Talking UF's 2-Deep Defense & Special Teams

With the release of the depth chart for the Gators at the conclusion of fall practice there weren't many surprises for those that have inhabited the confines of FightinGators.com. That said, there were some telling signs on the defensive side of the ball. We will talk about the two-deep depth chart on defense and a little bit on special teams and just what it means heading into the season.

Florida returns a lot of talent, but is replacing a lot of experience on both sides of the ball in 2011. On defense, it is a group of sophomores that looks to lead the charge, especially in the front seven. There are a couple of freshmen in the secondary that will have to step up as well.

Here is a look at the two-deep depth chart on defense before the opening game.


(SR)Jaye Howard
Defensive Line
BUCK - #7 Ronald Powell; #93 Kedric Johnson
Defensive Tackle - #2 Dominique Easley; #44 Leon Orr
NOSE Tackle - #6 Jaye Howard; #99 Omar Hunter
Defensive End - #73 Sharrif Floyd; #96 William Green

For the most part the defensive line finished the fall like it started the fall. All eight players are the same and the only real change comes in the move of Floyd to defensive end and ahead of Green. A move like that is a real positive in that it shows they are going to get their best four players on the field at the same time and in doing so in this case, they improved the second team when a probable starter is now in the second unit.

We haven't heard much about r from Powell this fall and it is a wait and see with him, luckily only a few more days. But, his backup in Johnson has supposedly had a very good fall and exceeded what was thought of him.

Easley is the guy privately and publicly that everyone raves about and he should have a terrific year. The great thing is his backup, Orr, seems ready to contribute and brings a bigger body in the middle at the NOSE.

The defensive tackle spot should be the most consistent position on the line and maybe on the defense. Two of the most experienced players on the team in Howard and Hunter reside at DT and it should be a real positive spot for this defense.


(SO)Jelani Jenkins

Linebacker
SAM #34 Lerentee McCray; #49 Darrin Kitchens
MIKE #52 Jonathan Bostic; #51 Michael Taylor
Will #3 Jelani Jenkins; #13 Dee Finley

I expect Jelani Jenkins to be the all-star of the entire defense. He finished 2010 as the second leading tackler on the team and enters as a real team leader this year. Finley is the backup and has a good fall camp by all accounts. He is slightly injured and so I wouldn't be surprised to see Chris Johnson show up on Saturday to play some at the position.

Bostic is evidently ready to go after a lackluster sophomore year. The staff has been very appreciative of Bostic's play and the hope and belief is he can fall back to the type of play maker he was in limited time as a freshman. Taylor is waiting to get on the field and in this man's opinion will get to see playing time and take full advantage of it when he does. He is one of if not the top backup on defense in 2011 in this man's opinion.

The SAM in most circumstances is another BUCK on the field or at least the two should be interchangeable. For that reason, I expect to see McCray pin his ears back and get after the quarterback a lot. McCray may very well be the pass rusher on defense. Kitchens has gotten a little praise but will be less of a pass rush specialist and more of a pure SAM backer that may be asked to play in coverage or just play his gap in run situations.


(FR)Marcus Roberson
Cornerback
CB #5 Marcus Roberson OR #14 Jaylen Watkins OR #8 Jeremy Brown
CB #36 Moses Jenkins OR #31 Cody Riggs #15; Loucheiz Purifoy
Nickel #26 Pop Saunders; #31 Cody Riggs

Roberson may be the biggest talk of fall camp. The true freshman from Ft. Lauderdale is all but expected to start in his first game at Florida and plays the position with a purpose. Brown has been injured and it appears more and more likely he will miss the first game. Before the injury he was one of the starters and his return shortly will be a very good thing. The fact that Watkins can be moved from corner to safety and back to corner again and still be listed as a possible starter says a lot about his ability. Watkins has good size and really good athleticism to go along with some intelligence that will get him on the field early and often even if he doesn't start.

Riggs is probably the most consistent cornerback this fall and I expect him to start even with senior Jenkins listed as a possibility. Riggs is the toughest man to man guy even with his size according to all of the receivers on the team. Jenkins has made strides but had a rough year in 2010. Purifoy has played very well for a true freshman and has drawn some praise from the coaching staff. He will likely play a good bit in 2011.

Saunders and Riggs are listed at nickel and both provide aggressive play on smaller guys but I still expect to see a bigger defensive back in there when matched up against LSU or Bama style receivers.


(SO)Matt Elam
Safety #22 Matt Elam; #9 Josh Shaw
#26 Pop Saunders; #24 Josh Evans

Muschamp said it recently and Elam has been the most consistent of the safeties and has secured his spot in the rotation. They now play a left or right safety, but Elam will still mostly be the one employed as the strong safety and in the box. Shaw has come on strong lately and deserves that second spot. He has the tools to be a good and always seems to have a good playing attitude.

Saunders is a big surprise and has moved in as the starter even with the move over from cornerback. In high school Saunders was always an instinctive defensive back and very aware of where the ball was at all times, something the free safety type player needs in this defense. Evans has strong moments and then he makes some mistakes, but has all the tools to be a good one. Te mechanics of the position are a big thing for him.


(SR)Chris Rainey
Specialists
Punter #40 David Lerner; #44 Kyle Christy
Holder #47 John Crofoot; #10 Tyler Murphy
Kicker #19 Caleb Sturgis; #98 Zack Brust
Long Snapper #46 Drew Ferris; #54 Christopher Guido
Punt Returner #1 Chris Rainey; #11 Jordan Reed OR #85 Frankie Hammond

It is a bit of a surprise that Lerner was able to take the punting duties away from Christy, but he has been good enough to also earn a scholarship after walking on for a while at Florida. Again, I see it only as a positive if a position is improved by a new player that wasn't expected to take that spot.

Sturgis seems back to his old self on field goals and can make him from anywhere. The jury is still out on whether they will use him on kickoffs or use Brust who was thrown to the wolves on the road against Alabama last year the week that Sturgis went down with his back injury.

Rainey is the starter as a punt returner and has shown great flashes in the past. The one guy that will draw everyone's attention is Jordan Reed. At 6-4, 250 pounds, what gunner is going to want to try and tackle that guy. Hammond is a guy that will be consistent and not make mistakes, sometimes you need one of your older players to step up and do that for you.


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