Gators Defensive Tackle Nick Alajajian Has Wrist Surgery

Senior Nick Alajajian underwent wrist surgery on Tuesday. The Florida Gators defensive tackle had been having trouble with his wrist throughout spring practice. With the Orange and Blue Debut having come and gone, now was the perfect time for Alajajian to have the surgery and have the time to get healthy for fall practice.

Already a senior, Alajajian’s career at Florida seems to have gone by almost too quickly. Having spent his first three years as a reserve offensive lineman, Alajajian made the switch to defensive tackle in preparation for the 2012 season.

He has appeared in 32 games and got his first start in the Gator Bowl following the conclusion of the 2011 season. Although Alajajian will provide depth at DT, his path to significant playing time won’t be any easier. He shares the position with Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley, Omar Hunter, Leon Orr and Damien Jacobs. JaFar Mann and Dante Phillips will join the Gators in the fall.

For more Florida Gators coverage, like the TBG Facebook page and follow TBG on Twitter.

Defense: Florida Gators 48 – Kentucky Wildcats 10

Part two of what plans to be a four-part series. Check out the offense here.

The first item that has to be mentioned is the difference from one week to the next is the number of penalties committed by the Florida defense. The Gators only had five penalties for 45 yards total against Kentucky, and not all of those five were on the defense. Let’s hope the improvement from the last game to this one wasn’t a fluke and we’ll continue to see an increase in discipline by Florida on the field.

I watch games in a variety of ways and take notes throughout using numerous methods. When with friends, those notes are usually mental and then remembered during replays of the games the following day. When watching at home, they are either kept via Twitter or my trusty yellow legal pad. Saturday night was one of those legal pad nights and a note that I kept making was something to the effect of “good pressure from the defensive line.” We can say Sharrif Floyd was the missing piece and we may be right. Since Floyd’s return against Tennessee, the Gators have gotten into their opponents’ backfields much more often. The pressure provided by the front four has allowed the linebackers to roam almost freely and not provide as much blitz support because it’s needed. They can now do so as an added dimension to the defense. This time around it wasn’t just the four we’ve been mentioning since early in the offseason. Against the Wildcats, we also saw Omar Hunter provide plenty of push from the middle of the line. It may have been Hunter’s best game in quite some time.

It wouldn’t be a complete, or any sort of linebacker play, recap for that matter without mentioning Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins, but for just a moment let’s look at the player who is quickly, and no longer all that quietly, making a name for himself. During the 2006 season, Brandon Siler played his heart out and was the leader of the defense both on and off the field. Behind him, a player wearing no. 51 was “learning the business.” It was an apprenticeship of sorts as Brandon Spikes was able to learn the college game from a great and then turn himself into one of the best to play the position at Florida. This season, Bostic has made himself the defensive leader. With every game, he seems more sure of his ability and is becoming another in a great line of Gator linebackers. Both he and Jenkins are providing examples of what the young linebackers can grow into. Much like five seasons ago, behind them, a player wearing no. 51 is “learning the business.” That player is Michael Taylor and Saturday may have signaled his coming out party. Bostic led the Gators with 10 tackles and also added a tackle for loss, a forced fumble, and a sack. Taylor wasn’t far behind, finishing with six tackles, two tackles for loss, and an interception which showed very quick reaction time from the young linebacker. We may have another star in the making.

Some statistics jump out at you and make you think “wow.” This is one of them. Kentucky completed 22 passes on 44 attempts. Numbers like that would make you think a team totaled more than 165 passing yards. The Wildcats did not. The Gators’ secondary – which has been questionable at times – held the Wildcats to an average of 3.8 yards. They may have given up 22 completions – although that’s not a bad number considering the 44 attempts – but they didn’t allow many yards. The long of the night only went for 29 yards. The secondary is still trying to find which two individuals will round out the top four consistently, but they aren’t giving up the big play. Some of the younger players are giving up a lot of room off the line when in a cover zone defense, but the big play isn’t happening. Even on the 19-yard touchdown pass from Morgan Newton to La’Rod King, you could argue that King gave Moses Jenkins a shove before making the catch. The secondary has room to improve, but are actually playing better than many may believe. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a while before they play another quarterback any would consider in the upper echelon of NCAA passers.

Causing turnovers is always a good thing and Matt Elam was in on the party with an interception in a second consecutive game. Taylor added his pick and the Gators recovered two fumbles, including one resulting in a Jaye Howard touchdown. Florida also turned over the ball three times, but when you’re on the positive side of that statistics, it’s usually a very good thing.

Four games into the season the defense is allowing nine points per game. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take it. We all knew what the Gators were getting when Will Muschamp was named the new head coach and now we’re seeing it in action.

Next up: special teams.

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!

The Gators Line Could Be The Key To The Defense

We covered the defensive backs. We discussed the linebackers. Now we are moving on the defensive line.
The line could be the key to the entire Florida defense. With four extremely talented individuals manning the middle of the line, it will be up to the defensive ends to raise their game. When you have Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd, Jaye Howard, and Omar Hunter at defensive tackle, you should be ready for whatever offense you face. When you have little experience at defensive end, you have to wonder what the line as a whole will look like in 2011.
Head over to Upon Further Review Sports where Wil and I talked about the defensive line and the differences we may see in the 4-3 and 3-4 in another episode of Swamp Talk.

4th and 1: Trey Burton, Florida’s Trick Plays, USF and Bowling…

A treat for you.  4th and 1 without a Chris Rainey mention.  Well, besides that one.

1st.  Trey Burton is a big admirer of Tim Tebow and the true freshman seems to excel in one of the areas the former Florida star did: effort.  Burton’s efforts in practice have led to him playing a variety of positions during games.  He’s the backup quarterback, but has also seen time at fullback, tight end, wide receiver, and on special teams.
Burton’s unique talents have allowed him to compete and play at each position, but it presents a bigger question for the Gators.  Is Florida lacking depth at those positions?  Seeing Burton run the ball after taking snaps as a Tebow-like quarterback is what everyone expected.  Seeing him on the field as much as he is at other positions could be a concern.
Not to take away from what Burton can do at those other positions, but where are the players the Gators need to step up.  Who exactly is the tight end?  Where has Andre Debose been?  What about the stable of receivers Urban Meyer and staff have collected?
Burton is gaining valuable experience, but he’s also one hard hit away from being on the sidelines in street clothes.  He can take the punishment, but without a definitive #2 at QB, the Gators need to be careful with him.  There is talent at those other positions.  Unfortunately, no one else has really stepped up.  Burton will continue to see the field and that could be a good thing, but Florida may need him at quarterback sooner or later.  Hopefully he’ll be ready and healthy when that times does come.
2nd.  Omarius Hines.  I’m not sure I can express how utterly amazing Hines is more than I already have, so I’ll let his play speak for itself.
Thanks to Hines – and some gutsy play calling – Meyer’s Gators are now eight-for-eight on fake punts.  Part of it is because of the surprise Florida’s opponents never see coming and part of it is due to execution.  The Gators executed it to perfection against Tennessee and Hines instantly became one of the heroes.
Had a blast watching Omar Hunter out there lead blocking, even if the big defensive tackle didn’t touch anyone on the play.
3rd.  USF has played all of two games this season and the bowl projections have already started.  Right now, it appears as if there are two possible destinations in the Bulls’ future – the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl or the Liberty Bowl.  And three possible opponents – Kentucky, Louisiana-Lafayette, or Southern Miss.  Not very exciting possibilities, but again, USF has played exactly two games.  A lot can change over the remainder of the regular season.  And a lot will.
4th.  Brandon Hanning, hero or idiot?
If you don’t know who Hanning is, here’s the brief recap.  Hanning was the Ohio Bobcat.  Emphasis on was.  After essentially attacking the Ohio State Buckeye on Saturday, Hanning was banned from being involved in Ohio athletics.  The reason goes beyond the obvious attack.
It was Hanning’s goal to attack the Buckeye and he admitted as much.  He claimed to have only tried out to become the Ohio mascot with the intent of tackling Brutus the Buckeye.  Hanning accomplished his goal, got his 15 minutes of fame, and now is no longer a member of the mascot community.
And 1.  Rest in peace Kenny McKinley, Denver Broncos wide receiver and South Carolina’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards.

Do Five-Star Recruits Become Five-Star Performers?

This time of year the college football world goes into a recruiting frenzy.  The season has ended.  Spring games are still months away.  Fall practice seems like it may never get here.  So every fan (at least every diehard) focuses on recruiting.
If you’re like the rest of us fanatics, you want to know anything and everything about the recruits your school is after.  And if you cheer for a big program, five-star prospects offer bragging rights.  Remember that movie with Shaq?  No, not Kazaam.  That other one in which he played (and it was a stretch) a basketball player?  Blue Chips.  That’s what the five-star recruits are.  Blue chips.  They are considered the cream of the crop.  And you want as many of them as scholarships your school has available.
For Florida, the Army All-American Game was a big moment.  Huge in the recruiting world.  The Gators went from having not one five-star prospect committed to have three (according to in only a matter of a few hours.  And if the Under Armour All-American Game the week before was a barometer of those who may get that elusive fifth star in the coming weeks, Florida may end up with five or six when all is said and done.
Since 2002 (and not including the current recruiting class), Florida has signed 22 five-star prospects.  Looking back over the 22, you can see some definite success stories and some definite misses.  Due to this, a few friends (One Eyed Willy, KP, and Vanilla Bear) and I decided to perform a little exercise and rate each player from one to five stars based on how they played or the potential they now present.  In the end, we only rated 19 of the 22, leaving off the three from the 2009 recruiting class (Gary Brown, Andre Debose, and Jelani Jenkins) due to redshirting and lack of anything to accurately rate them on.  Our goal was to determine who lived up to the hype and who went in the other direction.  And here are the results:
5.00 Stars – Derrick Harvey, Percy Harvin, Jarvis Moss, Brandon Spikes, Tim Tebow – These are the guys that met the hype head on, ran it over, and never looked back.  It was unanimous that each one of them lived up to their five-star status.  It’s no coincidence the three of the five that have been drafted all went in the first-round and the remaining two most likely will.  These were definitely the men among boys.
4.75-4.50 Stars – Andre Caldwell, Carlos Dunlap, Chad Jackson – Two receivers that came in together and a stud defensive lineman.  Caldwell left Florida as the career leader in receptions and Jackson left with the single-season record.  Dunlap will test the NFL waters after a dominant junior year.
4.25-4.00 Stars – Ciatrick Fason, Will Hill, Matt Patchan – Fason might have had a chance at a place higher in the rankings had he not left after his junior year and Hill and Patchan are still fighting hard to realize greatness.  Hill’s only knock is having to split playing time, but five-star status may be in sight as he gets on the field more in 2010.  If Patchan is left at one position, he could still blossom into a star.
3.75-3.50 Stars – Omar Hunter, Dee Webb – Realistically, Hunter gets an incomplete at this stage in his career.  With years still ahead of him, he will have plenty of chances to shine.  Webb was another one of those that could have cashed in on greatness with one more year.  As it was, he was consistent, but rarely spectacular for three seasons.
3.25-3.00 Stars – Joe Cohen, Carl Johnson – There was talk for a while at trying Cohen out as a power back, so that may have slowed his development, but in the end he was an important part of the defense, just never a true star.  Johnson has one final year to pull it all together.  He’s been good, but not great just yet.
2.75-2.50 Stars – Torrey Davis – Davis probably gets more credit than he deserves for one spectacular play.  In the end, he left Florida after never becoming the player he was expected to be and spending most of his time in the doghouse.
2.25-2.00 Stars – Carl Moore, Cameron Newton, James Wilson – Moore and Wilson still have a chance to prove themselves, but they may not become more than solid athletes.  Newton on the other hand still has a chance to be great, but if he does, it will be while wearing the orange and blue of a different SEC school.

Game Preview: Florida Gators vs. Georgia Bulldogs – 10/31 – 3:30

Heading into the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, let’s look at the positives, shall we.  Florida is behind only Alabama and Auburn in the SEC for total points scored (and the Gators have played one game less).  Each other SEC East team already has at least two losses.  And the Gators have won 12 straight against conference opponents.  They used to say something to the effect of the first goal being to get to Atlanta, and the rest will sort itself out.  There are only two teams that can prevent Florida from getting to Atlanta.  One is South Carolina (assuming Florida losses two SEC games, one of which would have to be to the Gamecocks, while South Carolina wins out) and the other (which needs the same scenario) is the Gators’ opponent this weekend – Georgia.
Here are 10 things about Saturday’s matchup…
1. The Okefenokee Oar.  A paddle made from a piece of a 1,000-year-old cypress found in a swamp on the border between Florida and Georgia.  You can’t make this stuff up.  Beginning this year, the Gators and Bulldogs are battling for an oar.  A 1,000-year-old oar that most assuredly has the powers of black magic cursed into it by the swamp’s inhabitants, but still an oar.  No one said rivalry trophies had to be gloriously bronzed cups with victors engraved on the side.  An oar will do just fine.
2. Scoring from outside of the red zone.  Can’t remember where we read this idea, but it’s a simple one really.  If you can’t score from inside of the 20-yard line, just score from outside of it.  The red zone is kryptonite to the Gators so bring back the big play.  If your team isn’t good at something, don’t do it.  Stay out of the red zone.  It’s a dangerous place where turnovers and field goals rule.  Score on the long ball, the big run.
3. Random Omarius Hines fact: Halloweening as the invisible man, or more accurately wide receiver #82.  (In case you’re wondering [which we’re sure you weren’t] why Hines keeps appearing at the #3 position, it has something to do with our push for him to be the #3 WR.)
4. Emmanuel Moody’s first red zone carry.  Despite the attempt to score from outside the 20 at all times, Florida will find itself in a situation or two from within the red zone.  Maybe due to a nice punt return or a Joe Cox blunder.  This means we’ll get a chance to witness a mythical beast only heard of in lore.  A Moody red zone carry.  You heard it here first.  It will happen against Georgia.  (In no way can we possibly guarantee that.)
5. Can a team continue to win with such poor pass distribution?  Alabama, Cincinnati, Iowa, Texas.  All are undefeated.  All have exactly six pass catchers with 10 or more receptions.  Florida has two.  Now of course the Gators hold the advantage of being the #1 team in the nation so this isn’t really a complaint, but it’s getting to the point in the season that it’s somewhat disturbing someone else hasn’t stepped up.  Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez are getting theirs, but Florida needs other options.  Let’s rephrase that, Florida needs other reliable options.
6. Whatever it is, step up from the offensive line.  It may be execution.  It may be schemes.  It may be trying to give Tim Tebow more of a challenge.  It no longer matter.  Step up and deliver the pancakes.  Block aggressively.  Protect the quarterback.  Give the running backs holes.  Grade the road.  Get past the criticism and play with some passion.  One slip up can result in a trip to Orlando or Tampa.  Both lovely places where many of us TBGers frequent, but not where anyone truly wants to go bowling.
7. The defensive tackles may just be the key.  Terron Sanders is quietly putting together one hell of a season.  He is a force in the middle and a catalyst to the defensive ends getting to opposing quarterbacks.  This week, he may welcome back DT-mates Jaye Howard and Lawrence Marsh.  A heavy rotation of those three and Omar Hunter could spell danger for a Georgia run game that is already shaky.  Sigh, sometimes we daydream about this unit with John Brown and Torrey Davis.
8. Carlos Dunlap is a man.  After a sacktastic performance against Mississippi State, Dunlap earned the right to be removed from this spot.  However, we’ve kept him here to praise #8 from coming out of the witness relocation program and being his dominant self.  But one game does not make a true man.  True man made over many moons.  Keep bringing it Carlos.  Think of this as your audition for that silly league that plays games on Sundays if you have to.
9. The kicking competition is back open.  We’re not completely sure why, but why not?  The kickers have hit 13 of 17 field goal attempts this season.  Not bad.  The kickers have missed two extra points this season.  Ugh.  We’re all for sticking with one kicker and riding him until he has a Martin Gramatica-like breakdown.  It doesn’t seem to have happened with either yet, but the job is up for grabs nonetheless.
10. And finally, because you all knew it was coming…to hell with Georgia!

TBG’s MVPs: Florida Gators 62 – Charleston Southern Buccaneers 3

It’s time for the individual game awards. Names for most pending.

Offensive MVP: Riley Cooper, WR, 5 receptions, 105 yards, and 1 kickoff in which he basically kept up with Brandon James for 85 yards while blocking people. Showing us which color Gatorade he favors aside, Cooper played great in limited time. He could become Tim Tebow’s go-to guy after his game one performance. Hands. Speed. Blocking skills. Cooper had it all against Charleston Southern and we all agreed he was worthy of the Offensive MVP.

Defensive MVP: Jon Bostic, LB, 7 tackles (6 solo, 1 assist). Hard to single out one player in a game where Florida called only a handful of defensive schemes, but it was a true freshman that took home the unanimous honors. One Eyed Willy said Bostic “is going to be GOOD!” He already is William. He already is. Bostic looks like he’ll be getting significant time this year. And that’s a very good thing.

Play of the Game: Brandon James’ 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He said one of his goals during his senior season was to finally return a kickoff for a touchdown and have it count. James checked that off his list pretty quickly. Another unanimous winner, Florida is going to miss James in 2010. More than any of us can imagine right now.

WARNING: Camera vibrations may be Riley Cooper-esque vomit-inducing.

Surprise Players of the Game: We split this award three ways. Mike Gillislee, RB, 6 carries, 41 yards, 1 touchdown. Willy’s pick was the first freshman to have the black stripe removed from his helmet during fall practice. I’ve heard comments about being the most NFL-ready running back the coaches have seen in years. I went with the Matt Patchan/James Wilson duo. It looks like the Gators have six fully capable offensive linemen. And KP selected the svelte Omar Hunter who he says “played like a man with a purpose.”

Bouskilla Award (Hardest Hit): David Nelson, WR. Will Hill left his mark on a CSU receiver, but we all agreed we had to give the Bouskilla to Nelson. Nelson is a continuously improving player who laid out some inattentive Buccaneer during James’ kickoff return.

Kyle Jackson Memorial Trophy (Player Who Shouldn’t Have Been Out There): Wondy Pierre-Louis, CB. There was a time when we all had high hopes for Wondy. Then his coverage skills stopped improving. We are all clamoring for the return of Janoris Jenkins.

More Fun with the Florida Gator Roster

After going through the photos, it’s time for the bios. The Florida roster is full of nuggets of information you need to know and more you probably have no desire to find out. Below are some of the better bio entries from players on this season’s roster. Sometimes I wish the players were allowed to write more themselves instead of just contributing the occasional bit. If that were the case, the number of hits Matt Patchan’s bio would get would probably destroy the GatorZone servers.

Markihe Anderson“Nicknamed ‘Number 1 Stunna’ by friends and teammates, representing his jersey number (1) in high school.” – ‘Number 14 Stunna’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Brandon Antwine – “Chose Florida because he ‘has Gator in his blood.’” – You might want to get a doctor to check that out.

John Crofoot“Three older brothers also were long snappers in the SEC, Chas and Clay at Auburn, and Ike at South Carolina.” – As I’m sure I’ve said before, you can’t learn how to be a long snapper. It’s in your DNA!

Jermaine Cunningham“Prep All-American Sandwich Tosser.” – Okay, okay. It doesn’t really say that.

Jeffery Demps“Son of Jeffrey and Marilyn Demps.” – Jeffery? Jeffrey? The placement of the “r” is crucial.

Carlos Dunlap“Also returned kicks for his team.” – You couldn’t make me want to attempt to bring down Dunlap on a kick return.

Cole Gilliam“Had shoulder surgery following his senior season in high school.” – Really? There was nothing better than this to write about Gilliam?

Marquis Hannah“CAREER: Tore his ACL and missed the 2008 season. 2008: Suffered a torn ACL and missed the entire 2008 campaign.” – Quick, how many other ways can it be written?

Cade Holliday“Chose Florida for…the chance to compete for a national title in football.” – I’d say that turned out alright.

Omar Hunter“Born Omar Divine Hunter.” – Yet another reason to love Omar. Divine.

Maurice Hurt“Nicknamed ‘The Big Hurt’ by friends and teammates.” – I would hope it was by his friends and teammates. If you give yourself a nickname, you deserve to be shot. Unless of course you start a blog and come up with some clever…oh never mind.

Jelani Jenkins“His parents devised a three-page matrix of their son’s college choices, breaking down schools by such categories as world academic ranking, graduation rates, diversity and number of NFL draft picks in the past five years.” – Admit it. You want to see this matrix.

Carl Johnson“Nicknamed ‘Pancake Man’ by his high school teammates and coaches.” – Is there a better nickname than ‘Pancake Man?’ I personally prefer waffles, but wouldn’t tell Johnson that to his face.

Lawrence Marsh“Wore number 80 in high school.” – And yet he wasn’t nicknamed ‘Number 80 Stunna.’

Lerentee McCray“Born Lerentee Zavonne McCray.” – A close second to Hunter for best middle name on the team.

Emmanuel Moody“Played Pee-Wee football with former Florida running back Kestahn Moore in Dallas.” – Well I got dunked on by Darrell Jackson…twice. So there!

Christopher Scott“Always wanted to be a Gator.” – Good enough for me.

Tim Tebow – Only brought up to emphasize the extreme massiveness of #15’s bio.

A Look at Depth Charts: The Florida Defense

After covering the offense, I’m moving on to the defense. Considering it returns all 11 starters, this wasn’t too difficult to put together, but there are definitely a number of second-teamers with starting experience that could make a push for serious playing time.

Players that could assume a starting role sometime during the season are in italics.

Florida’s Defense

Defensive End – Jermaine Cunningham (SR)
Defensive End – Carlos Dunlap (JR), Justin Trattou (JR)
Defensive Tackle – Lawrence Marsh (RJR)
Defensive Tackle – Terron Sanders (RJR), Omar Hunter (RFR)
Middle Linebacker – Brandon Spikes (SR)
Outside Linebacker – Brandon Hicks (JR), A.J. Jones (RJR)
Outside Linebacker – Ryan Stamper (RSR), Dustin Doe (SR)
Cornerback – Joe Haden (JR)
Cornerback – Janoris Jenkins (SO)
Safety – Ahmad Black (JR)
Safety – Major Wright (JR)
Nickel Back – Will Hill (SO)

Some notes on the defense…

Trattou actually started 13 games at defensive end during the 2008 season and could be on the field for the first snap during a number of games again in 2009. But the two most talented ends are Cunningham and Dunlap and overall, they should see the most time on the field.

Marsh and Sanders did their jobs last season, but coaches are looking for the interior linemen to make more of an impact. Those two should be the starters again when the season begins, but look for Hunter to push them. And we may even see Gary Brown get some important time as a true freshman.

A number of outside linebackers could see action this year and the Gators wouldn’t miss a beat. Doe, Hicks, Jones, and Stamper all have experience starting. Look for a number of others to also get time in 2009.

Although Hill is a monster talent, Black and Wright (especially as the season progressed) played too well to be unseated easily. However, coaches will figure out a way to get Hill on the field as much as possible. He will be a star of the special teams again and should be the primary nickel back.