The Florida Gators had a nation’s best 9 players drafted in the 2010 NFL draft and that trend will likely continue as the next few years move on. Scott Porter breaks down NFL prospects by position on the Defensive side of the Florida Gators roster.
Cornerback- After losing standout Joe Haden to the Cleveland Browns last year in the first round, many thought this would be a position of concern for Florida. Junior, Janoris Jenkins has stepped up to the plate and has been every bit the lockdown corner Joe Haden was while he was at Florida. Jenkins has also doubled as punt returner and has turned into one of the top prospects at the position for the 2011 draft. Janoris a declared should become one of the the first cornerbacks off the board. Janoris has great speed and quickness along with ball skills and very tough in the run game. The story of the season for Florida would be that of Freshmen CB Jeremy Brown. At one time it looked like Brown’s career may be over after suffering a chronic back injury while lifting weights. Brown had surgery on his back in 2008, sat out the entire year, and then another surgery the following season and sat out the 2009 season. With Jenkins on the other side Brown has been tested often early in the season, but teams have had very little luck. Jeremy is one of the hardest working players on the team day in and day out and his character has been a major factor for the Gatos this season. Brown and Jenkins both have three interceptions early in the season. Brown appears to be following in the footsteps of the next great Florida cornerbacks after Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins. Florida stock piled up on blue chip prospects such as Joshua Shaw (also seeing time at safety), Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs who have all seen time for the Gators this year. All three appear to be legit NFL prospects. Senior cornerback Moses Jenkins has improved a lot and has a legit shot to make an impact on an NFL roster as well. When you consider the fact that Florida already has top recruits such as Louchiez Purifoy, De’Ante Saunders and Valdez Showers and possibly 5 start Marcus Roberson to throw into the mix next year this position for Florida could turn out to be an NFL factory.
Safety- At safety Florida has to legit NFL prospects starting for them. One of the nation’s best ballhawks the past three seasons Ahmad Black flirted with the idea of turning pro after his Junior season. Black has excellent ball skills, great awareness, and always puts himself into good position. He is a bit on the small size but plays much bigger than his size. Black is not afraid to lay the lumber and always seems to be around the ball at the right time. Junior S Will Hill is a rising safety prospect. Hill has all the tools. He has good playmaking skills, is a good tackler and seems to be in the mold of the new trend of being that all around safety that NFL teams are looking for. Sophomore S Josh Evans filled in without missing a beat for the first two weeks of the season while Will Hill was suspended. Evans appears to be in line to start and make a major impact for the Gatos in 2011. Evans will likely combine with Five star Matt Elam to be one of the nation’s top safety tandems when Black and Hill step aside to the pro level. Safety is one position that Florida has recruited extremely well since Urban Meyer took over as head coach. Jonathan Dowling a Freshmen S, appears ready to make an impact and has a very bright future with Florida. Florida lost S Jordan Haden to a transfer right before the season due to the depth of the position. Florida figured to land another safety or two to this recruiting class. Right now Florida’s biggest problem at this position is finding a way to get all of these guys playing time. With Hill and Black combining with Brown and Jenkins at the corner positions, Florida has perhaps the most feared secondary in the nation.
Linebacker- The biggest issue going into the 2010 season for the Florida Gators on Defense was replacing LB Brandon Spikes. They have had no problem doing that in replacing Spikes with Sophomore LB Jon Bostic. Bostic has already become one of the best linebackers in the nation in just his first year starting. Bostic already has three interceptions on the season and leads the Gators in tackling. Expect to see Bostic at the top of boards after this season. Bostic has proved himself in a short time and he appears to be a star in the making. Senior LB A.J. Jones coming off a knee injury from last year has improved a lot. Jones has been a four year starter and an underrated prospect. He doesn’t have the ideal size for a safety at LB, but with a huge improvement from his Sophomore to Junior season he now appears to be moving up draft rankings. Senior LB Brandon Hicks is a very underrated prospect who has been overshadowed by other Gator LB’s to come out recently. Hicks is very active and flows to the ball well. He gets away from blocks and his physical presence does not go unnoticed by opposing teams. LB is another position Florida is loaded at. Redshirt Freshman Jelani Jenkins has already made an impact early in the season and appears to be next in line of great Florida LB’s. He will start next year, and splits time with Hicks and Jones at OLB this year. Jenkins has the ability to play the middle and the outside linebacker positions. These four linebacks make up one of the nations top linebacking cores in the nation. Watch out for Sophomore LB, Dee Finley who made the switch from S to LB this season and has made a major impact on special teams for the Gators the last two years. Florida has great incoming FR class that consists of 5 star LB Chris Martin and other prices recruits such as Michael Taylor, Neiron Ball, Darrin Kitchens and the man I like to call the X factor of the 2010 recruiting class, Gideon Ajabe who is redshirting this season but has the build of a freak like athlete. Ajagbe was recruiting by many schools as a RB, but Florida thinks they may have found a blue chipper at LB.
Defensive Line- Perhaps the biggest concern with Florida going into the 2010 season was the DL. Senior Duke Lemmens and Justin Trattou start, but the most talented DE’s on the Florida Gators roster would be that of underclassmen such as 5 star Ronald Powell. Many compare him to Houston Texans DE Mario Edwards. Florida nabbed the 5 star Powell away from the hometown USC Trojans. Powell has already seen significant playing time and do not be surprised if he is inserted into the starting lineup before the end of the season. Junior William Green has waited patiently for his turn in the rotation and when given his chance has made an impact. Green is a very good special teams players and has the pass rushing skills to dominate a game. By 2011 William Green and Ronald Powell should create nightmares for opposing teams. Florida has plenty of depth with NFL talented DE’s such as Sophomore Earl Okine and Lerentee McCray who will have every chance to get significant playing time. Incoming Freshmen Lynden Trail looks who stands at 6’7” looks to make a major impact in years to come after redshirting this year to add some weight. Neiron Ball may see time at DE as well as he is a DE/LB hybrid type. At DT Florida rotates a lot of talented players. Juniors Omar Hunter and Jaye Howard have started with Seniors Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders and Brandon Antwine getting plenty of action. Howard and Hunter have the most upside of the rotating DT’s right now. However, the most talented DT on the Florida roster come from the incoming Freshmen class once again with Shariff Floyd and Dominique Easley preparing to see major playing time as early as next year. Florida’s 2010 DL recruits might be the best in any recruiting class at the position. There is loads of NFL talent here especially with the incoming recruits. Leon Orr figures to see significant playing time, right now Orr has seen action in practice at DT and OG. Whatever position the team feels best for him he is in line to project into an NFL prospect caliber player.
The Florida Gators have a dominating defense in the works, and you may want to remember these names for the present and the future because they have plenty of players on defense who are on their way to be household names.