No. 4 Florida Gators
Published: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 12:01 a.m.
Gatorsports counts down our Top 25 Preseason teams heading into the 2010 college football season.
No. 4 FLORIDA GATORS
2009 record: 13-1, 8-0 in SEC (1st in East Division, lost to Alabama in SEC Championship Game, 32-13); beat Cincinnati in Sugar Bowl 51-24
Returning starters: 6 on offense; 6 on defense
Strength: Offense and defensive secondary. Although Tim Tebow is gone, the Gators still have plenty of playmakers that are capable of scoring lots of points. Junior John Brantley steps in as quarterback and will take his first snap as starter when UF opens the season against Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 4. An exceptionally accurate passer, the Gators should be even more dangerous through the air with Brantley as the triggerman. Junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson is expected to have a breakout season, along with junior Chris Rainey, who moves from running back to slot receiver. Speedster Jeff Demps (100-meter dash NCAA champ), Emmanuel Moody and Mike Gillislee all are capable of breaking big gains at running back behind a veteran offensive line. The o-line is led by preseason All-American Mike Pouncey, who replaces his brother Maurkice (first-round draft pick by Steelers) at center, moving over from guard. Although the secondary lost All-American cornerback Joe Haden and safety Major Wright, this should still be a strength with the return of junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safeties Ahmad Black and Will Hill.
Weakness: Defensive pass rush. With the loss of Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham (Bengals, Patriots, respectively, in NFL Draft), UF's top two sack producers from last year (combined 16 of team's 39), there is a concern about the Gators' pass rush entering the 2010 season. Projected starters Duke Lemmons, Justin Trattou, Jaye Howard and Lawrence Marsh have experience but only totaled four sacks last year. Omar Hunter and William Green are pushing for starting spots at tackle and end. Competition along the defensive front will heat up even more this summer with the arrival of heralded freshmen recruits Ronald Powell (6-foot-4, 250 pounds), Dominique Easley (6-2, 253) and Sharrif Floyd (6-2, 311). Stay tuned.
Biggest star: Jeff Demps. Think of all the big plays this speedster has made in his first two years at UF. And not just on the offensive end. As a freshman, he had two blocked punts. Demps led all running backs in rushing last year with 745 yards and 7 TDs, averaging a team-best 7.5 yards per carry. With an experience offensive line, and likely more passing attempts in this year's offense, Demps should have more opportunities to break off big runs.
Rising star: Andre Debose. After sitting out last season with a hamstring injury, look for Debose to become that potent playmaker UF coaches envisioned he would be at slot receiver.
Toughest game: On Oct. 2, the Gators visit Tuscaloosa to take on preseason No. 1 Alabama.