FLORIDA Team Report


Florida is entering 2010 without an identity,

There is a new starting quarterback, John Brantley, to take the reins from iconic quarterback and former Heisman Winner Tim Tebow. New defensive stars will need to emerge with the loss of long-time coordinator Charlie Strong and three starters that declared early for the NFL draft,

"We're going to do what we do well," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "If that's I-formation, if it's the shotgun, if it's Jordan Reed at quarterback, if it's throwing the ball all over the lot. I don't know. This reminds me of year one and year two at Florida - and year one, two, three and four at my first two jobs (at Bowling Green and Utah)."

Meyer apparently hasn't lost his fire after a brief leave of absence. He got into a much publicized spat with an Orlando Sentinel reporter. Caught on camera, Meyer was defending his receiver Deonte Thompson after he felt a quote of Thompson's was taken out of context. In the quote, Thompson referred to Brantley as a "real quarterback" when comparing Brantley to the more mobile Tebow.

"That's the Coach Meyer I remember for sure," said receivers coach Zach Azzanni, one of four new coaches on UF's staff and a former coach under Meyer at Bowling Green. "I think he's having fun out here coaching again. I think he's having fun, and there's new blood around here."

The Gators lost nine starters, including five juniors who declared for the NFL draft, from a team that went 13-1 and beat Cincinnati 51-24 in the Sugar Bowl. But Meyer has brought the nation's top-ranked recruiting class to Gainesville. Several freshmen could contribute right away.

"He's got a great team," Azzanni said. "He's excited about the team. It's kind of re-invigorated him, and I love it. I follow his lead. All of us coaches follow his lead. We go as he goes."


--S Matt Elam has taken advantage of enrolling early. Elam, a five-star recruit from West Palm Beach, has started in the nickel package and made plays all spring. Don't be surprised if Elam gets plenty of playing time and makes big plays in 2010, even though he's behind projected starters Will Hill and Ahmad Black.

--LB Dee Finley had a rough adjustment making a position switch this spring. The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Finley was recruited as a safety before moving to linebacker.

"It's a bit uncomfortable to him probably, but it's the best spot for him physically," assistant defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater said. "He recognizes it's his best opportunity ... Hopefully he'll keep getting better.

"He'll be a special teams player for us and eventually graduate from there."

--Florida coach Urban Meyer said he received advice and encouragement from Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski during his leave of absence. Krzyzewski took a leave of absence during the 1995 season after undergoing back surgery.

"I think the biggest thing I learned from him is he surrounds himself with a little pack of people that he really trusts," Meyer said. "If you look at his staff, they're all former players and they're all people (he can trust). He can do that because he has such a small staff. I think that's important, get in that little fox hole mentality where you're with the guys who care about you and you care about them."


LB Jelani Jenkins -- The redshirt freshman has played all three linebacker positions this spring and has played well wherever he's lined up. Despite his size, Jenkins (6-0, 220 pounds) could end up starting at middle linebacker next fall, with A.J. Jones and Brandon Hicks starting on the outside.

DE Duke Lemmens -- Defensive line coach Dan McCarney has called Lemmens "the most improved player on the defensive line." A career backup, McCarney said that Lemmens would be starting at defensive end opposite Justin Trattou if the season was to start today.

WR Frankie Hammond Jr. -- The sophomore receiver has had an excellent spring and is emerging as a favorite go-to target for quarterback John Brantley in the passing game.

CB Jeremy Brown -- After missing two seasons with a bad back, Brown is making a run at the starting cornerback spot vacated when underclassmen Joe Haden declared for the NFL draft. Brown is competing with Moses Jenkins and Adrian Bushell

QB/TE Jordan Reed -- Reed came into the spring converted to tight end but also been used effectively as a Wildcat quarterback in direct-snap run situations. Florida coach Urban Meyer said the Gators could turn to Reed as a chance of pace QB to replace more traditional drop-back throwing quarterback John Brantley. It would be similar to how Florida used Tim Tebow in running situations as a freshman as a replacement for then-starter Chris Leak.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If we can fit all the pieces together, we could have a strong attack. Because you have a strong running game, you still have got a Wildcat component and Johnny can throw it like hell," Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, on UF's offense and new quarterback John Brantley.


2010 OUTLOOK: Florida lost a stellar senior class and five underclassmen from its 2009 team to the NFL draft.

But the Gators, coming off a 13-1 season and a BCS bowl appearance, have stockpiled enough talent through recruiting to remain a national title contender.

The big question is how drop-back quarterback John Brantley will fare in Florida coach Urban Meyer's spread offense. The offense may wind up being more conventional with Brantley under center to take advantage of his strengths as a downfield passer. Some playmakers will need to emerge. Redshirt junior receiver Deonte Thompson will have no more excuses now that he has a quarterback that can take advantage of his strengths as a downfield receiver.

UF's defense will be seeking some new playmakers to emerge to replace pass rusher Carlos Dunlap, cornerback Joe Haden, linebacker Brandon Spikes and safety Major Wright. True freshmen Matt Elam (safety) and Ronald Powell (defensive end) have chances to make immediate impacts.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: How different will the offense look in the post-Tim Tebow era? Florida junior quarterback John Brantley is more of a thrower than a runner with a strong arm and a quick release. That could mean more I-formation sets and more use of fullbacks T.J. Pridemore and Steven Wilks. But Florida coach Urban Meyer has also experimented with some Wildcat packages this spring with mobile backup QBs Trey Burton and Jordan Reed. The strength of the unit is on the offensive line. All five projected starters (tackle Xavier Nixon, guard Carl Johnson, center Mike Pouncey, guard James Wilson and tackle Marcus Gilbert) have prior starting experience.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Even with new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin hired this past offseason, Florida's defense will run a similar 4-3 scheme. There will be some 3-4 mixed in and some zone blitzes to take advantage of UF's strength at linebacker. Jelani Jenkins has had an excellent spring and Jon Bostic continues to progress. Both will help returning starters A.J. Jones and Brandon Hicks. The defensive line has been banged up this spring with defensive tackles Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders and Brandon Antwine all out with various ailments. Redshirt sophomore Earl Okine has stepped in and taken advantage of more snaps at defensive coordinator.

SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Florida returns both of its specialists in the kicking game, punter Chas Henry and place-kicker Caleb Strugis. Strugris made 22 of 30 field goal attempts last season and was 6 for 9 from beyond 40 yards. Henry averaged 43.4 yards per punt last season and had 15 punts downed inside the 20. A new returner will need to emerge to replace Brandon James, who returned a combined five punts/kickoffs for TDs during a stellar UF career. Redshirt junior running back Chris Rainey is the leading candidate to replace James, but Rainey has been slowed this spring by hamstring issues.


S Matt Elam -- An early enrollee, Elam looks physically ready to play right away behind starting free safety Will Hill. Elam is an exceptional athlete who could see time on offense in some direct snap situations.

QB Trey Burton -- With former third-string quarterback Jordan Reed now at tight end, Burton will get plenty of reps behind first-year starter John Brantley. Burton enters the spring at Brantley's backup. Incoming freshman Tyler Murphy, the most mobile of the three quarterbacks, will be third string.

CB Joshua Shaw -- The 6-foot-2, 182-pound Shaw, a high school All-American from California, is an excellent athlete who could compete for the starting cornerback job vacated when Joe Haden declared early for the NFL draft.


--Redshirt freshman wide receiver Andre DeBose is back at full speed in practice. DeBose, a five-star recruit from outside Orlando, sat out all last season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn hamstring.

--WR Carl Moore left the team for a week during spring drills due to personal issues but is back in good standing and has practiced well during the final week of spring drills. Moore, a senior, was granted a medical redshirt after sitting out all of last season with a bad back.

--Prized 2010 DE recruit Ronald Powell visited spring practice in early April. Powell, from Moreno Valley, Calif,, opted not to enroll early but could make an immediate impact for the Gators if he does well in fall drills. Powell also was an excellent wide receiver in high school and UF coach Urban Meyer has not ruled out using Powell on offense in some situations.


Previous Report: 04/11/2010




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