Freshman class full of contributors


Gators safety De'Ante “Pop” Saunders, 26, has recorded 18 tackles with one interception in nine games (eight starts).

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 10:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 10:05 p.m.

Will Muschamp's first recruiting class at Florida is low in numbers and star power, and does not match the elite classes Urban Meyer brought to Gainesville during his tenure.

On paper, Muschamp's first effort isn't very sexy — no five-star prospects, no top-five finish in the rankings. But on the playing field, where it really counts, this true freshman class is looking pretty good, looking pretty productive.

Of the 17 true freshman scholarship players on the roster, 14 have played and five have started games — cornerback Marcus Roberson, safety De'Ante “Pop” Saunders, quarterback Jacoby Brissett , tight end A.C. Leonard and punter Kyle Christy.

Roberson and Saunders have combined for 18 starts in the secondary. Brissett started the LSU and Auburn games at QB. Leonard has started twice at tight end and his role in the offense is increasing late in the season. Christy became the starting punter after the sixth game.

“I think for a freshman class, there's a bunch of them playing,” Muschamp said earlier this week. “I think there's probably only three guys that will be redshirted in the class. So, I'm very pleased with where we are.”

The class is relatively small, but it's making a considerable contribution this season. The true freshmen have been one of the bright spots on this 5-5 team.

Five true freshmen have played in every game — Roberson, safety Jabari Gorman, outside linebacker Chris Johnson, fullback Hunter Joyer and cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy. In all, 14 true freshmen have combined to play in 91 games.

Muschamp said three true freshmen will redshirt. That number likely will grow to six after the season.

Here is a player-by-player look at the 17 true freshmen:

Jacoby Brissett, QB: He's started two games and played in two others. He's rushed for two touchdowns, thrown for one and has completed 14-of-26 passes for 179 yards with three interceptions. He will battle fellow true freshman QB Jeff Driskel for the 2012 starting role in the spring.

Clay Burton, TE/DE: He played in the second game against UAB and hasn't played since. He will redshirt and likely move back to defensive end after working at tight end earlier in the season.

Kyle Christy, P: He took over for senior David Lerner in the Auburn game and has started the last four games. He's punted 18 times for a 41.2-yard average.

Jeff Driskel, QB: He took over for the injured John Brantley in the second half of the Alabama game and had a 31-yard run. He also started the second half of the Auburn game. He's played in five games, completing 16-of-34 passes for 148 yards with three picks.

Jabari Gorman: He's played in 10 games, mostly on special teams, with eight total tackles and a forced fumble.

Chris Johnson, OLB: The former high school safety was moved to outside linebacker in camp and has played in all 10 games, mostly on special teams. He has seven total tackles.

Tommy Jordan, OL: The coaches are high on him, but he injured his shoulder and has not played. He will redshirt.

Hunter Joyer, FB: He has played in 10 games, rushing for 45 yards and a touchdown. He also has a tackle on special teams.

A.C. Leonard, TE: He missed the first four games after injuring his knee in camp, but has played in the last six, with two starts. He caught two passes in the loss to South Carolina. Like offensive coordinator Charlie Weis likes to say, his arrow is pointing up.

Loucheiz Purifoy, CB: He's played in 10 games, mostly on special teams, with 17 total tackles

Marcus Roberson, CB: He started the first 10 games and has been one of UF's most consistent defensive players. He has 22 tackles, an interception and two pass breakups. He's out for the rest of the season with a neck injury.

De'Ante Saunders, S: He has played in nine games, with eight starts. He's recorded 18 tackles, intercepted a pass and broken up two others.

Valdez Showers, DB: He has not played and is redshirting.

Graham Stewart, LB: He has played in eight games, mostly on special teams, with no tackles.

Ja'Juan Story, WR: One of the highest-rated members of the recruiting class, he has not played and will redshirt this season.

Trip Thurman, OL: A shoulder injury sidelined him for the season and he is redshirting.

Tevin Westbrook, DE: He played in first three games, recording two tackles and a tackle for loss. UF will appeal to the SEC for a redshirt year.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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