Former Florida Gators Safety Josh Shaw Transfers To USC

It was a rough year for the Florida Gators roster. It took hit after hit whether in the form of injury or transfer. One of those transfers was safety Josh Shaw who, while appearing in 10 games, never seemed to find his great potential coming out of high school. Shaw has now made his next destination known and will head back to California to play for the USC Trojans.

Shaw was one of the nation’s top cornerbacks when he came out of Palmdale (Palmdale, CA). He would end up signing with a school clear across the country in Florida and look to immediately make an impact. That impact wouldn’t come in his first season as he only appeared in one game and ended up taking a redshirt. 2011 was supposed to be a step forward for Shaw and many thought he would move right into one of the starting safety positions. Unfortunately, he was never able to take a hold of major minutes. Shaw didn’t see the field as much as he would have liked and decided moving on would be the best decision for him.

With the move to USC, Shaw will effectively lose his redshirt sophomore season. He’ll have two seasons of eligibility left starting in 2013.

Josh Shaw And Lynden Trail Transfer From Florida: Gators’ Depth Takes Another Hit

You know what Florida really needed? More players transferring. That’s a great way to build depth.

Those would be the extremely sarcastic words of Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army. It’s also what nearly every fan of the Florida Gators thought to themselves when they head the news on Tuesday that defensive back Josh Shaw and defensive end Lynden Trail would transfer.

The Gators’ 2010 recruiting class was one of legend. Ronald Powell, Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley topped the list of star recruits who signed with Florida and then head coach Urban Meyer. Nearly two full seasons later and that 27-man class has lost nine of its members. Transfers are expected when you lose a coach and his staff; one-third may be more than even a worst-case scenario (and, oh yeah, some think Mack Brown and/or Tyler Murphy may not be far behind). Did going 14-11 over the last two seasons have something to do with it? It’s possible, but in the case of Shaw and Trail, it probably had more to due with playing time.

Shaw was one of the nation’s best coming out of high school. The Palmdale, CA cornerback was rated the no. 28 player in the country by Rivals.com. Moved around the defensive backfield, Shaw never found a home and never was able to find consistency in his play. Despite injuries in the secondary, Shaw wasn’t able to take command of a position during practice and playing time was limited in 2011. Rumors of his impending transfer have been swirling for nearly a year now. At first glance, Shaw may not appear to be a immediate loss, but how many times have we heard little from a player early in his career, only to watch him grow into an important part of the team in later years?

Trail – and Booker T. Washington teammate Quinton Dunbar - also joined the Gators as part of the 2010 class. The nation’s no. 7 weakside defensive end in high school, Trail was a tall defender almost in the mold of Jarvis Moss. His path to playing time appeared to be a longer one and, in the end, he wasn’t willing to wait.

With depth continuing to take hit after hit, 2012 is shaping up to be a building year. It doesn’t help that rumors continue regarding additional transfers. Keep your fingers crossed for a growing 2012 recruiting class and a stop to a shrinking roster. We may be in one of those dreaded “things have to appear worse, before they get better” times. Let’s hope it all ends quickly.

Florida Gators Defensive Backs – 2010 vs. 2011

The Bull Gator and I finish up the defense. To read past installments, click each position: quarterbacks, running backs and fullbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers.
2010: Ahmad Black – SR, Moses Jenkins – RJR, Will Hill – JR, Janoris Jenkins – JR, Jeremy Brown – RSO, Josh Evans – SO, Matt Elam – FR, Cody Riggs – FR, Josh Shaw – FR, Jaylen Watkins – FR
Preseason Rating: B
Postseason Rating: C
Although I believe that the potential was there for them to be an above-average group, when looking back on the defensive backfield for the Gators in 2010, I decided to give the unit an overall grade of C. But really you could look at this unit as a tale of two stories with one half of the unit being outstanding and the other half being downright pitiful.
First, let’s start with the good, namely safety Ahmad Black and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. To say that these two guys deserve a grade of A would be an understatement as to how good they really were. Black had the most tackles on the team (108), the most interceptions (5), the most forced fumbles (3) and the most fumble recoveries (2). He also had twice as many unassisted tackles (73) than all but one other Gator (Jelani Jenkins – 41). Not to mention the leadership that he provided both on the field and in the locker room truly was immeasurable.
In 2008, the Gators won the national championship thanks in part to a freshman CB who found his way into the starting lineup on day 1 of the season and never looked back. By doing so, Janoris Jenkins became just the second true freshman in school history to start at CB on opening day. The stats for Janoris in 2010 may not be that overwhelming: 44 tackles, 8 pass breakups, 3 interceptions and 1 sack, but his presence on the field made the entire defense better. Opposing quarterbacks were hesitant to go to his side of the field, and more often than not, when they did he was there to make a big play.
Then you have the other guys. The combination of Will Hill and Josh Evans at the other safety position left much to be desired. I could go on-and-on about just how disappointing of a season/career Hill had, but I think we have all been down that road before. And the revolving door of Moses Jenkins, Jeremy Brown and Cody Riggs at the cornerback position opposite of Janoris (for the most part) was, to be nice, less than stellar.
With that said, we did see glimpses of hope in 2010, including Brown, Riggs and Matt Elam showing that they have the potential to be stars for the Gators somewhere down the line, but for the most part, when one half of your defensive backfield fails to live up to the hype while the other half struggles to make up for their teammates’ mistakes, you know you are in for a rough year.
2011: Moses Jenkins – RSR, Jeremy Brown – RJR, Josh Evans – JR, Matt Elam – SO, Cody Riggs – SO, Jaylen Watkins – SO, Josh Shaw – RFR, Jabari Gorman – FR, Chris Johnson – FR, Loucheiz Purifoy – FR, Marcus Roberson – FR, De’Ante Saunders – FR, Valdez Showers – FR
Preseason Rating: C
If you would of told me a few months/years ago that starting in 2011, the defensive backfield of UF would be Janoris Jenkins, Will Hill, Matt Elam and a second cornerback of your choosing, I probably would have said, “sign me up!” Unfortunately that won’t be the case for two major reasons. First, Hill thought he was going to get drafted into the NFL. Well, he didn’t. But this actually might be a positive for the Gators given Hill’s lack of production on the field. And second, Jenkins really liked to smoke pot. I mean really liked to! Therefore, he will have to finish his college career in the beautiful city of Florence. No, not that Florence, but the one in northern Alabama.
So what are we left with? Well, if you ask me (which you didn’t), I say we are left with a group of guys who have yet to prove themselves on the collegiate level, but who have all the talent in the world to be great players.
At the safety position, Elam is the only guy at this point that I can say is definitely a starter. I think Elam will have a great season, but I am really basing that more on hearsay and hopes than on actual on-the-field production. The other safety position is up for grabs right now. Some think that it’s Evans’ spot to lose. Others believe that Josh Shaw or Jaylen Watkins may sneak up and take the position. And recently, there have been discussions of De’Ante “Pop” Saunders moving from cornerback to safety in order to lock down that spot. Unfortunately all of these guys have fairly limited (or no) playing time at the college level and therefore the second safety spot could be a significant point of weakness for the Gators’ defense in 2011.
As far as cornerback is concerned, I have been shouting from the rooftops one name these past couple of months and I’m not going to stop now: Marcus Roberson!!! Look for Roberson to join Joe Haden and the aforementioned Janoris Jenkins as freshmen starters at the cornerback position for the Gators. Roberson may struggle in the beginning, but he will be very good, very soon. The second CB position has the chance to be reminiscent of last year in which there are a couple of guys rotating in and out at that position. Guys like Brown, Riggs, Moses Jenkins and freshman Loucheiz Puriofy all have a chance to play at that spot and could be called on periodically throughout the season to step up.
To grade the defensive backfield going into this season is almost impossible to do. There are too many variables, too many open spots still, and too many guys with talent but no experience. I truly think that we could look back a few months from now and easily give this unit an A and just as easily give this unit a F. But with the former defensive back Will Muschamp at the helm teaching these guys on a day-in and day-out basis, I think we might all be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Florida Gators Football Jersey Numbers Are In For 2011

I have mentioned my unhealthy obsession with jersey numbers before. I have a love of jerseys and jersey-related news. Jersey numbers are much too important to me and I do not have a good explanation as to why, but with the release of the 2011 Florida media guide, the Gators numbers for the upcoming season are out and I am very excited (it also means my NCAA Football ’12 roster will be as accurate as accurate can be; this is very important for yet another reason I cannot put my finger on).

I will not cover every jersey number here (you can find them in the aforementioned media guide), but will go over some the changes and incoming players.
1 – Chris Rainey, RB – Rainey has become the Gators version of Chris Simms. With his third number, it will be hard for historians to verify pictures of Rainey years into the future. The no. 1 jersey has developed its own unofficial tradition in recent years of being acquired by players already in the program. Reggie Nelson wore no. 32 before settling into the no. 1 jersey. Percy Harvin started with no. 8 – much like Rainey. And Janoris Jenkins was originally no. 29.
2 – Dominique Easley, DT/4 – Sharrif Floyd, DT – The big boys decided to go small; very small. I chuckled a little the first time I saw Carlos Dunlap sporting the no. 8 jersey. I snickered when Jaye Howard went with no. 6. It is not making fun of these defensive linemen so much as it is just that they are huge and their numbers are oh so small. Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army has his own thoughts regarding the switch. I just think the equipment manager might have to double the size of their jersey numbers.
3 – Jelani Jenkins, LB – While Jenkins is not small, the single digits definitely look better on linebackers than they do on linemen. This is a good move for Jenkins. He wore no. 3 in high school. Hopefully it will be a boost for him and turn him into the field general/monster he was projected to be.
5 – Marcus Roberson, CB – I feel like people are forgetting about Roberson already. Clearly one of the most talented of the newcomers, Roberson could have a big impact very early on. Giving him the no. 5 will immediately have fans thinking of the last great defensive back to wear the number – Joe Haden. Roberson has that potential. Please try not to forget about him.
7 – Robert Clark, WR – Not necessarily news regarding the change (this one was known before the media guide came out), but still a change. This is almost a reverse of the big man situation already discussed. Clark will look good with a single digit.
9 – Josh Shaw, S – Shaw becomes the second defensive back in recent years to walk away from the no. 29 jersey. I almost want (or need) someone great to come along, take no. 29 as a freshman, and put together an All-SEC career with it.
15 – Loucheiz Purifoy, CBUrban Meyer is gone and the no. 15 has been given out. It remains to be seen if Meyer would have eventually presented someone else with Tim Tebow’s jersey number, but odds are he would have help out for a while. Purifoy becomes to first to wear it after the great one. Luckily, he is not a quarterback. The pressure should be minimal.
16 – Jeff Driskel, QB/17 – Jacoby Brissett, QB – The new quarterbacks do have their numbers though and they sit right above where Tebow once resided.
33 – Mack Brown, RB/33 – Chris Johnson, S/33 – Minch Minchin, LB – We have seen plenty of jersey numbers occupied by two individuals. One is usually an offensive player and one typically on defense. Occasionally, you will get two on the same side of the ball because one of those two is never going to see the field. This is the first time I remember seeing three and I have to give it up for Minchin and whatever he contributes during practice because I hate to say it, but I do not think we will be seeing him during games. But that does not mean we do not still love him as we do all Gators. And of course there is his oh so easy to remember name.
35 – Chris Martin, DE/LB – Martin transferred, but the media guide was already printed. It is probably not worth noting that Martin was listed at no. 23 last year so this is technically a change. Funnier, well to me, is that Martin’s profile on page 41 of the guide does not include a picture, but instead the Gators logo.
55 – Graham Stewart, LB – As One Eyed Willy said to me when we were discussing the new jersey numbers: “is there a better number, especially for a linebacker, than 55?” No, there is not.
63 – Trip Thurman, G/65 – Tommy Jordan, G – The new big uglies have their numbers and while they are not exciting, we love offensive linemen around these parts. Good luck to both Trip and Tommy in their orange and blue duds.
80 – Ja’Juan Story, WR – We all hope Story is given the chance to do as many interviews as possible during his Gators career. He is interview gold. No platinum. NO TITANIUM!!!
97 – Tevin Westbrook, DE – I have this feeling that Westbrook is a diamond in the rough. I cannot explain it, but I feel there is an underrated possibility here.

A Review of the Orange and Blue Game

I don’t do rhyming.  At least not when it’s out of its normal comfort zone.  Anything outside of music and the occasional children’s poem is outside of that zone in my opinion.  This is one of the reasons I’ve never been a fan of “The Foundation for the Gator Nation” and also why I can’t bring myself to refer to the annual Florida spring game as the Orange and Blue Debut.

The game, which took place on Saturday and again on Sunday for those of you that happily turned on the television to see Breakfast with the Gators back, was about exactly what you would expect from a spring game.  Some things worked, most looked sloppy, many key contributors watched from the sidelines, and all in all it tells you very little about what to expect from the fall.
The first takeaway is an important one: the orange team wore orange.  We saw Florida break out the orange jerseys against LSU last season and although the game ended in a Gator loss, those of us who remember Florida football 25 years ago smiled when we saw them (even if they did look a little bright in high definition).  Having the orange jerseys reproduced for last season and then seeing them again in the spring makes one think we’ll also get a look at them in the fall.  Florida is a Nike school (see the swoosh on the Tim Tebow statue?) and Nike likes money.  There’s a reason the Gators wore four different jerseys in 2010.  We’ll set the early over/under at 3.5 for 2011 with three almost being guaranteed.
Speaking of the statues, they were a nice touch and if you’re going to honor individuals, those are the three you probably start with, but I can’t help but bring up that Tebow is so recently a member of the Florida football team that you half expect him to still run out of the tunnel on Saturdays.  He will always be considered one of the Gator greats – and not one on the list of 25 or 50, but one you count on one hand – but we’re just over one year removed from #15 playing in Gainesville and we have a sign inside the stadium, the speech has been immortalized, and now a statue.  Not saying he doesn’t deserve it, but can we give it a little more time?  It took Steve Spurrier 45 years and Danny Wuerffel 15.  Again, Tebow deserves it as well, but it’s okay to give it some time.  For another interesting take on the statues, check out Alligator Army where a great point is brought up – what about the back-to-back National Champion basketball teams?
In addition to jerseys and statues, there was a game played.  One that further promoted Quinton Dunbar’s coming out party.  There are two thoughts here: 1) wow, the practice reports were right; and 2) please don’t be Dallas Baker 2.0.  Before anyone gets all uppity about that last comment, that’s not a shot at Baker who ended up putting it all together his final season.  But before that, Baker was one of the spring game stars who struggled when the contests mattered in the fall.  He ended up making his mark during a National Championship season so all is forgotten, but I’m already hoping the same doesn’t happen to Dunbar.  He has a legitimate shot at playing time this fall and if he can keep doing what he’s doing now, there’s reason to be excited.  Not only does it look like Dunbar has good hands and a solid understanding of the offense, he knows how to block.  It’s not every day you find a college wide receiver with blocking skills.  Dunbar has them and showed them to Darren Kitchens who may have gotten up clapping, but definitely didn’t see the hit coming.  It’s not too late to join the Dunbar bandwagon although it’s pretty full already.
Sticking with the offense, the quarterbacks looked shaky.  It’s hard to sugarcoat it because that’s exactly how they looked.  It’s the spring so this happens and this is really the biggest area you can’t take anything from.  Last spring, they looked much better and we all remember the 2010 season.  What is most concerning though is the decision making.  A good amount of the incompletions were so because they were thrown into heavy coverage.  Deep balls weren’t always necessarily off the mark, but were thrown regardless of two defenders being in the immediate area.  You want an incompletion to have virtually no chance of getting intercepted.  Those are throws that can’t be made during the fall.  Although it’s John Brantley’s job to lose, it’s hard to say any of the quarterbacks that played looked ready to go on Saturday.  Plenty of needed time until September.
The defense looked like the more prepared of the two, but still wasn’t quite there yet.  It was evident however that this is a unit with a lot of young talent and plenty of depth.  Players may be starters in name only during the fall because plenty of fresh athletes will be rotated in.  One of those athletes that looked good on Saturday was Josh Shaw.  Shaw is competing with Josh Evans for a safety spot and showed flashes of Reggie Nelson with his ability to cover great distances in only a few seconds.  Shaw still has some growing to do, but looks like he could be one to take a leap from his first year to his second one.  If you’re not excited about seeing him and Matt Elam on the field together, you don’t have a pulse.
Again, don’t take too much out of these games.  Things could look very different by the time September rolls around.  Those missing will be healthy, hopefully a quarterback will find his accuracy, and schemes will be fully installed.  For now, it’s fun to speculate, but that’s all it is.