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2011 Florida Gators football preview

Basics

Coach: Will Muschamp (first season)

2010 record: 8-5; 4-4 SEC

Conference/division: SEC/East

Conference titles: 1991, 1993-96, 2000, 2006, 2008

National titles: 1996, 2006, 2008

Area players

Cole Gilliam, R-So., G, Durant; Deandre Goins, So., RB, Dunedin; Chaz Green, R-Fr., OT, Tampa Catholic; Jon Halapio, R-So., G, St. Petersburg Catholic; Cody Hampton, Sr., LS, Boca Ciega; Evan Holmes, Fr., DE, Lakewood; Hunter Joyer, Fr., RB, Wesley Chapel; Michael McNeely, Fr., WR, Palm Harbor U.; Leon Orr, R-Fr., DT, Gulf; Matt Patchan, R-Jr., OT, Armwood; Scott Peek, R-Jr., LB, Freedom; Ben Sams, So., RB, St. Petersburg; Ja'Juan Story, Fr., WR, Nature Coast Tech

Position analysis

QUARTERBACK

Senior John Brantley returns after a disappointing season in which he threw more interceptions than touchdowns as he struggled in a spread offense that clearly was not a good fit for him. With a new coaching staff and a pro-style offense, Brantley will finally be allowed to perform in a system where he's comfortable. His backups are freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett, and redshirt sophomore Tyler Murphy — none of whom have seen one minute of game action.

RUNNING BACKS

Look for a more traditional running game than the one run under Urban Meyer. Florida believes senior Jeff Demps, who briefly contemplated giving up football to run track full time, and senior Chris Rainey, could become a formidable duo. Each possesses speed and the ability to make defenders miss in open space.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Florida lost four starters, and the most experrience comes from Xavier Nixon and Jon Halapio (St. Petersburg Catholic), who each started seven games last season. Injuries kept the line from working together much in the spring, so they're playing catch-up now. Notre Dame transfer Dan Wenger provides experience and the only working knowledge of the new system. Matt Patchan (Armwood) and fifth-year senior James Wilson were both highly rated high school prospects who've been derailed by multiple injuries but might be fully healthy for the first time in their UF careers.

RECEIVERS

Proven playmakers are scarce. The Gators need senior Deonte Thompson to finally reach the potential he has exhibited at times over the past several years. He led the team with 38 receptions last season, but Florida ranked No. 11 in the SEC in passing efficiency — partly because no one emerged as a big-play receiver. The Gators have high expectations for Quinton Dunbar, and Frankie Hammond seems poised to have a breakout season. And don't forget tight end Jordan Reed, who has the size (6 feet 3, 237) to be a huge mismatch problem for opponents.

DEFENSIVE LINE

This unit is highlighted by three five-star recruits in Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell, but each has much to prove after underachieving freshman seasons. Floyd will start at end, but he can play tackle and nose. With his size and speed off the edge, the staff is hoping Powell can excel at the new hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position.

LINEBACKERS

Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic will anchor this unit on the outside and middle, bringing with them 17 combined starts. Jenkins has speed, but he must improve on tackling. Lerentee McCray's impressive spring has the staff excited about his emergence at strongside. Unproven players such as freshman Chris Johnson, redshirt freshman Mike Taylor and sophomore Darrin Kitchens comprise the depth.

SECONDARY

The loss of All-SEC CB Janoris Jenkins (dismissed from the team) leaves the position with little experience. CB Jeremy Brown, who has 10 starts from last season, missed a portion of fall camp (sprained knee) but is expected to be ready to play. Sixth-year senior Moses Jenkins is finally healthy, and sophomores Matt Elam and Cody Riggs are coming off solid freshman seasons.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Caleb Sturgis returns after missing most of last year with a back injury. The former Lou Groza Award (top placekicker) semifinalist is the solid starter who possesses accuracy and range. Former walk-on David Lerner is expected to handle punting duties, and touted freshman Kyle Christy is in the mix. The punt and kick return teams should be solid with speed from Chris Rainey and possibly Jeff Demps.

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

Capacity: 88,548. Tickets: Available for Florida Atlantic (Saturday), UAB (Sept. 10), Vanderbilt (Nov. 5) and Furman (Nov. 19). Order online at gatorzone.com/tickets or call toll-free 1-800-344-2867, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sept. 17

vs.

Tennessee

3:30 p.m., Ch. 10

Sept. 10

vs.

UAB

7 p.m., FSN

Saturday

vs.

Florida Atlantic

7 p.m., ESPNU

Oct. 8

at

LSU

TBA

Oct. 1

vs.

Alabama

TBA

Sept. 24

at

Kentucky

TBA

Nov. 5

vs.

Vanderbilt

TBA

Oct. 29

at

Georgia

3:30 p.m., Ch. 10

Oct. 15

at

Auburn

TBA

Nov. 26

vs.

Florida State

TBA

Nov. 19

vs.

Furman

TBA

Nov. 12

at

South Carolina

TBA

2011 Florida Gators football preview 08/28/11 [Last modified: Sunday, August 28, 2011 11:51pm]

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