December 28, 2010

Grading the class of 2010 - Part II

With a little more than five weeks left until the Gators officially sign their next group of players, now is as good a time as any to take a closer look back at the players who made up the second-rated class of 2010.

As it turned out, the high marks and accolades heaped upon the class were deserved as a majority of the class played and some freshmen received post-season honors.

Two Gators were named to the Freshman All-SEC Team (Burton and Floyd).

Florida will be able to sell early playing time to its 2011 recruiting targets, as the Gators were among the best in the country at playing its true freshmen.

* 18 of the 27 signees played in at least one game.

* 4 started at least one game (Burton, Floyd, Powell, Riggs).

* UF played 15 freshmen on opening week, more than any other school in the nation.

* In Florida's first SEC road game, at Tennessee, 27 percent of the travel roster was made up of true freshman players.

* The Gators finished the season second the nation in true freshmen played, behind Air Force by only one.

In late August, right before the start of the season, previewed the incoming class and predicted who would and would not play (Freshman Report: Predicting who plays - Today we'll take a closer look at those who played, those who didn't and what next season may hold in store for the group.

Waiting to see: This is the biggest group of players. Some are on here because they didn't play at all, while others are on here because of the very limited amount of action they saw. There are unanswered questions about each and every one of these young men.

Gideon Ajagbe 6-foot-2, 212-pound linebacker

Question: He didn't make a lot of noise in preseason camp or during the 2010 season. There are several other freshmen linebackers who may be ahead of him in the pecking order. With the typical Will Muschamp defense favoring bigger linebackers, can Ajagbe put on a few pounds and challenge some of the guys in front of him for playing time? Or will he get lost in the shuffle and end up stuck behind those players for a few years?

2011 Outlook: The first thing he needs to focus on in the off-season is adding some size. If Ajagbe can do that, he'll have a chance to compete for time in the rotation at linebacker. Still, he's probably at least another year or two away from any significant playing time.

Mack Brown 5-foot-10, 193-pound running back

Question: Brown was buried on the depth chart in 2010 and wasn't able to crack into the playing rotation even with significant injuries to the group throughout the year. He's one of the more physical backs on the roster, but will he be able to show enough in practice to merit playing time in front of guys like Jeff Demps or Mike Gillislee? Could he be the consistent, every-down back that the Gators are looking for?

2011 Outlook: With the Gators moving to a pro-style offense, Brown's chances for playing time only improve. He and Gillislee are the biggest backs on the roster. That should make them candidates for more playing time moving forward.

Quinton Dunbar 6-foot-2, 170-pound wide receiver

Question: After being the talk of preseason camp, Dunbar fell off the radar and wasn't heard from throughout the 2010 season. Was Urban Meyer's praise of him simply a psychological game to try to coax more out of him? Or was Dunbar really a playmaker in practice who just didn't get a look on the field this year?

2011 Outlook: If Dunbar was as good as coaches and players said before the year began, then starting with a clean slate and a new coaching staff can only improve his chances of getting on the field. Florida needs some dynamic playmakers in the passing game, and Dunbar could be that guy.

Chris Dunkley 5-foot-11, 174-pound wide receiver

Question: After coming in as the gem of the receiver class, Dunkley was slowed by hamstring issues. He never really recovered to work his way onto the field. Will the hamstring issues linger? Or can Dunkley get back to the explosive playmaker who was coveted by just about every major college football program?

2011 Outlook: So much of Dunkley's future hinges upon the health of his injured hamstring that it's hard to accurately predict what the next year will look like for him. If he's healthy, there's a good bet he'll figure prominently into the receiver mix somewhere.

Chaz Green 6-foot-5, 289-pound offensive tackle

Question: Green was arguably the most physically impressive offensive lineman on Florida's roster in 2010. However, with a veteran group at offensive line, neither he nor any of the other highly-touted youngsters up front got much run. With four of the five linemen leaving the Gators, can Green emerge as a future star for Florida? Will his play on the field match his physique?

2011 Outlook: With so many departures on the offensive line, Green will get plenty of chances to win a starting spot on the line. With his size and strength, he has to be one of the favorites to get extensive playing time after a dominant high school career.

Darrin Kitchens 6-foot-2, 218-pound linebacker

Question: After playing exclusively on special teams in 2010, Kitchens finds himself in the mix at linebacker heading into next season. The group has plenty of athletic bodies vying for time, so he will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to get on the field. Like Ajagbe, can Kitchens add a few pounds and challenge several other guys in front of him?

2011 Outlook: Kitchens will have plenty of work to do to get on the field at linebacker next season. Adding weight in the off-season is a priority. He's probably still another year away from being in serious competition for a starting spot.

Michael McFarland 6-foot-6, 237-pound tight end

Question: After spending a year in relative anonymity, McFarland emerges as one of the guys who could benefit most from the coaching change. He's a big body with good playmaking ability at the tight end spot. For him, the biggest question might be what happens to other guys potentially at the tight end spot. Does Jordan Reed stay at quarterback permanently? Does Trey Burton end up as an H-back or wide receiver?

2011 Outlook: His outlook for playing time is better in 2011 with the Gators moving to a pro-style offense more likely to utilize the tight end. His chances for playing time improve greatly if Florida uses a handful of two-tight-end sets.

Tyler Murphy 6-foot-1, 193-pound quarterback

Question: Murphy was the third quarterback on the depth chart entering 2010, but wound up sliding to fourth once Reed began taking snaps. For Murphy, the biggest question is who ends up sticking around at the quarterback spot next year. Will John Brantley still be on the roster? Will Reed move back to tight end? Will Burton end up playing another position?

2011 Outlook: With the quarterback spot looking crowded with the emergence of Reed and the addition of Jeff Driskel, Murphy's best bet in 2011 might be making a position change. He could end up at wide receiver, though that decision will likely be left up to him.

Leon Orr 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman

Question: Orr was recruited as a defensive lineman, but moved to the offensive side of the ball in his first year. He learned he was redshirting early on. With the Gators losing plenty of bodies on both the offensive line and at defensive tackle, which side will Orr end up playing on? Will his athleticism help him break into the starting lineup?

2011 Outlook: Orr has special size and athleticism and that will earn him playing time on one of the lines next season. He could end up competing for a starting spot at offensive guard or playing time at defensive tackle.

Joshua Shaw 6-foot, 191-pound cornerback
Question: After arriving as the most touted recruit, Shaw fell into a seemingly distant third in the freshman cornerback battle. However, his size makes him an ideal fit for Muschamp's secondary and that could improve his chances going forward. But is his footwork good enough to play cornerback at the college level? Or is he best suited by a move to safety, where the Gators look thin heading into the 2011 season?

2011 Outlook: Until we know if Shaw is competing for a spot at cornerback or safety, it's tough to predict the type of impact he'll have next season. His size gives him an edge over Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins, but both of those showed better coverage skills than Shaw this season.

Ian Silberman 6-foot-5, 285-pound offensive tackle

Question: Silberman got plenty of playing time in the starting rotation during spring practice. He also saw some mop-up duty in 2010 and looked fairly good. Can he continue to improve in the off-season and challenge for a starting tackle spot next season? Can he beat out several other talented youngsters at his spot?

2011 Outlook: He has played well in limited time so far, so Silberman's chances of winning a starting spot next year look pretty good. At the very least, he'll get plenty of time as a backup.

Michael Taylor 5-foot-11, 218-pound linebacker

Question: Taylor made some noise in preseason camp with a few big hits, but wasn't heard from much during the season. He seems to have a natural nose for the ball and could emerge as a candidate for playing time. Again, can he break through a deep linebacker corps to get any serious playing time? Can he add a few pounds in the off-season?

2011 Outlook: Taylor is right there with Kitchens and Ajagbe trying to fight his way into a linebacker rotation that has a ton of bodies. With his reputation as a hard hitter, he could move up the depth chart with solid play in the spring.

Lynden Trail 6-foot-7, 217-pound defensive end

Question: With plenty of bodies on the defensive line this year, Trail redshirted to try to add some bulk. He's a lanky guy and he'll need to pack on the pounds to get a serious look at defensive end next season. Can he fill out his frame to give himself a shot to compete at defensive end? With the lack of bodies at end, can he emerge as a viable candidate for playing time?

2011 Outlook: With Duke Lemmens and Justin Trattou graduating, defensive end looks like an open battle. Trail is probably on the outside looking in, unless he can put together an impressive off-season both in the weight room and on the field.

We'll never know: These three decided to call it quits even before the 2010 season was complete..

Adrian Coxson 6-foot-2, 194-pound wide receiver

The former four-star receiver didn't stick around long, opting to transfer closer to home about halfway through fall camp. He wound up at Maryland, where the depth chart is a little thinner and he could be closer to family.

Jonathan Dowling 6-foot-3, 178-pound safety

Widely considered one of the top safety prospects in the country, Dowling never really got rolling at Florida. Coaches said he needed to add weight to earn playing time. From there, Dowling had some off-the-field struggles that ultimately led to his dismissal from the team. He is currently committed to Western Kentucky.

Jordan Haden 6-foot, 198-pound safety

After arriving at Florida, Haden quickly decided that the school wasn't the right fit for him. It looked like he would not make an immediate impact. His departure in mid-August was described as a mutual one. He is currently committed to Toledo.

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!