With the 2011-12 athletic season now in the books and the 2012-13 season about to begin, the focus has shifted to the return of Florida Gators football. For the second-straight year, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, in this series: The Countdown.
29 – Rhaheim Ledbetter (Shelby, NC)
Freshman defensive back
5’11” 206 lbs.
Quick Bio/2012 Outlook: The cousin of former Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes and a teammate of fellow commit defensive end Jonathan Bullard at Crest High School, Ledbetter was a highly-regarded prospect who was one of three players to join Florida from the state of North Carolina in 2012. Playing in one of the Gators’ deepest units, the secondary, Ledbetter will have a tough time seeing much action (if any) during his true freshman season. He may be an early candidate for a redshirt so he can spend an entire season learning the defense and become a contributor in 2013.
28 – Jeremi Powell (Largo, FL)
6’1” 202 lbs.
Quick Bio/2012 Outlook:A four-star prospect, Powell is a multi-talented athlete who had 15 sacks during his senior season but also played running back and wide receiver while a member of his high school football team. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn praised Powell as “a top athlete,” “explosive” and “versatile” when he signed with Florida though nothing much has been said about him since he joined the team. Quinn initially said that Powell would be used as an inside linebacker though those plans may change as he advances throughout his career.
Check out 10 more players in this edition of The Countdown…after the break!
27 – Willie Bailey (Hallandale, FL)
Freshman defensive back
6’0” 172 lbs.
Quick Bio/2012 Outlook: A three-star recruit who enrolled early to get a jump on his Gators career, Bailey chose Florida over his hometown team of Miami. Head coach Will Muschamp said in the spring that he was impressed with his ability but that he may not be ready for prime time just yet. “Willie Bailey just needs to get stronger,” he said. “Willie is talented. Willie can run. He’s got length; he’s got size for the position. We just got to get stronger in the weight room. He’s got cover skills, and he’s a willing tackler. He’ll take on and play blocks. I’m real pleased with him.” He is another candidate for an early redshirt but could work his way onto special teams and see some time on the field.
26 – De’Ante Saunders (DeLand, FL)
Sophomore defensive back
5’9” 189 lbs.
Quick Bio: An early enrollee as a freshman, Saunders was a heavily recruited three-star prospect who participated in the Under Armour All-American Game. Muschamp praised him in April of 2011 as someone who is “going to be a really good player for Florida.”
Career Stats (12 games): 26 tackles (17 solo, one for loss), forced fumble, fumble recovery, two interceptions, two pass defenses, touchdown
2011 Season: Saunders was cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession in May of 2011 and disciplined internally but still managed to have a productive season, earning nine starts as a true freshman for the Gators. His biggest plays came in the final three games of the season.
2012 Outlook: Not much has been said about Saunders this fall despite the fact that he excelled as a freshman and was listed as the third safety in the spring depth chart. Muschamp recently noted that he is now the team’s fifth option at safety, fueling rumors that Saunders had additional disciplinary issues this offseason potentially relating to marijuana. Muschamp also said he will miss the first two games of the season, in what could be for disciplinary or injury reasons. “He has a hamstring at this time. He’ll sit the first two games for right now,” he said. “But he’s got a hamstring problem, so he wouldn’t be able to go the first game at least anyways.”
25 – Gideon Ajagbe (Coconut Grove, FL)
Redshirt sophomore linebacker
6’3” 232 lbs.
Quick Bio/2011 Season: Earning a medical redshirt after tearing his rotator cuff in offseason camp in 2010, Ajagbe saw his first field time in 2011 but only played on special teams for four games.
2012 Outlook: Ajagbe, who had a nice showing in the spring game, has been repping at Sam linebacker this offseason but is probably (at best) third in line for playing time.
24 – Matt Jones (Seffner, FL)
Freshman running back
6’2” 226 lbs.
Quick Bio: A consensus four-star prospect and an important member of Florida’s 2012 recruiting class, Jones helped his high school team go undefeated in his senior season, averaging 6.49 yards per carry. He had offers from a number of major SEC schools but chose to stay in-state.
2012 Outlook: As soon as Jones stepped on the field in Gainesville, FL he became one of the best running backs on the roster. Though he “lost” the back-up job to redshirt sophomore Mack Brown for the season opener against Bowling Green, Jones will fight with him all season long for carries behind the starter and should still see his fair share. “Matt Jones is a guy that has really shown some flashes,” Muschamp said in early August. “I’m interested to get off the field and see what he knows. I see [he] runs behind his pads He’s a one-cut runner. He gets north and south and doesn’t take a lot of direct hits. He’s got really good hands and is good in protection.”
24 – Brian Poole (Bradenton, FL)
Freshman defensive back
5’10” 206 lbs.
Quick Bio: Ranked as one of the top players at his position nationally, Poole played in the Under Armour All-American Game and had his choice of any school in the country.
2012 Outlook: Poole has come on strong in fall camp and will be one of a handful of true freshmen to see significant playing time in his first season. He is currently listed as a second-string dime cornerback but has also seen action at safety and is improving each day. Quinn said his strength and long arms help him in press coverage and at the line of scrimmage but that he must improve where he puts his eyes when he plays off the line.
23 – Mike Gillislee (DeLand, FL)
Senior running back
5’11” 209 lbs.
Quick Bio: A four-star prospect listed as a top-10 players at his position, Gillislee has participated in 36-of-40 games throughout his college career and enters his true senior season finally getting the opportunity to see the lion’s share of time in the backfield. He scored seven touchdowns as a true sophomore and hopes to take a big step forward after a rough junior season.
Career Stats (36 games): 145 carries for 920 yards (avg.: 6.3, long: 60), 10 touchdowns; seven receptions for 23 yards, touchdown; seven kick returns for 167 yards (avg: 23.9, long: 50)
2011 Season: Gillislee continued to be hampered by nagging injuries last year but still managed to play in 11 games and finish third on the team in rushing behind a pair of seniors. Florida tailored its offense to shiftier backs in 2011, putting Gillislee a bit out of place as a power north-south runner. He still averaged 5.9 yards per carry (best on the team) but only scored two touchdowns while amassing 328 yards on 56 carries. He notched a career-high 11 carries against UAB and registered a career-best 84 rushing yards against Kentucky.
2012 Outlook: Now entrenched as the Gators’ featured running back, Gillislee hopes to have the season he has dreamed of since committing to the team four years ago. “He, to me, has still distanced himself from an all-around back standpoint – protections, carrying the ball, doing the little things, carrying the fakes out,” Muschamp said two weeks ago. “His experience helps, obviously. He’s very driven. He is a guy that can have top-end speed and finish some runs for us.” Gillislee had the fan base behind him last season and will look to roll that momentum into a terrific 2012 campaign.
22 – Matt Elam (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
Junior defensive back
5’10” 202 lbs.
Quick Bio: A five-star prospect coming out of Dwyer High School who also excelled as a running back and could have played offense at the next level, Elam served as a reserve safety and key special teams member in all 13 games as a freshman. He was on the starting unit for kickoff coverage and kickoff returns, registering 22 tackles (16 solo, 1.5 for a loss) while earning a sack, fumble recovery and pass deflection on the year. He has never missed a game in his UF career.
Career Stats (26 games): 100 tackles (66 solo, 11.0 for loss), three sacks, two forced fumbles, fumble recovery, two interceptions, eight pass defenses
2011 Season: Elam took over the starting strong safety job during his sophomore season but also played plenty of nickel cornerback depending what package the team was using. He was the most impressive and consistent member of the secondary but was still trying to find his voice as a leader for his unit and the defense as a whole. Elam was just one of five players to see action in all 13 games, finishing second in tackles (78) and spending the entire season as one of the team’s best ball hawks.
2012 Outlook: Grown into his role as a leader, Elam has apparently accomplished the goals that the coaching staff set out for him in the offseason. His versatility makes him one of the most important players on Florida’s defense (if not the most important on his own). “I think the big thing that I’ve seen with him – it may be on the field, it may be off the field – where he can now affect other players with him,” Quinn said recently. “I think that’s a real sign of a leader, when you bring people along with you. That’s one of the things that I’ve noticed from Matt. [...] That part has been as impressive from a leadership standpoint – one thing that stood out to me.”
21 – Jabari Gorman (Miami, FL)
Sophomore defensive back
5’10” 188 lbs.
Quick Bio/2011 Season: A four-star recruit who was listed as the No. 10 safety in the nation coming out of high school, Gorman was highly recruited but always wanted to play for the Gators. He did not see significant action as a freshman, mostly playing on special teams, though he appeared in all 13 games.
Career Stats (13 games): Eight tackles (seven solo), forced fumble
2012 Outlook: Listed as the second-string free safety on the depth chart for the opening game, Gorman has been getting a lot of work in practice in order to increase his reps and get him ready for action. Not much has been said about him otherwise, and he will probably have to fight all season to keep his reps at such a deep position.
20 – Omarius Hines (Corsicana, TX)
Redshirt senior tight end
6’2” 217 lbs.
Quick Bio: A four-star receiver, Hines has been moved around a lot during his collegiate career. He used his redshirt in 2008 after dressing (but not playing) in four games but had an impact in 2009 when he saw action in 12 contests as a pass catcher. He was moved over to tight end to begin the 2010 season but was shifted around a lot due to injuries, suspensions and depth concerns. Hines wound up playing some running back and led the team in rushing against Mississippi State (six carries for 58 yards and a touchdown). He also converted a 36-yard fake punt run against Tennessee.
Career Stats (37 games): 41 receptions for 559 yards (avg.: 13.6, long: 42), two touchdowns; 13 carries for 164 yards (avg.: 12.6, long: 36), two touchdowns
2011 Season: After missing the first game of the year, Hines played in the remaining 12 contests but did not have any semblance of a major role in the offense despite being arguably one of the most physically gifted offensive players on the roster. He was even described by Muschamp as the most versatile and consistent pass catcher on the team.
2012 Outlook: Back for his final season at Florida, Hines is listed as a tight end but will see snaps at running back and wide receiver as well. He will likely receive the attention as a do-everything player that he failed to get in 2011 considering the coaching staff has been emphasizing getting the ball in his hands throughout the offseason. “He’s very versatile. He’s a kid that, when the ball is in his hands, he can go the distance. He can create the huge, explosive plays. He can go 75-80 yards because he’s got the other gear,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said of Hines. “He’s got ability to catch, got ability to run; he’s got strength. He’s an incredible talent so you just got to use him the right way, not burn him out, not overload him with thinking. He’s done a good job. He is a very smart kid on the field. He’s good and he understands things and he wants more. He’s always, ‘Hey, can I do this play, can I do that play?’ He’s a threat. He’s a weapon.”
20 – Marcus Maye (Melbourne, FL)
Freshman defensive back
5’11” 203 lbs.
Quick Bio/2012 Outlook: A consensus four-star talent, Maye also competed in the Under Armour All-American game and was a highly recruited player. He tore his meniscus during his senior season and had successful surgery but did not begin practicing with Florida until the middle of August. Muschamp recently said that Maye’s knee was swollen and sore upon his return so he will likely be held out of action early on as he learns the defense and is undoubtedly a candidate for a redshirt this season.