Starting Strong

The Florida Gators have reached the midpoint of the season as they now enjoy a much-needed week off before hitting the road again to face Kentucky. For the most part, there haven't been any surprises on the field, but over the next few days we'll recognize some of the individual performances from the season's first half.

With a young team, the obvious focus is on the play of the true freshmen. In my first segment, I'll take a look at what newcomers have made major contributions in the Gators' first six games.

#1 Joe Haden --- What an amazing start the true freshman from Friendly, Maryland is off to. Haden came to Gainesville expecting to play wide receiver after being a dominating quarterback in high school, but made the move to corner in search of immediate playing time. Not only has he played immediately, but Haden has been a bright star on the defensive side of the ball. Haden ranks fifth on the Gators with 32 tackles, leads the team with five break-ups and just picked off his first pass against LSU on Saturday night. Haden has already graded out as a champion twice this season and certainly has a bright future wearing the Orange and Blue.

#2 Major Wright --- Senior safety Kyle Jackson got off to a bad start through the first couple of games this season opening the door for Major Wright. The hard-hitting freshman made a name for himself in fall camp after knocking Chris Rainey out of his shoes and has continued that play into the season. Wright is fourth on the team with 36 tackles, which is pretty amazing considering he split time with Jackson through the first four games. Now a full time starter, Wright has also forced two fumbles and graded out as a champion against Auburn and Tennessee.

#3 Maurkice Pouncey --- The true freshman guard from Lakeland stepped into a starting role after the Gators learned that senior tackle Phil Trautwein was out for the season. Not only has Pouncey jumped a couple of sophomores on the depth chart, but he also neutralized one of the nation's best defensive players on Saturday night against LSU when he contained Glenn Dorsey to just five tackles.

#4 Torrey Davis --- Davis has played in five of six games and posted five tackles, including a sack. The freshman from Seffner Armwood has become a fixture in the defensive tackle rotation and will continue to see his playing time increase each game. With both starters being seniors - Clint McMillan and Javier Estopinan - the experience that Davis is gaining this year will benefit the Gators in the upcoming years.

#5 Aaron Hernandez --– The freshman tight end from Connecticut has benefited from a minor injury to senior Tate Casey, which has allowed him to see more playing early this season. The 6-2, 256-pounder has added extra protection on passing downs and has also caught a pass through six games. As the offense continues to grow and as Hernandez continues to mature, he could become a major part of the passing game the way Urban Meyer used Ben Moa at Utah.

Other Contributors: Punter Chas Henry, Cornerback Moses Jenkins, Safety Ahmad Black, Quarterback Cameron Newton, Defensive End Carlos Dunlap, Defensive End Duke Lemmens and Defensive Tackle Justin Trattou

Questions or comments? Contact's Chris Chmielenski

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