Gators must replace 13 starters from 2012 team

By Adam Silverstein
January 7, 2013

The last time the Florida Gators saw a handful of juniors move on to the NFL Draft was the 2009 season and fans have certainly not forgotten how the team looked in the two years subsequent to those departures.

And while Florida now has four junior starters having declared for the 2013 NFL Draft to go along with the nine senior starters departing the program, the Gators are in a better position to move forward next season even if there may be a few bumps in the road.

On offense, Florida will lose five starters including left tackle Xavier Nixon (senior), left guard James Wilson (redshirt senior), running back Mike Gillislee (senior), wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. (redshirt senior) and tight end Jordan Reed (draft).

The Gators have freshman LT D.J. Humphries ready to replace Nixon, numerous offensive linemen (including JUCO transfers) and running backs who can fill in at left guard and rusher, and young wide receivers who will be fighting it out all spring and summer for both wide receiver spots.

Finding a fill-in for Reed is another story as freshman Kent Taylor did not see much action in 2012 and classmate Colin Thompson took a redshirt season after joining the team with a foot injury. Coaches could move junior Trey Burton to more of a full-time tight end role in order to provide more playmaking ability at the position.

Florida also has a replacement in line for kicker Caleb Sturgis (redshirt senior) as freshman Austin Hardin has retained all four years of his eligibility by not playing in 2012. He is expected to win the job in 2013.

Where the Gators will have to do the most shuffling is on defense now that the team has lost seven starters from its normal alignment including defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd (draft) and Omar Hunter (redshirt senior), Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray (redshirt senior), Mike LB Jon Bostic (senior), Will LB Jelani Jenkins (draft) and safeties Matt Elam (draft) and Josh Evans (senior).

Junior defensive end Dominique Easley has decided to return, which gives Florida some flexibility as he can play both inside and out. UF has a number of defensive linemen returning including talented reserves like junior Damien Jacbos and redshirt sophomore Leon Orr who can hold down the middle as well.

The emergence of freshmen standouts Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler, Jr., along with the likely return of Buck LB Ronald Powell from injury, should ease any concerns by fulfilling the team’s needs at pass rush.

Freshman Antonio Morrison is the odds-on favorite to replace Bostic in the middle, and a veteran like redshirt sophomore Michael Taylor or an incoming freshman like Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL) could jump into Jenkins’s vacant spot.

Where the Gators will struggle the most is in replacing both of their safeties. Sophomore De’Ante Saunders would have filled one of those roles, but he and the school have parted ways. Florida has an impressive crop of underclassmen on the roster and an equally talented defensive back recruiting class on its way in, but like wide receiver, those safety jobs will have to be won through intense in-camp competition.

If ever head coach Will Muschamp’s “man down, man up” is to apply for the Gators, the 2013 offseason is the time.


  1. Aron Weingard says:

    Is there any chance that we could move Louchez to Safety? Great ball skills, hits hard, etc…I feel like we may have enough corners with Watkins, Riggs, Hargraves, etc…Adam, thoughts?

    • My thoughts are that I agree with you that Florida has a TON of corners. But I’m not sure Purifoy is the one worth moving. Maybe Poole. Ledbetter is an option (he is a safety anyway) to start.

      • J says:

        Marcus May is better than Ledbetter coverage and can play LB well. Poole is going to be a standout CB. He will win the starting role with Hargraves backing him up. Hargraves will be a starter in Nickle downs. Harris, will take over one of the safety spots and play like matt elam did for us by mid season.

  2. BRLgator says:

    I would really prefer to keep Louchez at CB. He has great coverage and is only about 190lbs. You gotta be 200lbs to play safety in my book.

    PS I think we are really going to miss Josh Evans, he was solid back there in run support and allowing elam to play aggressive all over the field. He was great centerfielder for us… (assist to EJLgator on that one)

  3. Bruce says:

    I would keep Purifoy at corner where he has all-american potential and move the young (and thicker build) Brian Poole to Safety.

  4. Crock says:

    The defense better be outstanding again which will be a tall task.
    This offense isn’t going to win games without help.

  5. Chris says:

    So here is a theory on how to plug up the holes. I think the o-line will fix its self. As far as defense I think the DL will be good if we move Easley back inside and start Bullard on the out side, with Powell and Fowler at the buck spot. Morrison I like at the will LB spot with micheal Taylor at the middle and maybe groom Cox jr for that spot he can run well and he a big backer. Which is what Muschamp likes. His 240 pound frame will help in the run game. And we’ll he’s not gonna beat out fowler or Powell at the buck spot. As far as the backend. I am not against moving purifoy to the offensive side of the ball. Because we need playmakers. And with Vernon coming in and Poole on the roster now we won’t be hurting in the corner department. For safety we have a lot of playmakers there just no experience there. I think maye would of got playing time if he was healthy. And Harris is a guy who can step in and play as a freshmen. I think the guys we brought in last year and the year before that has bad time to learn will be able to step up.

  6. Ken (CA) says:

    Interesting how things change as the guys grow up and mature. When this class first came in I would have sworn Easley would have been the first one running for the NFL door, now here he is, the one that stays for one more year…

  7. Wpelfrey says:

    I’m not worried about the defense at all, it will sort it’s self out with 3 year under Dan Quinn! The defense will be as good or better!! There is 3 concerns for next year in my eyes for us, Wide Reciever, O-Line, and Kicker. If we can get good strides forward we will be ok! Driskel is a good QB most of the turnovers were because the oline let the pressure get to him or receivers wasn’t getting open or running wrong routes! Gillislee was good but there is a whole stable of good backs now!

  8. Spike says:

    We should be worried about defense. Unless the pass rush is phenomenal- and it hasn’t been for years, young secondaries go through hard times. No matter how talented. So safety will be a big problem.

  9. Chris says:

    I think Driskel will mature and get better. But am not so sure that it’s all the receivers fault that we didn’t have a lot of recievers make big plays. If you watch some of the sugar bowl game from a coach’s standpoint Driskell wasn’t reading the defense all that well. He missed a lot of open recievers because he takes so long to go through his progressions.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      it wasnt just the Sugar Bowl. i will say this though, Jeff better not miss a play next year or we will be looking at 2011 all over again.

  10. Aligator says:

    I think we will be solid because of the schedule we play and the way they have rotated people pn both sides of the ball. Will we win a NC? doubt it, but we will be in the hunt to make it to Atlanta. We have two tough games, GA and SC. If we only drop one of those, we are still looking at an 11-1 regular season. The Defense will be sound and the Offense will be better than it has in several years.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      “If we only drop one of those, we are still looking at an 11-1 regular season”

      Can’t think like that man. Just look at the ULL game this year. Anything can happen on any Saturday.

      • gatorboi352 says:

        “and the Offense will be better than it has in several years.”

        I must say I am excited about the prospects of our new O linemen coming in and Matt Jones handling the rock behind them. Dude has a chance to be very Eddie Lacy like next year, and if that’s the case I don’t care who you throw out there at QB.

  11. Skillz says:

    Florida will do fine. If these freshman that are coming in early show what they can do and hit the weight room hard.. Florida will fill all voids that they have. GO GATOR NATION

  12. Walt P says:

    Wish it was that easy. Everything relies on if JD progress if not. Going be a long season. Then stop bashing the WRs they played ball. The ball has to reach them to make plays.

  13. Kyle says:

    Wish harris had made it as an EE…
    The oline has to work on blitz pickup- Davis improved the group no doubt but blitz pickup was an F!!

  14. Kyle says:

    Someone mentioned JDs slow progressions – I think he waited patiently for reed to open up but teams over/under’d him as the hot read
    Real big gettin Robinson in as EE

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