of Gator Country, the punishing tackler is one of the most experienced players on defense and should be one of the top players in the country at his position.

    It won't be long before Elam separates himself as an elite safety who should find himself high on many postseason awards lists.

Chaz Green, Offensive Tackle

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    Veterans Xavier Nixon and Matt Patchan may have arrived at Florida as elite 5-star recruits, but it was Chaz Green who was the most consistent offensive tackle on last year's squad. 

    The former 4-star prospect earned nine starts in 2011, performing so well that he was named to the Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-American Team. 

    Green—who measures in at a robust 6'5", 310 pounds—played mostly at right tackle last season, but he has the ability to play either side. 

    According to Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville-Sun, Green lined up as the first-team right tackle in last Saturday's scrimmage. 

    With Nixon and Patchan both entering their senior seasons, Green should become an anchor at the right tackle spot. 

Mike Gillislee, Running Back

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    Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey certainly wowed fans with their blazing speed, but Mike Gillislee may actually be a better pure running back than either of his former teammates. 

    The soft-spoken senior has never carried the ball more than 58 times in a season, yet he's maximized the most of his limited touches. 

    Although he's carried the ball just 145 times in three seasons, the explosive 5'11", 209-pounder has averaged 6.3 yards per carry. 

    As the only running back with significant experience, 2012 should finally be the year Gillislee gets the chance to be the man in the Gators' backfield. 

Dominique Easley, Defensive End

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    Seeing Dominique Easley listed as a defensive end may not sound right, but I assure you you're not hallucinating. 

    After displaying rare first-step quickness as a penetrating defensive tackle last season, the third-year lineman will be moving to the edge in 2012 (via Kevin Brockway of Gator Sports). 

    Easley—one piece of the Big Three that includes Ronald Powell and Sharrif Floyd—was the team's most impressive defensive linemen last season before suffering a torn ACL against Florida State. 

    The 6'2", 286-pounder has worked hard in rehab and is reportedly at 100 percent. 

    With Powell sidelined with his own ACL injury, Easley will be counted on to be an impact defender no matter where he plays on the line. 

    Although he doesn't possess great length to play on the edge, his incredible quickness and ability to read the snap count should make him one of the best pass-rushing threats in the SEC. 

Jelani Jenkins, Outside Linebacker

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    It's tough to pick just one linebacker out of Florida's potentially elite trio, but in this case I'll go with the player with the most pure talent—Jelani Jenkins. 

    Although Jon Bostic is a thumper in the middle, Jenkins' rare range and versatility make him one of the best outside linebackers in the SEC. 

    Since he came to UF as the nation's top prep linebacker, the redshirt junior has continued to add muscle to his somewhat smallish frame. 

    Entering the fall, the 23-game starter measures in at a solid 6'0" and 237 pounds, which should help him both as a pass-rusher and run defender. 

    If Jenkins is able to make more plays on the ball, he'll have a chance to vault himself into early-round consideration in the 2013 NFL Draft. 


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