With the start of fall practice only a couple months away, Inside the Gators is counting down 20 returning players and 11 newcomers (true and redshirt freshmen) who we expect to have the biggest impact on the 2011 Florida football season.
GBN will count down two returning players and one redshirt or true freshman in each part of this 10-part series, finishing with those players we expect to have the biggest impact for Florida in the 2011 season.
TOP 20 BIGGEST IMPACT RETURNING PLAYERS
Size: 5-9, 166
Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas
2010 season: 18 tackles, one INT, two pass breakups
Why he makes the list: Riggs was the only one of the three cornerbacks in his class to see significant playing time as a true freshman. The undersized corner has shown good ball skills and a willingness to tackle, and with Janoris Jenkins gone Riggs projects as a starter or at least a nickel back for the start of the season.
Questions to be answered: Deserved or not, UF head coach Will Muschamp has a reputation for favoring big corners. Riggs is not that. He'll have to prove to Muschamp that he can do all the things the bigger cornerbacks can do to maintain his position on the depth chart.
Best case scenario: Riggs beats out the pack of young cornerbacks for a starting spot and even challenges Jeremy Brown for the No. 1 corner position by the time fall practice ends. He goes on to have a great season with Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn using him a little like Joe Haden. Riggs tackles well at the line of scrimmage, blitzes the quarterback and picks off a few passes.
Best guess: Riggs begins the season as the second starter, but barely holds off the rest of the players at his position. He provides a steady option at corner but Muschamp wants to see more, so Riggs starts splitting time with true freshman De'Ante Saunders. Muschamp also occasionally plays Riggs and Saunders on the field at the same time with Brown on the bench.
Size: 6-2, 222
2010 season: 75 rushes, 349 rushing yards, 4.7 yards per carry, 11 rushing touchdowns, 32 catches, 210 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown
Why he makes the list: Burton was the surprise performer of the highly rated 2010 freshman class. A three-star prospect, Burton was able to come in and see the field right away thanks to his high football IQ and willingness to work harder than the next guy. His role will change substantially this season, but he can still be an impact player.
Questions to be answered: Just how versatile can Burton's role be in Charlie Weis' pro-style offense? Burton can do it all, but will he be asked to? Burton will be asked to catch and run the ball as well as block from his new position. Will he do all three well enough to be considered a weapon?
Best case scenario: Burton quickly learns all the nuances of the position and becomes an above average blocker before the season even starts. He works on developing his route running out of the backfield and becomes a great pass catching option throughout the season, routinely picking up valuable yardage on check downs.
Best guess: Burton will lose almost all of his shine as an offensive weapon this year. He'll still be on the field blocking and catching the occasional pass, but if Burton is a featured part of the offense then Weis' system isn't as wide-open as we think. He'll get an occasional carry once or twice a game to go along with a couple of targets in the passing game but, for the most part, Burton will find himself in a far less glamorous role in 2011.
VOTE: WILL BURTON PLAY AS BIG A ROLE IN THE NEW PRO-STYLE OFFENSE IN 2011 AS HE DID THE SPREAD-OPTION OFFENSE IN 2010?
TOP 11 BIGGEST IMPACT NEWCOMERS (Redshirt & True Freshmen)
Position: Defensive Back
Class: True Freshman
Size: 5-11, 170
Miami (Fla.) Pace
2010 season: Participated in the 2010 Under Armour All-American Game
Why he makes the list: There's plenty of jobs in the secondary to be had for some of the talented true freshmen in UF head coach Will Muschamp's first recruiting class. Sophomore Matt Elam will be a fixture at one of the safety positions barring injury, but the second spot is much more up for grabs. Josh Evans looks to be the projected starter, but Gorman could at least work his way into seeing some playing time at the position.
Questions to be answered: Like any of the true freshmen on this list who didn't enroll early, how will Gorman be able to adapt to college football? He'll need to learn the schemes, work on his technique, get stronger and play at a faster pace. None of this is unique to Gorman, but Muschamp will have to say how he reacts to taking in new information quickly.
Best case scenario: Gorman arrives on campus in the fall, outworks all other contenders for the second safety position and puts himself in the conversation to start instead of Evans. Muschamp starts Evans for the first few games but gives Gorman a chance to show what he's got, which proves to be enough and Gorman eventually takes over full time a few weeks into the season.
Best guess: Gorman proves to be a talented safety option and competes with Joshua Shaw for the third safety spot throughout fall camp. He sees some limited time in his freshman year as a result of lopsided contests or injury to the starters.
Class: Redshirt Freshman
Size: 6-3, 212
Coconut Grove (Fla.)
2010 season: Redshirted after an injury sidelined him during fall practice
Why he makes the list: Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be looking for a third linebacker to play next to Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins, why not Ajagbe? Ajagbe has the speed and athleticism to play outside and cover when necessary, but he lacks the experience and perhaps the ideal weight. Still, Ajagbe will have a chance to stake a claim to that third spot.
Questions to be answered: Will Ajagbe be able to separate himself from the other contenders? Michael Taylor, Dee Finley and Darrin Kitchens will be fighting for playing time at the linebacker spot. Until some of these guys start seeing the field on Saturdays, it will be tough to tell for sure who is the better option.
Best case scenario: Ajagbe bulks up a little bit over the summer and comes in ready to make plays from the edge. He beats out all the other contenders for the linebacker job and becomes the opening day starter next to Bostic and Jenkins.
Best guess: Ajagbe is in the hunt for the last starting linebacker job throughout fall camp along with some combination of Taylor, Finley and Kitchens. None of them are able to separate themselves from the group, and the coaching staff plays that position by committee for the entire season. Ajagbe sees a good amount of playing time, but so do the others.