With just one day to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 football season gets underway, the final part of OGGOA‘s new series, The Countdown, takes a look at those players expected to contribute on the field wearing jersey numbers ranging from 9-1.
9 – Joshua Shaw (Palmdale, CA)
Redshirt freshman safety
6’3” 197 lbs.
Quick Bio/2010 Season: An early enrollee as a freshman, Shaw only saw the field against South Florida partially due to Florida’s crowded secondary. He was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and considered the No. 3 cornerback in the nation by Rivals. Choosing the Gators over teams like LSU and Ohio State, Shaw is now a social and behavioral sciences major looking to make an impact.
2011 Outlook: Shaw entered fall practice as a back-up safety vying for a starting job. However, the emergence of true freshmanDe’Ante Saunders and inconsistencies from the entire unit may reduce his time on the field in 2011. Shaw has as good an opportunity as any to break free from the pack by proving he can be effective and consistent in practice and could wind up with plenty of playing time as the season progresses.
84 9 – Quinton Dunbar (Miami, FL)
Redshirt freshman wide receiver
6’1” 184 lbs.
Dunbar previously wore No. 84. Read his section by clicking here.
8 – Trey Burton (Venice, FL)
Sophomore running back
6’3” 229 lbs.
Quick Bio/2010 Season: A three-star quarterback recruit, Burton was never expected to spend a large amount of time at that position but wound up doing so as a freshman. A social and behavioral sciences major who plans to switch to business, he was a member of the 2010 SEC All-Freshman Team as a do-everything player last year. Burton spent time behind center as well as at wide receiver, tight end, fullback and as a member of special teams on kickoff coverage. He ran for a team-high 11 touchdowns and broke Tim Tebow’s school record with six touchdowns in a single game (Kentucky). Those six scores were also good for the second-most points scored in a game in SEC history. Burton also came up big against Georgia, totaling 145 all-purpose yards in an important victory.
2011 Outlook: The Gators’ most versatile offensive player, Burton is listed as running back but will also play other roles including full back, tight end and wide receiver. He will be asked to block more than he was a year ago will be used plenty by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. “What Trey gives me…I’m a formation/personnel guy as far as attacks go. Trey gives me a lot of versatility within one personnel group,” Weis said. “Sometimes people don’t understand the magnitude of what that means. He lets you do a lot of things.”
Redshirt junior cornerback
5’10” 187 lbs.
Quick Bio: A four-star recruit, Brown was sidelined by back problems for two full seasons and earned a redshirt as a freshman. The social and behavioral sciences major made it a point to rehab his back as much as possible during and after the 2009 season and sought to earn a starting role on the team when Joe Haden declared early for the NFL.
2010 Season: Entering camp with an opportunity to win the job across from Janoris Jenkins, Brown eventually wound up doing so and started 10 contests. He missed the final two regular season games with a hamstring injury but played in the Outback Bowl to end the season. He finished the year with 15 tackles and three interceptions.
2011 Outlook: Looking to begin the 2011 season as the oldest starter in the secondary, Brown has been hampered with a knee problem and may miss at least the first game of the season. He will have to fend off a number of young players to win the job outright but will likely be able to do so as coaches noted during the spring that he was impressing during camp.
7 – Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, CA)
Sophomore buck linebacker
6’4” 248 lbs.
Quick Bio/2010 Season: Considered the No. 1 overall prospect coming out of high school by Rivals, Powell was a five-star recruit who played defensive end and tight end in high school. The social and behavioral sciences major fit in as the strong side linebacker in 2010 and was one of just six true freshmen to appear in very game. He finished the season with 25 tackles and one sack, proving that he had a bright future as a dominant force in the SEC.
2011 Outlook: New head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be counting on Powell big-time in 2011. Named the team’s starting buck linebacker, he will play with his hand in the dirt in 4-3 formations and up as a linebacker in 3-4 sets. Powell’s combination of quickness, agility and athleticism makes him the perfect fit for a position made famous by players under Muschamp like Jason Taylor and Sergio Kindle. Though only in his second year, he is expected to be a major contributor to a unit that hopes to be one of Florida’s strengths this season.
7 – Robert Clark (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
Sophomore wide receiver
5’9” 173 lbs.
Quick Bio/2010 Season: A three-star pass catcher who was teammates with Matt Elam and Gerald Christian at Dwyer High School, Clark was an early enrollee and the first freshman to impress former head coach Urban Meyer one spring ago. He saw limited time on the field in 2010 but caught seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.
2011 Outlook: Not much has been said about Clark this offseason. He was not listed as one of the receivers on the Gators’ first two-deep fall depth chart, but Christian believes he will still see time this season. “They don’t have him with the first team and stuff, but every time Robert gets reps he makes the most of it,” he said last month. “He’s not a starter, but I think he’ll get time as an inside guy. One thing about Robert – he doesn’t whine or anything, he just goes hard and gives whatever he has all the time. That’s why I think he makes a big impression on coaches.”
6 – Jaye Howard (Apopka, FL)
Redshirt senior defensive tackle
6’3” 303 lbs.
Quick Bio: A four-star defensive end in high school who has switched to play on the inside, Howard is a social and behavioral sciences major who took a redshirt as a freshman in 2007. He played in nine games in 2008 but earned his first four starts in 2009, registering 29 tackles and 1.5 sacks as he continued to find his niche with the team.
2010 Season: Stepping into a real starting role for the first time in his career, Howard started eight contests (he missed two due to injury) during his redshirt junior campaign. He was the team’s player of the game twice (Miami-OH, Kentucky) and again nabbed 29 tackles on the season but this time grabbed 2.5 sacks including two in the season opener. Howard’s injury cut into his effectiveness during the year.
2011 Outlook: The true veteran of the defense, Howard has taken a leadership role in the offseason and feels the added responsibility to play at the top of his game. Scouts believe he has the size and strength to succeed at the next level but will be watching his 2011 campaign closely for major signs of improvement. He is Florida’s starting nose tackle heading into the season and is excited about the team’s direction on defense. “I’ve become more accustomed to playing a 3-4 now. It fits my body type and it’s working well with our team, so it’s going to look good this season,” he said.
6 – Deonte Thompson (Belle Glade, FL)
Redshirt senior wide receiver
6’0” 200 lbs.
Quick Bio: A U.S. Army All-American who was considered one of the best wide receivers coming out of high school, Thompson is a humanities and letters major who redshirted as a freshman but began making strides in 2008. Used sparingly as a redshirt freshman, Thompson posted 269 yards and three touchdowns as the Gators went on to win their second national title in two years. He returned in 2009 as a 12-game starter but was plagued by drops, catching just 24 balls for 343 yards and four touchdowns in Florida’s one-loss season.
2010 Season: Looking to rid himself of the stereotype of having butterfingers, Thompson had a rough start dropping a great pass in the season opener. The Gators’ offense – especially the passing game – struggled all year but he did wind up with career highs in receptions (38) and yards (570) but only found the end zone once. He started 12 of 13 games and became a reliable third-down target and first-down maker for classmate John Brantley. In just the first two games of the season he caught nine passes for 107 yards – all for first downs.
2011 Outlook: With Brantley having apparently been rejuvenated by Weis’s pro-style offense, Thompson hopes to make the most of his final year at Florida. He is listed on the team’s first depth chart as the starting Z receiver and has also formed a strong bond with Dunbar, who many expect to have a breakout season. He has also found a role as a standout on special teams, something Muschamp praised recently. “I want to say this about Deonte: He is a senior and a guy that we really challenged in the offseason about special teams and understanding, if you want to play after college and if you’re not the lead role at your position in the National Football League, you’ve got to play special teams,” he said. “The guy has done a phenomenal job on special teams. He’s on our punt team; he’s on our kickoff coverage team. I’m very proud of his effort.”
5 – Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
6’0” 184 lbs.
Quick Bio: One of the last players to join the Gators’ 2011 recruiting class, Roberson was ranked as a four-star prospect and one of the best players at his position in the country.
2011 Outlook: Following in the footsteps of Haden and Jenkins, Roberson could very well be the third player in team history to start from day one at cornerback. Whether or not he starts on Saturday will be determined by how well he practiced this week, but he has received universal praise from his teammates and coaches throughout fall practice. “When a guy does have speed and length, sometimes it enables you to play a little different style and match up on some bigger receivers at times,” Quinn said of Roberson. “He has that, and I’m really looking forward to seeing him develop. He’s come into camp and he’s really had a good training camp. He’s made an impression on me.”
4 – Andre Debose (Sanford, FL)
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver
5’11” 191 lbs.
Quick Bio: Hailed as the “next Percy Harvin” (a moniker he detested) before even committing to Florida, Debose was a five-star recruit and one of the best players in the country during his time in high school. After injuring himself in track during his senior year of high school, he had surgery and redshirted the 2009 season, putting on hold the hopes of fans that he would electrify the Gators.
2010 Season: Finally healthy, Debose struggled in picking up Meyer’s offense and did not receive too much time on the field at his natural position of wide receiver. He played in certain packages and picked up 96 yards on 10 receptions but made his greatest impact in 2010 as a kick returner. Debose fielded 21 balls and brought them back for a total of 587 yards with two touchdowns including a dynamic 99-yard return at home against LSU.
2011 Outlook: Debose committed himself to the team in the offseason and has been praised by Muschamp recently as “flashing” with some dynamic touchdown catches in practices and scrimmages. “It’s something that happened over the summer. I really just took football to another level. I have really made football a priority of mine,” Debose said. “I’ve studied a lot more. I’ve really dove into the playbook, so I feel like I have a nice grasp of it. We’ll know the truth once we get on the field and practice what you’ve been studying the whole time.” He is listed as the second-team X receiver and primary kick returner and could finally be in position for a breakout season. “He just continues to show the consistency in his performance, and I’m very pleased,” Muschamp said of him.
4 73 – Sharrif Floyd (Philadelphia, PA)
Sophomore defensive tackle
6’3” 295 lbs.
Quick Bio/2010 Season: A five-star recruit and a unanimous top-five player in the nation as a high school senior, Floyd had 23 tackles including 6.5 for loss as a freshman, impressing his teammates, coaches and opponents. He was named to the 2010 SEC All-Freshman Team by league coaches and started Florida’s final game of the season against Penn State. He played in all 13 games in 2010 and had a career-high seven tackles against Vanderbilt.
2011 Outlook: Floyd has experienced some changes this offseason. He shed No. 73 for No. 4 (hence why he was not included in The Countdown Nos. 79-70) but just recently switched back to his old number. More importantly, he moved from defensive tackle to defensive end (for at least this season) but will continue to rotate inside from time to time. As a full-time starter in just his second year, Floyd is expected to be a major contributor to the Gators’ defense and is excited about his new role. “You can’t get double-teamed at that position; I’m loving it. I’m getting a feel for it, learning everything I can get, learning the situations and everything like that. It’s a good opportunity for me, and I’m going to take advantage of it,” he said.
3 – Jelani Jenkins (Olney, MD)
Redshirt sophomore linebacker
6’0” 230 lbs.
Quick Bio: An Under-Armour All-American, Jenkins was a five-star recruit and the No. 1 player at his position as a high schooler when he committed in 2009. He dressed for all 14 games as a true freshman but only participated in two and took a redshirt while he made the honor roll as a social and behavioral sciences major.
2010 Season: Jenkins stepped into a starting role as a redshirt freshman, playing in all 13 and starting 11 contests. He notched a career-high 11 tackles against South Carolina and finished with 76 on the season, good enough for second on the defense and most by a freshman. Jenkins also recovered a fumble, grabbed an interception and sacked the quarterback twice during his first full season on the field, proving that he will be an important part of Florida’s defense for the next few years.
2011 Outlook: The starting will linebacker, Jenkins talent is of little doubt but the coaching staff has asked him to be more of a leader both on- and off-the-field this year. “We have a lot of checks, we have a lot of signals as a defense that force you to be vocal,” he said. “You’re always talking out there, always communicating, so it hasn’t been that difficult. […] People count on you on the field to make a lot of calls, even off the field they’re always listening to you. The more you know the defense, the more you’re talking always helping each other out.” He has been succeeding in this regard and, along with junior Jon Bostic, is a key member of the Gators’ linebacking corps.
2 – Dominique Easley (Staten Island, NY)
Sophomore defensive tackle
6’2” 282 lbs.
Quick Bio/2010 Season: Another five-star from Florida’s amazing 2011 recruiting class, Easley struggled during his freshman season. Dealing with bouts of homesickness while also (reportedly) displaying some immaturity, the No. 2 defensive tackle prospect did not see the field much but showed flashes when he did get the opportunity to get in the game.
2011 Outlook: With a renewed attitude and mindset, Easley has been one of the most talked about players this offseason. Coaches and teammates have raved up and down about his lightning quick first step, noting that he has a penchant for getting through the offensive line almost immediately after the ball is snapped. He is set to start at defensive tackle in the opener and attributes his redemption to a decision he made in the offseason. “[Muschamp] just told me that I have a fresh start. My plan was to do a fresh start, too, start from the beginning and start the right way,” he explained. “Maturity – I matured a lot and [started] making better choices. […] I had to get used to it. I had to break myself in.”
1 – Chris Rainey (Lakeland, FL)
Redshirt senior running back
5’9” 174 lbs.
Quick Bio: A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Rainey committed to the Gators alongside a number of his teammates (including the Pouncey brothers) and is the only one his age from Lakeland remaining on the squad. A humanities and letters major, Rainey took a medical redshirt as a freshman due to his shoulder injury but bounced back in a big way in 2008, rushing for a career-high 652 yards (7.5 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He started catching some balls in 2009 as well, totaling 736 yards and six touchdowns in a solid redshirt sophomore campaign.
2010 Season: After catching six balls for 34 yards and a touchdown in the season opener and playing sparingly in the second game, Rainey was suspended five contests after being arrested but returned and finished the season as the team’s primary playmaker in the final six games. He was moved to receiver to start the season but wound up taking a lot of snaps at running back toward the end of the year due to injuries. Rainey only scored five touchdowns but totaled 582 yards of offense and brought back nine punts for 67 yards in just eight games. He also posted 148 yards as a kickoff returner against Georgia.
2011 Outlook: Moved back to running back, Rainey will be part of an explosive backfield duo with senior Jeff Demps. The pair is listed as co-starters and, according to Weis, could really do some special things for the team in 2011. Rainey recently discussed maturing in the offseason and keeping his focus on football. “I see everything like a man [now]. I do everything [more] professional,” he explained about his changed mindset. “[I] think first. I would do something before I [thought] about it [before].” He is also excited about playing in a pro-style offense again. “I feel super-good, great,” Rainey said. “You can see the whole field, so you know how the scheme works, where to cut and stuff like that.”