9/3: Gators vs. Owls post-game news & notes

With the No. 22/23 Florida Gators‘ 2011 season opener against the Florida Atlantic Owls now in the books, OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s 41-3 victory at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

ABSENCES AND INJURIES

Perhaps the most important moment of the evening came before the game started when Florida announced that sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was ineligible and would not play. The Gators will not allow Floyd to rejoin the team until he is cleared by the NCAA, and the University of Florida would not immediately provide many specifics.

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) and redshirt junior wide receiver Omarius Hines (hamstring) were questionable going into the game and wound up inactive. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely (shoulder) ended up playing after it was originally thought he would miss the contest. Sophomore WR Robert Clark (hamstring) did not dress either.

Florida did not escape the Florida Atlantic contest unscathed. Sophomore running back Trey Burton appeared to injure his hip in the first quarter and did not return, likely for precautionary reasons. Redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson, catching a ball low to the ground, suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit that popped his off and left him on the ground holding his head. Thompson rose and left the field under his own power but did not return.

THE DEMPS AND RAINEY SHOW

The Gators’ offense rolled on Saturday due in large part to dominant performances by running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey. The duo combined for 272 yards of offense and five total touchdowns with Rainey grabbing three on a rush, reception and special teams return on a punt block by sophomore WR Solomon Patton.

The pair ran up the middle and off-tackle, caught passes in the flats and were simply all over the field making both explosive cuts (Demps) and awe-inspiring spin moves (Rainey). Demps even ran the opening kickoff back 88 yards for a touchdown until it was called back due to a holding penalty.

BRANTLEY’s STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Hoping to shake the rust off and rebound from a rough first season as a starter, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley played quite well on Saturday, completing 21-of-30 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown. However, Brantley also threw two interceptions in the contest. His first was tipped and eventually brought down, but his second was picked off in the end zone as he tried to fit the ball into traffic for a touchdown.

Florida’s offense, though dynamic, did not go deep into the playbook on Saturday and many of Brantley’s completions were on short passes. That being said, he also made some impressive throws and definitely showed an increased level of confidence, something he can improve on each week.

SECONDARY YOUNG BUT DEFENSE STOUT

Not only did the Gators hold the Owls to three points, they barely let them move the ball until the game was already over. Florida held FAU to just 30 rushing yards and 137 yards of total offense on Saturday. Though UF did not achieve any turnovers in the contest, they succeeded in turning a first-and-goal from the four into a 27-yard field goal and did not let Florida Atlantic capitalize on either of the other two interceptions they grabbed.

The young secondary – consisting of safeties sophomore Matt Elam and freshman De’Ante Saunders as well as cornerbacks sophomore Jaylen Watkins, sophomore Cody Riggs and freshman Marcus Roberson – played well but did make some mistakes.

Redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard and sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell each had a sack, while redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins led the Gators with five total tackles including a powerful hit felt by the entire stadium. Elam, Howard and redshirt junior LB Lerentee McCray each had four tackles.

OTHER NOTES

» Muschamp said after the game that Florida’s blue jerseys would be their standard going forward but that seniors on the team wanted to wear the orange on opening night. A Gainesville, FL native himself, Muschamp often used to see the Gators don orange jerseys at The Swamp.

» Redshirt senior transfer Dan Wenger started at left guard ahead of redshirt sophomore Kyle Koehne and redshirt freshman Chaz Green began the game at right tackle instead of redshirt junior Matt Patchan.

» Florida honored soccer stars Abby Wambach and Heather Mitts of the 2011 U.S. Women’s National Team during a break in the first quarter. The crowd chanted “U-S-A” for the duo, which has been in Gainesville all weekend.

» Former safety Ahmad Black, who was waived by Tampa Bay on Saturday, was on the sideline for the game. Former defensive end Kevin Carter was an honorary captain.

» The Gators sold out 137 consecutive home games before Saturday’s contest, which was only filled with 88,708 fans, according to UF.

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (9-1)

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.”

8 – Jeremy Brown (Orlando, FL)
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)
Freshman cornerback
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.”

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (19-10)

With just 10 days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 football season gets underway, the ninth 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 19-10.

19 – Caleb Sturgis (St. Augustine, FL)
Redshirt junior kicker
5’11” 183 lbs.

Quick Bio: An Under Armour High School All-American entering his fourth year at Florida, Sturgis majors in sport management and hopes to continue leading the Gators special teams unit as the starting kicker. A kickoff specialist during his freshman year, he became the primary place kicker in 2009 and hit 73.3 percent of his field goals (long: 56) and 44-of-47 extra points to score 110 points for Florida.

2010 Season: Sturgis did not get an opportunity to flourish like he wanted in his second season as the Gators’ starter. Suffering through back pain early in the season, he was forced to undergo surgery after just four games and was eventually awarded a medical redshirt by the NCAA. Sturgis hit just 2-of-4 field goal attempts and 19-of-21 extra points before being sidelined for the remainder of the year.

2011 Outlook: With an extra year of eligibility in his back pocket, Sturgis feels like his back is 100 percent healthy and enters the season as the team’s only scholarship kicker. Head coach Will Muschamp confirmed that he was doing well in camp two weeks ago. “He is strong; he had no issues in the summer as far as his workouts,” he said. “We changed his routine a little bit [he’s not doing squats anymore] as far as the things he did, but he’s been kicking the ball extremely well thus far in camp.”

17 – Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL)
Freshman quarterback
6’3” 239 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 sophomore safety Matt Elam and was also teammates with redshirt freshman tight end Gerald Christian and sophomore wide receiver Robert Clark in high school.

2011 Outlook: A bit behind the eight ball considering fellow freshman QB Jeff Driskel enrolled early and got a handle on the offense months before him, Brissett is currently competing with redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy to be the No. 3 quarterback. Praised for his mobility and quick grasp of the playbook, he will probably be competing with Driskel throughout his entire career with the Gators but is unlikely to pass him for the back-up quarterback job this season.

16 – Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL)
Freshman quarterback
6’4” 235 lbs.

Quick Bio: An early enrollee who joined Florida in January, Driskel is a former five-star recruit who was the Gatorade Florida Player of the Year and considered by most to be the No. 1 quarterback in the country in 2011.He threw for 1,819 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 1,333 yards and 20 touchdowns during his senior season and earned an Under Armour All-American nod for his efforts.

2011 Outlook: With redshirt senior QB John Brantley firmly implanted as the team’s starting signal caller, Driskel’s goal this offseason was to earn the back-up quarterback job. Though he started fall camp behind Murphy, he recently supplanted him as Brantley’s back-up and is beginning to pull away from the pack. “His growth process from spring, obviously he has worked extremely hard through the summer dedicating himself to the playbook and learning what to do and how to do it and why we’re doing it that way,” Muschamp said. “He’s had a very good camp at this point.”

15 – Loucheiz Purifoy (Pensacola, FL)
Freshman cornerback
6’1” 183 lbs.

Quick Bio: It’s a pretty gutsy move to don the No. 15 in the orange and blue, especially as a freshman, but the former four-star recruit hopes he can be just as impressive as his predecessor in that jersey. Purifoy was one of the best players at his position coming out of high school and chose to play for Florida over Alabama, Auburn and Miami (among others).

2011 Outlook: Though he is not likely to contend for a starting role this season, Purifoy has been impressing Muschamp during practice and is making a case to get some legitimate playing time during his first season. “I’ve been very pleased with Marcus Roberson and Louchiez Purifoy and what they can do. They’re very good athletes; they’re learning our system,” he said. “They did a good job studying this summer.”

14 – Jaylen Watkins (Cape Coral, FL)
Sophomore safety
6’0” 187 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A U.S. Army All-American and four-star recruit, Watkins is a social and behavioral sciences major who played in 10 games last year and had a career-high three tackles in the last contest of the season. Watkins worked primarily on special teams in 2010 but also saw some time in the secondary.

2011 Outlook: With Elam and junior Josh Evans pretty much set as the Gators’ starters at safety, Watkins will begin the 2011 season in a reserve role alongside redshirt freshman Joshua Shaw. He is enjoying Muschamp’s defense and hopes to continue following his instructions on how he can succeed in it. “[He tells me] just to be a football player. Everything is not going to be what it is on paper – just be an athlete out there,” Watkins said.

13 – Dee Finely (Auburn, AL)
Redshirt sophomore linebacker
6’2” 203 lbs.

Quick Bio: Originally a commitment in the 2008 recruiting class, Finley chose to attend prep school for a year in order to get his grades up so he could enroll. The Under Armour All-American and four-star recruit, who signed as a safety, joined the team in 2009 and notched seven tackles (five solo) in 10 games.

2010 Season: Moved from safety to linebacker, Finley saw the field the vast majority of the time on special teams. He was a primary fixture on the kickoff coverage and kickoff return units and accumulated seven tackles (five solo) over the course of four games. Finely missed the final seven contests of the season after fracturing his collarbone against LSU and was awarded a medical redshirt by the NCAA.

2011 Outlook: Called “solid” as a linebacker but “outstanding” as a special teamer by Muschamp, Finley will play a reserve role at the latter position in 2011 but should get plenty of playtime at a very shallow position. He missed a few days of training camp due to an undisclosed injury but has returned to action and is even drawing praise from his teammates. “He’s done very well,” junior LB Jon Bostic said. “He’s picked up a lot of things in these two-a-days.”

12 – John Brantley (Ocala, FL)
Redshirt senior quarterback
6’3” 219 lbs.

Quick Bio: A five-star quarterback, U.S. Army All-American and the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2006, Brantley was one of the most highly recruited players currently on Florida’s roster. The humanities and letters major redshirted as a true freshman but played quite well as a reserve during his second and third seasons. Combined, Brantley completed 54-of-76 pass attempts for 645 yards with 10 touchdowns and just one interception as Tim Tebow’s back-up.

2010 Season: Stepping into a starting role for the first time in his career, Brantley hoped the offense would be tailored to better suit his talents. Instead, the pro-style quarterback was asked to run a spread offense and struggled mightily. He completed only 60.8 percent of his passes (200-of-329) for 2,061 yards with nine TDs and 10 INTs over the course of the season. While Brantley remained the “starter” throughout the year, he ended up becoming part of a three-quarterback rotation halfway through the season and played mostly on third down, when the team was behind or in obvious passing situations.

2011 Outlook: After seriously considering transferring in the offseason, Brantley decided to stick with the Gators and (according to those who actually get to see him daily) has had a resurgence under new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Coaches and players have unanimously lauded his ability, consistency, improvement, leadership, arm strength and overall understanding of Weis’s offense. Muschamp has noted on numerous occasions that Brantley is not only his starter but significantly ahead (in terms of development) of the other passers. He has added that the offseason goal is to improve the protection in front of him and playmakers around him, insinuating that he is as solid a player as the offense has on its roster.

11 – Jordan Reed (New London, CT)
Redshirt sophomore tight end
6’3” 239 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A four-star quarterback coming out of high school, Reed dressed for five games in 2009 but did not see any action. The social and behavioral sciences major 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 last year 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.

2011 Outlook: With Brantley (again) taking over at quarterback and two incoming freshman filling in the depth at that position, Reed has officially moved to tight end full-time and will start at that position for Florida in 2011. He recently missed a few days of practice with a sore hamstring but has been impressive on the field. With freshman A.C. Leonard missing 6-8 weeks after undergoing surgery on a torn meniscus in early August, Reed will be counted on even more to be a receiving threat from the tight end position. “I’m excited about being the tight end,” Reed told The Gainesville Sun. “It’s been a lot easier on me than last year, knowing that I’ve just got to worry about one position.”

10 – Tyler Murphy (Wethersfield, CT)
Redshirt freshman quarterback
6’2” 209 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A two-star recruit , Murphy spent last year as a member of the scout team that helped the Gators prepare for their opponents. One of four quarterbacks on scholarship in 2010, the social and behavioral sciences major was the only one who did not end up seeing some game action.

2011 Outlook: Murphy is once again one of four quarterbacks on scholarship this year; however, the other two he is competing with for the back-up job have changed. With Reed now at tight end and sophomore Trey Burton listed as a running back, Murphy is the second most experienced passer on the Florida roster. Unfortunately for him, Driskel was recently promoted to be Brantley’s back-up ahead of him and he is now competing with Brissett for the No. 3 job. “Tyler Murphy has done a really nice job of managing the offense,” Muschamp said on Aug. 10. “We did a move the field today where the coaches got off the field and let the players play. Tyler took us on a nice drive down the field.”

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

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8/11: Christian, Sturgis, Jenkins, Bostic speak

With the Florida Gators having completed their first two-a-day practice of the 2011 season, a number of prominent players from all three units met with the media on Thursday to discuss how the team is progressing early on in camp.

CHRISTIAN’s TURN TO STEP UP

With freshman tight end A.C. Leonard going down with a torn meniscus and set to miss up to the entire season due to the injury, the onus is on sophomore Gerald Christian to play at an even higher level now that he will permanently play across from or in relief of starter redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed. Christian is unfazed by the increased responsibility. “Any time a man goes down, it puts pressure on the other players to step up,” he said. “I feel good. I like this offense a lot better than last year. It fits me and what I do. Out of high school I did the H-back and was a motion-type man.”

He also believes that the new offense gives the team a wide variety of options that may not have always been available last year. “Since we have two speedsters – Chris Rainey and [Jeff] Demps – we can spread the field like we’re running the ball and then we can also fake the play action and do play action passes; me and Jordan running routes; [Quinton] Dunbar, Frankie Hammond and Deonte Thompson – they’re fast too, can thrown the ball to them.” Hammond has impressed him in particular. “[He] has been looking really, really good,” Christian said. “He’s been consistent every day catching balls.”

STURGIS HEALTHY AND KICKING AGAIN

After missing most of 2010 due to multiple back injuries, redshirt junior kicker Caleb Strugis is healthy once again and not limited “at all” in his range of motion. “A lot has healed, and I’ve been taking better care of [my back],” he said. “Every day I go in and see AP, our athletic trainer, and he just has a routine for me everything I need to do – stretching, cold tank, massages.”

Sturgis explained Thursday that his back was so bad last year that it eventually “got to the point where I couldn’t [sleep].” He continued, “At the beginning of the season it was bearable and then it got worse and worse. […] I noticed it midway through camp, but I think it was one of those things that I progressively made it worse.” He said he is hitting field goals fine from upwards of 50 yards and is anxious to begin playing football again.

LINEBACKERS STILL SHAKING OUT

Aside from junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins holding down the fort on the inside, Florida’s starting linebacker situation remains very much up in the air. One thing Gators fans can be sure of is that Bostic and Jenkins communicate well both on and off the field, a quality that will certainly help the unit going forward.

Both players mentioned Thursday that redshirt junior Lerentee McCray (a defensive end who is also playing SAM linebacker) is spending a good amount of time playing with the starting unit at the latter position. Others rotating in and out of the outside roles include redshirt freshman Michael Taylor, redshirt sophomore Dee Finely, sophomore Darrin KitchensGideon Ajagbe and freshman Graham Stewart. “We’re all learning at the same pace; we’re all stepping up,” Jenkins said. “They have a lot of talent. Most of the stuff that they have to work on is just the mental aspect because they don’t have the most experience. As soon as they get it down so they can play fast, I think they’ll be fine.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

Christian on how Leonard is holding up: “He’s doing fine. I talked to him – he’s fine.”

Christian on sophomore wide receiver Robert Clark: “They don’t have him with the first team and stuff, but every time Robert gets reps he makes the most of it. He’s not a starter, but I think he’ll get time as an inside guy.”

Christian on Clark’s mentality: “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.”

Christian on what running two tight end sets allows: “We can run the ball – we have two points on either side so we can run the ball to either side. We have a H-back tight end, which is me, so I can always come off the ball and move into the fullback position and block off the edge.”

Sturgis on watching the Mississippi State game from the sideline:
“Any time your team loses, it’s tough to watch. That was pretty hard. It was hard putting Chas [Henry] through that – he hadn’t kicked since high school. He turned around after that though.”

Sturgis on losing Henry: “There’s no replacing Chas, he was the best punter in the country I think for a few years. There’s no replacing him, but Kyle [Christy] is a good freshman, and I think if he matures a little bit he’ll be good.”

Bostic on if Florida is a “young” team: “Somewhat, but a lot of the guys are really stepping up. Some of the sophomores are taking that leadership role.”

Bostic on how comfortable he is with the defense now in the fall: “Throughout the spring, I picked up the defense very easily. Even these two-a-days I still have a little rust on me where there is some stuff I have to work on.”

Jenkins on the defensive transition: “It’s a completely different system. It’s completely new, but we’re still able to run a lot of different pressures off of it.”

Jenkins on the percent of time the defense will be in the 3-4: “I think we’re going to be mainly in the 3-4 for running situations but I’m not too sure. The way we’re practicing, you can’t really tell what we’re going to be doing during the season.”

Jenkins noted that freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson has “been doing a good job” while others like freshman Jabari Gorman “have been coming through.” He also commented on a few second- and third-year players. “They’re just ballers from the get-go. Matt Elam and Cody Riggs and Josh Evans, they’re all guys that have a little bit more experience but are holding it down in the secondary.”

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (39-30)

With just 30 days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 football season gets underway, the seventh 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 39-30.

36 – Moses Jenkins (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Redshirt senior cornerback
6’2” 190 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Jenkins majors in social and behavioral sciences and is entering his fifth season with the team after being seriously injured (head) in 2009 and also missing games one year ago.

2010 Season: Earned his first career start in the season opener, but hyperextended his left elbow and sat out the following seven games. Ended up earning two more starts and playing in four more games but only amassed 15 total tackles and one interception on the season.

2011 Outlook: Granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA in 2010, Jenkins hopes to win a starting cornerback job opposite redshirt junior Jeremy Brown but will be competing with sophomore Cody Riggs among others for the opportunity.

34 – Lerentee McCray (Ocala, FL)
Redshirt junior defensive end
6’4” 250 lbs.

Quick Bio: A highly-ranked four-star linebacker in high school, McCray is a social and behavioral sciences major who has since shifted to defensive end. He played in 11 games over his first two seasons with the team but received a medical redshirt in 2009.

2010 Season: Back from injury, McCray played in 10 contests last year, missing three because of a sprained right ankle. His season highlight came in the Outback Bowl when he returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, but he also shined against Vanderbilt by registering a tackle, forced fumble and two hurries.

2011 Outlook: McCray will be competing to be one of the team’s primary starters at defensive end this fall. Senior William Green has one side locked up, and McCray that his athleticism and tenacity help him stand out from the pack for the other available spot. Head coach Will Muschamp, who put McCray at SAM linebacker at time during spring, also praised him for his leadership. “I love the new defense. You’ve just got to see it on the field. It’s a different concept, a different style of defense,” McCray said on March 21.

33 – Chris Johnson (Ocala, FL)
Freshman safety
5’10” 198 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit who attended the same high school as redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, Johnson enters the season as a versatile defensive back who gives Florida plenty of options.

2011 Outlook: “Chris Johnson from Trinity is a very physical player, in the box safety,” Muschamp said on National Signing Day. “He’s shown skills to play outside in the deep part of the field.” Johnson may not make much of an impact in 2011 beyond playing on special teams and is a candidate for a redshirt.

33 – Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA)
Sophomore running back
5’10” 205 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: One of the top running backs in the country coming out of high school, he was a four-star recruit who currently majors in social and behavioral sciences. He appeared in two games as a true freshman in 2010, carrying the ball three times for 23 yards.

2011 Outlook: One of five scholarship rushers on the roster, Brown has a pair of seniors (Jeff Demps and redshirt Chris Rainey) in front of him as well as junior Mike Gillislee. He was broke his fibula during the spring but had successful surgery and was supposed to return to working out in July. Between the injury and the stacked depth chart, his potential impact in 2011 is up in the air.

32 – Gerald Christian (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
Sophomore tight end
6’3” 245 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: An early enrollee last January, Christian was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, where he was teammates with fellow Gators safety Matt Elam and wide receiver Robert Clark. The social and behavioral sciences major played in eight games as a freshman on the field goal unit and in goal-line formations.

2011 Outlook: Muschamp worked Christian out extensively at linebacker in the spring (also giving him some time at tight end) but ultimately decided that offense was where he belonged. He said on April 21 that Christian had returned to playing tight end and fullback and would likely stick with that role. “He’s working awful hard. I’m very proud of his effort and what he’s trying to do,” Muschamp said. “He’s done some nice things for us at tight end.” Christian will have to compete with redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed (the likely starter) and four-star commit and early enrollee A.C. Leonard for playing time.

31 – Cody Riggs (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Sophomore cornerback
5’9” 180 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Riggs is a social and behavioral sciences major who is one of only six true freshman to play in all 13 games in 2010. He earned three starts (one in the Outback Bowl) and registered 18 tackles, three pass breakups and one interception. In addition to seeing plenty of time on defense, Riggs played as a gunner on the kickoff and punt coverage teams and had a solid first season in the Orange and Blue.

2011 Outlook: Muschamp said Riggs “had a great spring playing both corner and nickel” during a speaking engagement in April and said in March that he is the team’s most versatile defensive back. “Cody’s a good football player. He’s got a tremendous heart [and] all the ability as far as playing hard and playing fast and doing the things you got to do to be a good football player,” he added. With the loss of senior Janoris Jenkins, Muschamp may count on Riggs to start opposite Brown but could also use him in a variety of other ways.

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

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FOUR BITS: Macklin, Young, planking, Nelson

1 » Though the story is no longer available on the team’s website due to the NBA lockout, the Detroit Pistons had posted an interesting column focusing on their No. 52 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, former Florida Gators center Vernon Macklin. Evaluating his performances in workouts, team vice president Scott Perry raved about Macklin’s potential. “The biggest thing is, he didn’t look out of place,” Perry said. “He was physical, strong, could hold his position in the low post defensively, long arms and he competed. That’s what you want to see.”

Macklin also received support from Detroit personnel director George David, who fueled him during the Portsmouth Invitational. “He said, ‘Are you going to be Joakim Noah or his backup?’” Macklin recalls. “After my first game at PIT, he texted me and said, ‘You were Joakim Noah today.’ And he said the same thing at the end of the workout.”

2 » The 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 Team faltered at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championships on Wednesday, dropping a 87-85 contest to Croatia. Just a day earlier, the United States was triumphant in an equally close match, defeating Lithuania 107-105 in overtime. The constant in both games was the play of Florida sophomore center Patric Young, who has turned in some dominant performances after getting off to a slow start. Young went 5/7 both from the field and from the line for 15 points with seven rebounds in 26:24 on Tuesday and followed that up by shooting 7/8 from the floor for 16 points with eight boards in 26:19 on Wednesday. Over his last three international games, Young has shot 85.7 percent and averaged 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds.

3 » It has been just over a week since Gators redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail went on a planking spree, and OGGOA has had fun following many of Florida’s student-athletes as they take part in the activity. Things seem to have wound down a bit over the last few days and, therefore, we present you with this (potentially final) compilation wrapping up the latest planking attempts. You can view the rest of them here, here and here. The photos below feature Trail and sophomore wide receiver Robert Clark, redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison and softball players Hannah Rogers and Ensley Gammel.

4 » Keeping busy during the NFL’s lockout, Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson was recently in Las Vegas, NV and ended up on stage during a Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood concert. Below is a picture snapped by one of his friends.

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Planking spreads beyond Florida football

Updated on July 1 at 12:45 a.m.

OGGOA is now on day three of our planking watch as Florida Gators student-athletes try to up the ante and take the game to another level. On Thursday, some Florida softball, soccer and women’s basketball players joined in on the fun, but redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail continues to steal the show. Will someone catch up to him or overtake him? Only time will tell…

If you still need to catch up, here are the posts containing the pictures of what Trail and some other football players did Tuesday and Wednesday. Here are Trail’s newest submissions for Thursday as he takes it up a notch:

Even Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden got in on the fun…

The ladies’ efforts are more than respectable with sophomore pitcher/utility player Ensley Gammel and shortstop Cheyenne Coyle representing softball; junior forward Jennifer George, redshirt senior guard Jordan Jones and frosh G Carlie Needles featured for basketball; and sophomore F Taylor Travis taking a seat for soccer. Leading the way here, of course, are ladies from the gymnastics team.

Last but not least are another pair of submissions from the football team featuring redshirt freshman defensive tackle Leon Orr, sophomore wide receiver Robert Clark, sophomore tackle Ian Silberman and NFL centers Maurkice and Mike Pouncey

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Florida Gators WRs Dunkley, McRoy transferring

A pair of Florida Gators wide receivers have decided to transfer, the University of Florida announced on Friday. Redshirt freshman Chris Dunkley and freshman Javares McRoy will both continue their college careers at other institutions.

Dunkley, who was suspended from team activities this spring for academic reasons, has not announced where he will play.

“It’s been a great learning experience being here at the University of Florida,” he said in a release, “but I feel like it’s in my best interest to get a fresh start somewhere else.“

McRoy, who sat out the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut with what head coach Will Muschamp called a “medical procedure with his lung,” will join his brother on the Texas Tech Red Raiders, a school he initially committed to before switching to Florida.

“I enjoyed my time at Florida, but I really want the chance to play with my brother Ben, who is at Texas Tech,” he said in the release. “Florida has been very understanding and is giving me that opportunity.”

The Gators will enter the 2011 season with only nine scholarship receivers on the roster: redshirt senior Deonte Thompson; redshirt juniors Frankie Hammond, Jr. and Omarius Hines; redshirt sophomores Andre Debose and Stephen Alli; sophomores Robert Clark, Quinton Dunbar and Solomon Patton; and freshman Ja’Juan Story.

The departures of Dunkley and McRoy open up two additional scholarships Florida can use for the 2012 recruiting cycle.

“We wish both of these guys the best of luck in their future endeavors, both on and off the field,” Muschamp said.

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