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September 2, 2011

Freshmen Report: Predicting who plays

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MORE FOOTBALL COVERAGE: Opponent Breakdown: FAU | Rebuilt backfield | Roundtable: Fall Football Q&A | 10 Questions: UF-FAU Edition | Weis will implement new system from the sidelines | Depth Chart Breakdown & Positional Grades

VOTE: Who will have the biggest impact?

It's always hard to predict whether a true freshman will redshirt the first year on campus or see significant time due to a lack of depth at the position, injuries or because the frosh is just that good. But based on the information provided by the coaching staff over the course of camp and a look at the depth chart, it's safe to say Florida will make use of many of its first-year players in 2011.

On defense, the Gators could start two true freshmen in the secondary to go with an already young and talented unit.

There are several factors, such as readiness, injuries, depth chart and talent, when it comes time to decide who plays and who doesn't. It can be determined as much by depth at the position as the freshman's preparation level.. With that in mind InsideTheGators.com predicts which freshmen will suit up for the Gators this season.

Remember, once a true freshman steps foot on the field for a single play, he is no longer eligible to be redshirted. However, if he doesn't play past the fourth game of the season, UF can ask for a medical hardship waiver, basically redshirting the player. Therefore, just because you see a freshman take part in one of the two 'cakewalks' to start the season, that doesn't necessarily mean that they will avoid a redshirt season.

Predicting who plays - 2007
Predicting who plays - 2008
Predicting who plays - 2009
Predicting who plays - 2010

Note: Players are listed alphabetically in each category

TIME TO SUIT UP: If they remain healthy, these four newcomers are all but assured foregoing a red shirt season
Jeff Driskel, 6-foot-4, 235-pound quarterback
John Brantley is the starter heading into the season, but Driskel should see plenty of time in a backup role. He'll be called on to mop up in blowouts, and if something happens to Brantley, he'll get first crack at replacing the senior.
A.C. Leonard, 6-foot-4, 244-pound tight end
If Leonard takes a redshirt this season, it will be because he doesn't recover from his meniscus tear in time to make an impact. Leonard was in line to play right away in two-tight end sets alongside Jordan Reed, but the knee injury kept him out of most of fall camp. If he can get healthy a few games into the season, we fully expect him to see the field this year.
Marcus Roberson, 6-foot, 184-pound cornerback
Roberson didn't enroll early, which normally gives a true freshman very little chance to make an impact in his first season. But Roberson quickly made an impression on his teammates and coaches, and it sounds like he's as good of a bet as any of the corners to get the opening day starting nod.
De'Ante Saunders, 5-foot-8, 192-pound safety
"Pop" had the best spring camp of any freshman and earned praise early and often from head coach Will Muschamp. Roberson may have passed him up at corner during fall, however, so Muschamp decided to move him to safety, where he wasn't pleased with the production from Joshua Shaw and Josh Evans. Saunders continued to excel as his new position and he's expected to start alongside Matt Elam on Saturday.

THE NEXT BEST BETS: Whether or not these five see action may depend on others
Kyle Christy, 6-foot-3, 184-pound punter
Many assumed Christy would get on campus and be Florida's punter from Day 1 because he was the only scholarship punter on the team when he arrived in the spring. Since then, senior walk-on David Lerner came on strong and even earned a scholarship before the start of the season. Muschamp said Lerner is his No. 1 punter as of now, but if something happens or he doesn't play up to snuff, Christy will get a look.
Hunter Joyer, 5-foot-10, 242-pound fullback
Joyer is firmly behind Trey Burton on the depth chart, but he brings a slightly different element to the game than Burton, which means he could see some time. Joyer is a strong, blocking fullback who is made to clear the way on short-yardage situations.
Louchiez Purifoy, 6-foot-1, 183-pound cornerback
Purifoy isn't going to start, but he can definitely see some time in nickel and dime coverage. He's also got enough speed to be considered as a return man at some point.
Graham Stewart, 6-foot-1, 245-pound linebacker
Stewart will provide depth at the inside linebacker positions thanks to his college-level size. Stewart is still a little bit raw, but he may be thrust into the rotation if Jon Bostic or Jelani Jenkins suffer an injury.
Trip Thurman, 6-foot-5, 310-pound offensive lineman
Like Muschamp says, the closer a freshman plays to the ball, the less likely he is to make a contribution right away. So offensive linemen often need a few years to build the strength necessary to compete, especially in the SEC. Thurman came to school bigger and stronger than an average high school lineman, however, and could see action at some point in the season if only to build depth.

ON THE BUBBLE: These four are likely to take a red shirt season
Jacoby Brissett, 6-foot-3, 239-pound quarterback
Driskel got a leg up on Brissett by enrolling during the spring, but Brissett is an extremely talented quarterback prospect. He's only likely to see the field if something happens to Brantley, but it's not totally out of the question that Brantley could lose his job to Driskel at some point this season, though it isn't likely.
Jabari Gorman, 5-foot-9, 183-pound safety
The coaching staff hasn't brought up Gorman's name much during fall camp, but the lack of depth at safety and in the secondary means Gorman has an off chance to get on the field this season.
Chris Johnson, 5-foot-9, 205-pound linebacker
Johnson came in as a defensive back, but he quickly moved up to linebacker ala Dee Finley. He doesn't have the ideal size for the linebacker position, but he has good instincts and has made an impression on Muschamp.
Valdez Showers, 5-foot-11, 198-pound safety
Showers is very much in the same category as Gorman. Neither have jumped out to the front of the pack, but with no truly established starters in the secondary, you never know what could happen over the course of the season.
WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR: These four need a year in the weight room, healing up and studying the playbook
Clay Burton, 6-foot-4, 258-pound tight end
There's little to no chance Burton will see the field this season unless something goes horribly wrong at tight end for Florida. Burton came in as a defensive end and only moved to tight end after Leonard's injury. He's only there to provide some emergency depth.

Tommy Jordan, 6-foot-4, 290-pound offensive lineman
Thurman might be the exception to the offensive lineman rule, but Jordan likely falls in line with the rule. He'll take a redshirt this season while getting bigger and stronger and then start to compete for a position next season.

Ja'Juan Story, 6-foot-3, 206-pound wide receiver
Story has tons of athletic ability and could very well go on to be a productive pass catcher over the course of his career at Florida. But for now, he played quarterback almost exclusively in high school and still has a lot of polish to add to his game at a relatively new position.
Tevin Westbrook, 6-foot-5, 279-pound defensive end
Westbrook has a great frame to play end in Dan Quinn's system, but he's behind some extremely talented players on the depth chart. He will need a season to add strength to consistently bang with SEC linemen.


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