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 Line – 2010 vs. 2011

Part six in a series where The Bull Gator and I go over the Florida roster differences from this season to last and what to expect in 2011. To read past installments, click each position: quarterbacks, running backs and fullbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line.

2010: Gary Beemer – RSR, Terron Sanders – RSR, Duke Lemmens – SR, Justin Trattou – SR, Jaye Howard – RJR, William Green – JR, Omar Hunter – RSO, Lerentee McCray – RSO, Earl Okine – RSO, Kendric Johnson – RFR, Dominique Easley – FR, Shariff Floyd – FR, Leon Orr – FR, Ronald Powell – FR, Lynden Trail – FR
Preseason Rating: C
Postseason Rating: D
First and foremost, you know I had to include Gary Beemer in my list, even though typically we try to include only the scholarship players on the roster who have (or had) a significant chance of playing. But everybody loves Beemer!
When initially looking at the 2010 defensive line, I think a lot of fans and analysts would have given UF a preseason grade of B. But I personally did not have very high hopes for the 2010 defensive line…and they certainly didn’t disappoint me.
My reasons for doubt were mainly two-fold. First, half of the defensive linemen were players who had been at UF for a while, but had yet to really step up and become consistent producers. Players like Terron Sanders, Duke Lemmens, Justin Trattou, Jaye Howard and William Green could all fit this billing at the start of last season. This wasn’t necessarily their fault entirely, as some of the defensive linemen that we had in the years prior to 2010 were pretty darn good, so cracking the starting lineup was not an easy task. But nonetheless, leaning on these unproven commodities is something that I personally was not very comfortable doing.
My second concern was that we were putting the other half of our eggs in the “this freshman is going to be a beast” basket. Many were thinking that the fabulous threesome of Dominique Easley, Shariff Floyd and Ronald Powell would be all-world the second they walked onto Florida Field. Realistically, this just wasn’t possible, especially at the defensive lineman position, which is a position where few underclassmen excel.
At the end of the season, the defensive line stats were fairly abysmal. This unit accounted for only 12 sacks the entire season, two fumble recoveries (against USF and Vanderbilt) and one forced fumble (Vandy). Of the 12 sacks, only two came in what I like to term as “important games.” In the last four games of the season, this group registered only one sack and in the five losses they accounted for only two. Of the top 10 leading tacklers on the team, only three were defensive lineman (Trattou 57, Lemmens 43, and Howard 29). The only two defensive linemen that had double-digit tackles for loss were Trattou and Howard, both with 12 each.
In a nutshell, the defensive line was poor. Piss poor.
2011: Jaye Howard – RSR, William Green – SR, Omar Hunter – RJR, Lerentee McCray – RJR, Earl Okine – RJR, Kendric Johnson – RSO, Dominique Easley – SO, Shariff Floyd – SO, Leon Orr – RFR, Lynden Trail – RFR, Clay Burton – FR, Tevin Westbrook – FR
Preseason Rating: A
Wait a second One Eyed Willy, didn’t you just get finished calling the defensive line poor? Piss poor? And now you are giving them an A grade heading into the 2011 season?
That’s right kids…I am!
Although the lack of depth for the 2011 defensive line is certainly a concern – so much so that Will Muschamp seems to bring it up during every single interview he does – the guys that will play are going to be good. Scary good.
The middle of the line should be just about the best in the nation. With Howard leading the way, the likes of Floyd, Easley and Omar Hunter (and maybe Leon Orr as well) should have much more success than they did last year disrupting run plays and hassling the quarterback of the opposing team. With 12 more months of playing time under their belts, I especially expect Floyd and Easley to be leaps-and-bounds ahead of where they were to start the 2010 season. And if everything we have been hearing over the past few months is true, no one has been able to stop our defensive tackles from getting in the backfield. Let’s hope that trend continues.
The defensive end position will probably look better during the season mainly because opposing teams will have to key against the “big nasties” in the middle. Powell, who will technically play the Buck linebacker position, will line up a lot at defensive end and should be able to use his size and incredible speed to torment opposing QBs. If veterans like Green or Lerentee McCray or youngsters like Lynden Trail or Clay Burton can step up and be relied upon to play important minutes this season, they will round up an already impressive group of talent. Finally, don’t be surprised if some of the defensive tackles line up at the end position. Howard is one player in particularly who can play both positions and could be a force on the outside edge, especially during running situations.
In the end, I truly believe that the defense, and ultimately the 2011 team will live-and-die by the defensive line. If this unit is as good as I think (and hope) they can be, I truly believe this team can surprise a lot of people this year and make a run at the SEC Championship. If, on the other hand, this unit plays like it did last season, you may want to take the under 7.5 wins that Vegas just released!

Breaking Down the Florida Gators’ 2010 Recruiting Class – Part 4

Previous breakdowns: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Cody Riggs
DB – 5’8″, 156 lbs. – Ft. Lauderdale, FL – St. Thomas Aquinas
Riggs was overshadowed by high school teammate and FSU signee Lamarcus Joyner, but definitely shouldn’t have been.  Perhaps the biggest thing differentiating him from Joyner is his small frame.  Riggs will have to put on a good amount of weight before he can even think about seeing the field.  His superior speed makes him a return candidate, but he’ll probably redshirt in an effort to get him to a better size to be able to battle SEC receivers.  He does possess above-average coverage skills though, so when he does add bulk, he’ll be a great cover corner.
Joshua Shaw
DB – 6’1″, 195 lbs. – Palmdale, CA – Palmdale
Along with Ronald Powell, plucking Shaw out of California was huge for Florida and the future of Gator recruiting.  In 2007 and 2008, Florida started a true freshman at cornerback.  In 2010, Shaw could be the third in four years to do so.  He’ll be given every opportunity to play right away and enrolling early helped his path to getting there.  Expect a great Gator career and years of NFL success ahead of him.  He’s ready to go up with most college receivers already.
Ian Silberman
OL – 6’4″, 257 lbs. – Fleming Island, FL – Fleming Island
Silberman was the first prospect to become part of the Gators’ 2010 recruiting class and he held on for nearly 19 months before signing.  That’s right, he committed before most of the 2009 class.  When you want to go to Florida, you go to Florida I guess.  Silberman is small at 257 pounds, but he has all the tools to become a great offensive lineman and the frame to add necessary weight.  He’ll spend a few years getting into the right shape, but expect him to be a more than solid contributor when he does get regular playing time.
Michael Taylor
LB – 6’1″, 213 lbs. – Atlanta, GA – Westlake
Taylor has beast mode written all over him.  And more important he saw the light.  After committing to Lane Kiffin and Tennessee, Taylor visited Florida and made the switch essentially saying the Gators were all that AND a bag of chips.  Taylor’s commitment was big because while the LB corps looks good for the immediate future, depth could be an issue in a few years.  Taylor should develop into an important part of Florida’s defense.
Lynden Trail
DE – 6’7″, 220 lbs. – Miami, FL – Booker T. Washington
Enter the fan favorite.  What’s not to like about Trail?  He seems more pro-Gator than a lot of the current players and he isn’t afraid to talk about it.  Trail brings instant memories of Jarvis Moss to mind and that is far from a bad thing.  As he adds strength over his first few years in Gainesville, he’ll become scary good.  So much so he’s already been nicknamed Freak III.  And he is just that.  Check back in 2012 when Florida could seriously have four or five of the nation’s best defensive linemen.
Travon Van
ATH – 5’11”, 200 lbs. – New Berlin, NY – Milford Academy
Before Milford Academy, Van was a star at Helix in San Diego.  The same Helix that produced Reggie Bush and Alex Smith.  Van is listed as an athlete and could see time at either running back or cornerback.  Although a lot points to him being added to the defensive backfield, Van could provide depth as a power back in the future.  There’s a good chance Van will redshirt while coaches figure out where he can contribute the most.
Jaylen Watkins
DB – 6’1″, 172 lbs. – Cape Coral, FL – Cape Coral
Watkins is another one of the early enrollees.  He has the speed to keep up with virtually any receiver, but will need to get stronger to fight for jump balls.  He doubled as a receiver and it shows in his developed ball skills.  Because of that, some think he could be moved to receiver if needed.  Odds are Watkins is in line for a redshirt.

The Long Snapper (2/9/10)

USF will have more former players at the NFL Combine than any other Big East team.  Pretty impressive for a program still trying to establish itself as an NFL player provider.  The Bulls will send wide receiver Carlton Mitchell (an early entry), defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul (also an early entry) and George Selvie, linebacker Kion Wilson, cornerback Jerome Murphy, and safety Nate Allen to the pre-draft event.  Pierre-Paul has a very real chance of being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in April.  A strong showing at the combine will solidify his status.
Skip Holtz will drop the puck at Thursday night’s Tampa Bay Lightning game.  Of course it’s ceremonial and doesn’t really mean the game begins with the drop.  Sports would be a lot more interesting if it did though.  Throwing out the first pitch should mean you’re really throwing out the first pitch.  None of this for fun crap anymore.  Let’s see Holtz drop the puck then attempt to get out of the way before being run over by angry Canadians.
ESPN.com’s Chris Low has made a list of the top five SEC players he believes will be the toughest to replace.  A top that list is of course former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.  Not necessarily because the highly-touted John Brantley can’t do it, but because of everything Tebow brought to the Gators.  Play on the field, leadership, attitude, etc.  Tebow was much more than another football player.  The offense will change under Brantley and he seems destined to be a great player in his own right, but it’s everything else people are wondering if he’ll bring.  Can he be the emotional leader Tebow was?  Those will be the shoes Brantley is expected to fill.  He’ll be able to win games, but can he get the rest of the team to rise up during the situations they need a leader most?
Low also has a top five list of the SEC newcomers to watch.  The top two on that list have Florida connections.  #1 is new Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton – someone Gator fans surely remember.  Newton is back in the SEC and has the tools to be a very good quarterback for the Tigers.  Look for him to help push Auburn closer to the top of the SEC West.  #2 on the list is Florida redshirt freshman do-it-all athlete Andre Debose.  Debose was one of the top players coming out of high school a year ago, but his hamstring wouldn’t let him get on the field in 2009.  He’ll suit up for the Gators for the first time in 2010 and could end up being one of Florida’s most dangerous offensive weapons.
Chris Leak made a statement before he ever suited up for the Gators.  Something about winning 3-4 National Championships and 2-3 Heisman Trophies.  Not to take away from Leak’s bravado (I was actually quite the Leak supporter during his time at Florida), but many wondered if he should have been so bold.  Leak did leave with a title, and two short years after he was gone the Gators won another, but didn’t reach the level he predicted.  This time around it’s defensive end Lynden Trail.  Trail has been very vocal in his support of Florida and his overwhelming desire to be a Gator (something I, for one, am very happy about) and recently said he believes Florida will win 2-3 National Championships during his time there*.  When Leak said it, it had been years since the Gators won their first title.  When Trail said it, Florida was only just over a year removed from hoisting the trophy and just came off a 13-1 season.  Although some may wish players weren’t so boisterous before stepping on the field, Trail’s prediction has a much better chance of coming true than Leak’s did.
* For your own good, avoid reading the comments left on most Swamp Things articles.

Quinton Dunbar and Lynden Trail Join Florida’s List of Commitments

With the season going strong, it’s easy to get lost when it comes to recruiting news.  So many rumors go back and forth; it’s hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t.  Count this one as real.  Booker T. Washington (Miami, FL) teammates Quinton Dunbar and Lynden Trail are committed to Florida.
Dunbar is a 6’3” wide receiver who averaged over 18 yards per catch as a junior.  While he needs to put on a little bulk before he’ll truly contribute at the collegiate level, Dunbar has good speed and a great ability to catch the ball in traffic.  He needs to improve route running at the next level, but if he adds that as a strength to his raw talent, he could be something special.  Dunbar – rated at the nation’s 131st prospect by Rivals.com – is a big pickup at a position the Gators need to add depth to.
Also among the Rivals250 (at 175th), Trail is a 6’7” weakside defensive end who has great speed around the edge.  Like Dunbar, Trail will look to add bulk before he gets to Gainesville.  Trail is a force as a pass rusher and added muscle should make him an equally dangerous run stopper.  With such a large emphasis put on pass rushers over the past few years (Jarvis Moss, Derrick Harvey, Carlos Dunlap, etc.), Trail should fit right in line.