Freshmen of influence

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At the midpoint of the season, I graded the Gators in Sunday’s paper, giving UF an overall B. Now, it’s time to check out the true freshmen who have had the biggest impact this season. As you’ll see, the first two are so close that they probably should be listed as 1 and 1A.

1. Janoris Jenkins: Remember how Joe Haden struggled starting at cornerback as a true freshman last season. Well, it’s been nothing like that for Jenkins, who has been playing cornerback since his youth football days and obviously feels comfortable and has a knack for playing the position. He took over as the starter early in the season and has been UF’s best defensive back since he recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass in the Tennessee game. If he continues to progress like he has, Jenkins has a chance to be one of UF’s all-time greats at the position.

2. Jeff Demps: Going into the season, I thought he might get a touch or two per game, maybe lining up in the slot and sort of playing the Percy Harvin role. But he’s done much more than that. At this stage, he’s Florida’s best tailback. He’s averaging 13.3 yards a carry and his four touchdown runs have been an average of 47 yards. When he signed with UF, the coaches insisted Demps is not a track star playing football, but a football player that happens to be very fast. They were right on with that assessment. This kid is a football player ” and a game-changer.

3. Matt Patchan: He’s playing more and more at defensive tackle, and he brings great energy and intensity to the defensive front. This guy is going to get better and better down the stretch. Urban Meyer said at his weekly press conference Monday that there will be a decision to make after the season whether Patchan stays on defense or moves back to offensive tackle. Meyer said Patchan definitely has an NFL future if he stays at defensive tackle.

4. Will Hill: The High School All-American safety has missed some time to injury and he hasn’t played a whole lot of defense. But when he’s been healthy, he’s been a playmaker on special teams. Look for him to see more playing time at free safety in the second half. This kid has a huge upside.

5. Caleb Sturgis: He didn’t win the starting place-kicking job, but he’s by far the best kickoff man on the team and was missed after he pulled a leg muscle early in the LSU game. He has a strong leg and he’ll be the field goal kicker next season.

6. William Green: Early in the season, he was in the playing rotation at defensive end. His playing time has diminished, but the coaches love his motor and think he’ll be something special during his UF career.

Here are the true freshmen who are obviously going to be redshirted this season: linebacker Brendan Beal (knee injury), cornerback Jeremy Brown, cornerback Adrian Bushell, wide receiver Frankie Hammond, wide receiver Omarius Hines, offensive lineman Byran Jones, wide receiver T.J. Lawrence, linebacker Lerentee McCray, defensive end Earl Okine, fullback T.J. Pridemore, center Sam Robey and offensive tackle David Young.

I don’t think a final decision has been made yet on defensive tackle Omar Hunter. But with Brandon Antwine and Torrey Davis returning (and playing), it looks like the coaches will redshirt Hunter.