Reviewing the Gators Roster

Well the offseason is doing its usual bit, reshaping the Florida roster and changing the recruiting dynamics for the year ahead. This offseason has been particularly difficult for the Gators, not because of the total numbers, but because of the positional assault the roster has been under.

Since the end of spring practice the Gators have lost three potential safeties from the 2008 roster. Jerimy Finch, Jamar Hornsby and Dee Finely are out the picture as far as the Gator secondary is concerned and that leaves UF rather shorthanded.

Pending position changes among the returning players the Gators will enter 2008 with just four safeties on the roster. The Gators feel pretty good about the starters with Major Wright and Dorian Munroe, but neither provides the big play potential you'd like to have back there. Bryan Thomas has yet to show he can contribute and the fourth safety is highly touted freshman phenom Will Hill.

While the safety position has just four guys on hand there are nine cornerback candidates on the roster. Common sense demands that one or two of them switch this fall. Ahmad Black is the logical first choice since he spent some time at safety in his rookie year. At 5-9, 177, Black lacks the size you'd like to have there, but he's a physical kid and could be effective in the nickel spot. The better candidate is probably Moses Jenkins who is an unusually tall corner at 6-3. He seems to have the speed for corner, so a move to safety might unleash some big play potential in a Florida secondary that really needs it.

Recruiting By The Numbers

I have the Gators with 81 scholarship players for the upcoming fall with just nine seniors among them. Before you factor in attrition Florida would have room for just 13 recruits in 2009, and they already have six commitments leaving room for just seven more.

Of course, there will be attrition between now and next fall. There are two players under scholarship who could well be declared "permanently injured", freeing up those spots. Add in a couple that could turn pro and a couple more who may well not be back as fifth year seniors and you have a reasonable expectation of six vacancies.

So assuming Florida can add another 14 or so for next year how will that balance out? Florida needs four more offensive linemen, and with two commitments that's two more. Add two receivers, a tight end, running back and QB and you have eight of the 14 on offense. That makes sense because seven of the Gators nine seniors are on offense.

Defensively, the emphasis needs to be at safety and linebacker. The only senior on defense is Javier Estopinan, but Florida could still return 15 defensive linemen. They have one commitment there and would take another. After that they should focus on a trio of linebackers and two safeties. Dee Finley will be one of those guys, but few would be surprised if he grew into a LB in the year ahead.

The bottom line is that Florida's roster is in very good shape in terms of talent, but still has work to do to achieve ideal age and positional balance. Getting it right this spring should take care of those needs as well.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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