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.
19 – Caleb Sturgis (St. Augustine, FL)
Redshirt senior kicker
5’11” 184 lbs.
Quick Bio: An Under Armour High School All-American entering his fifth and final year at Florida, Sturgis was a kickoff specialist as a freshman but became the team’s primary place kicker in 2009, when he hit 73.3 percent of his field goals (long: 56) and 44-of-47 extra points. He suffered through back pain early in the 2010 season and was forced to undergo surgery after just four games, being awarded a medical redshirt by the NCAA.
Career Stats (45 games): 46/60 (76.7 percent) on field goals with a long of 56 yards, 96/101 (95.0 percent) on extra points – 234 career points; 274 kickoffs for 17,726 yards (average: 64.7 yards), 36 touchbacks
2011 Season: One of three kickers in the nation to convert on three or more field goals of at least 50 yards, Sturgis was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award and arguably the most consistent player on the Gators. He was 22/26 on field goals and perfect with 31 extra points over the course of the season.
2012 Outlook: Sturgis returns as the starter for the fourth-straight season and is already second on Florida’s all-time list for made field goals (22 away from passing Jeff Chandler with 67). He has already kicked three of the four longest field goals in school history and is the only player on the roster to receive unanimous preseason recognition nationally.
18 – Kent Taylor (Land O’Lakes, FL)
Freshman tight end
6’5” 223 lbs.
Quick Bio/2012 Outlook:A four-star prospect, Taylor was widely considered the top tight end in the country last year and committed to the Gators despite having offers from every major school. He has impressed coaches this offseason with his hands and should play as a freshman mostly as a pass catcher because he still needs to add some size to be an effective blocker. “Kent catches the ball extremely well. He’s very athletic. I mean, very athletic. That’s another guy that you have to decide what he can do at this point,” head coach Will Muschamp said recently. “Obviously he’s a guy that needs to gain some girth and some strength as far as the blocking is concerned. Let’s don’t ask him to do something he can’t do. I know one thing – he can go get the football down the field. He can catch the ball. He can do some of those things. So let’s identify what he can do and what he can handle in those situations.”
Check out 10 more players in this edition of The Countdown…after the break!
17 – Skyler Mornhinweg (Hallandale, FL)
6’3” 204 lbs.
Quick Bio/2012 Outlook: A three-star recruit who committed late in the process, Mornhinweg is the son of current Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. He was a four-year starting signal caller in high school and also played defensive back. Mornhinweg is unlikely to play in his freshman season and will almost certainly take a redshirt as he learns the offense and develops as a passer.
16 – Austin Hardin (Atlanta, GA)
5’10” 207 lbs.
Quick Bio/2012 Outlook: The heir apparent to Sturgis, Hardin was considered the top high school kicker in the country last season and possesses a very powerful leg. He was not listed as the second-string kicker on the initial fall depth chart (that spot went to junior Brad Phillips), though he should have the opportunity to move up in the pecking order as the season goes on.
15 – Loucheiz Purifoy (Pensacola, FL)
Sophomore defensive back
6’1” 189 lbs.
Quick Bio/2011 Season: Donning the now-mythical No. 15, Purifoy was one of the top cornerbacks in the nation coming out of high school and chose Florida over Alabama, Auburn and Miami among other schools. He played in every game during his freshman campaign, playing as a reserve and on special teams, where he was arguably the best player on the coverage teams.
Career Stats (13 games): 27 tackles (17 solo), forced fumble
2012 Outlook: Purifoy is in the mix to start at cornerback though that designation is not necessarily important considering Muschamp expects all four of the players fighting for those roles to be on the field for 75-90 percent of the snaps in any given game this season. “I’m physical. I can run. I’m big. I put my hands on people. That’s it,” Purifoy said in August of how he describes his style of play.
14 – Jaylen Watkins (Cape Coral, FL)
Junior defensive back
6’0” 187 lbs.
Quick Bio: A U.S. Army All-American, four-star recruit and the older brother of Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, he played in 10 games during his freshman season primarily on special teams.
Career Stats (23 games): 42 tackles (31 solo, one for loss), six pass defenses
2011 Season: Watkins concluded last year as one of the team’s primary starting cornerbacks, holding down that role in the final six games (he played in all 13 and started eight overall). He notched a career-high six tackles in his first start against Kentucky.
2012 Outlook: Like Purifoy, Watkins is one of four players in the mix to start at cornerback though he will undoubtedly see the field plenty regardless of how many “starts” he actually gets this season.
13 – Latroy Pittman (Citra, FL)
Freshman wide receiver
5’11” 209 lbs.
Quick Bio/2012 Outlook: An early enrollee who was a unanimous four-star prospect, Pittman has impressed coaches immensely this offseason and debuted as the depth chart as an option as a reserve receiver at the X position. He worked with the veterans during the first few days of fall practice and could seriously impact the Gators’ offense in his first year with the team. “He’s strong, physical. You got to really get physical with him because he’s a possession receiver,” Purifoy said recently of Pittman. “He can catch; he’s got great hands. He can catch in traffic, catch without it. He’s a good player who can come in and help us.”
12 – Antonio Morrison (Bolingbrook, IL)
6’1” 218 lbs.
Quick Bio/2012 Outlook: A four-star recruit who enrolled in January, Morrison (like Pittman) similarly made the coaches take notice early and has earned himself the second-string role at Will linebacker heading into the season. “Antonio Morrison just continues to impress,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said recently. “He’s a very physical linebacker. We’ve played him at both Mike and Will. He really answers the bell when you challenge him, and I think he’s someone I’m impressed with so far as a rookie.”
12 – Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL)
6’4” 229 lbs.
Quick Bio: A four-star recruit coming out of high school who was considered one of the best players at his position nationally, Brissett participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and enrolled at Florida over the summer after deciding to play high school basketball in the spring. A graduate of Dwyer High School, he is good friends with junior safety Matt Elam, who helped convince him commit to the Gators.
Career Stats (eight games): 18/39 for 206 yards, two touchdowns, four interceptions; 13 carries for seven yards, two touchdowns
2011 Season: Brissett became the first true freshman signal caller in school history to take his first career snap as a starter when he faced LSU on the road two weeks after both John Brantley and classmate Jeff Driskel went down with injuries against Alabama. He started consecutive games but saw action in six others as well.
2012 Outlook: Having gone head-to-head with Driskel throughout the offseason, Brissett does not yet know what his role will be with Florida this year. A bit more of a pro-style quarterback and true pocket passer, he will split snaps with Driskel in the season opener, giving the coaches an opportunity to further evaluate the position and make a decision for the second week of the season. It has been rumored that Brissett has the upper hand in the battle despite no one tipping their cards publicly.
11 – Neiron Ball (Jackson, GA)
Redshirt sophomore linebacker
6’3” 243 lbs.
Quick Bio: An early enrollee in 2010, Ball was a four-star prospect who was on the field for every game serving as a member of the kickoff and kickoff return special teams units.
Career Stats (13 games): 10 tackles (three solo, 0.5 for loss)
2011 Season: After a blood vessel ruptured in his brain back in February 2011, Ball was hospitalized, treated and diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation in his brain. He regained his health and fully recovered but was unable to practice or work with the team and took a medical redshirt for his true sophomore season.
2012 Outlook: Now back in football shape after spending the entire offseason working with the team, Ball has reportedly regained his form and has an opportunity to be one of the best feel-good stories in college football this season. He did not initially win the starting Sam linebacker job – that went to junior Darrin Kitchens – but is expected to see plenty of action as a reserve both there and at Buck. The more Ball plays he may have an opportunity to crack the starting lineup.
11 – Jordan Reed (New London, CT)
Redshirt junior tight end
6’3” 243 lbs.
Quick Bio: A four-star quarterback coming out of high school, Reed dressed for five games in 2009 but did not see any action. He officially transitioned over to tight end in 2010 but wound up only starting four games at that position as he instead played more of a hybrid role and saw plenty of time at quarterback. Reed caught six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown in 2010 but also rushed 77 times for 328 yards and five scores and completed 26-of-46 passes for 252 yards with three TDs an interception.
Career Stats (23 games): 34 receptions for 386 yards, three touchdowns; 77 carries for 328 yards, five touchdowns; 26/46 for 252 yards, three touchdowns, one interception
2011 Season: Injuries forced Reed to miss two games but he still saw action in 10 contests at tight end. He led the Gators in receptions in four contest, registered a career-high 69 yards against Georgia and finished second on the team in both receptions (28) and receiving yards (307).
2012 Outlook: Reed tweaked his MCL during fall practice but only missed a few days of action. He is entrenched as the starting tight end and should do well in offensive coordinator Brent Pease’s system. “You have someone like Jordan who really has wide receiver ability but in a body like his,” he said. “He’s a nightmare for defensive coordinators.”
10 – Valdez Showers (Madison Heights, MI)
Redshirt freshman defensive back
5’11” 188 lbs.
Quick Bio/2011 Season: A three-star prospect, Showers was the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Michigan and named the best player in the state during his senior season by the Detroit News. He spent his rookie season at Florida on the scout team and took a redshirt, preserving four years of eligibility.
2012 Outlook: Listed as one of the top reserves at safety, Showers will also be a huge special teams contributor for Florida. He repped with the younger players at the beginning of fall practice to ensure that he got enough snaps, impressing the coaches with his ability. “He’s really settled in at safety, and we are counting on him to do that. He’s going to be a guy who is going to be a really big factor [on special teams]. He’s done a good job of that so far in training camp,” Quinn said.
10 – Tyler Murphy (Wethersfield, CT)
Redshirt sophomore quarterback
6’2” 206 lbs.
Quick Bio/2011 Season: A two-star recruit, Murphy spent his first season as a member of the scout team and was the only one out of the four scholarship signal callers that year not to see game action. The depth chart changed significantly in 2011, but Murphy’s position with the team remained the same as he only appeared in two games in spot duty despite playing a major role on the scout team.
2012 Outlook: With Brissett and Driskel in front of him, Murphy is once again ranked no higher than No. 3 on the quarterback depth chart. He has also been working as a holder and earned the back-up job to start the season. Murphy will once again be tasked with performing as a scout team quarterback in practice and should only see action behind center if something catastrophic happens to the players in front of him.