Introducing the 2011 National Champion Florida Gators


2010. A season expected by many to be a step back for


. A rebuilding season if you will.  But a season in which an SEC Championship Game berth and an appearance in a BCS bowl is still very much in reach.  Those expecting 2010 to be a return to the 2007 season are in for an awakening.  The Gators are light years beyond that squad in terms of overall depth and experience.  It’ll show in 2010.  And it’ll really show in 2011.’s Mark Schlabach recently gazed into the future and gave some predictions for the decade ahead.  Among those were a few Florida-specific visions: Urban Meyer will lead the Gators to at least one more National Championship before retiring for good, Florida will win the SEC East in 2010, and John Brantley will take home the Heisman Trophy in 2011.  We choose to ignore Schlabach’s other prediction of Bobby Petrino taking over for Meyer one day.

The stars align in 2011.  During 2010, you’ll see that Brantley is much better than you think.  He’s the passing quarterback.  The one with the rocket arm.  The one that has a realistic chance to be one of the top quarterbacks taken in the 2012 NFL Draft.  He’ll make wide receivers better.  He’ll improve the running game because opponents will spend too much time attempting to defend the pass.  He’ll definitely lead the Gators to his share of wins in the two years he has left in orange and blue.  Fans will never love a Florida player more than they loved Tim Tebow, but Brantley will get more than his fair share of admiration.  And so will the rest of the 2011 squad.*

*This is where you get the “assuming the about-to-be-mentioned players return for 2011” disclosure. There will be no attempt to predict who may declare early for the 2011 NFL Draft until we at least get within a year of the event. Guessing at this time is pointless.

Pint-sized speed backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey will be seniors along with Brantley.  One or both will lead the running game and provide game changing runs like they’ve been doing since they both came to Florida.  Mike Gillislee – who we’ve seen flashes of already – will be a junior and firmly planted as an integral cog in the offense.  And assuming Mack Brown sticks with his commitment – which he seems to be doing – we’ll see him on the field quite a bit as well.

Deonte Thompson, Frankie Hammond, Omarius Hines, and T.J. Lawrence will all still be around.  Andre Debose will be in his third year in the system and second on the field and should be a star by then.  Stephen Alli, Quinton Dunbar, Chris Dunkley, Solomon Patton, and another recruit the Gators could receive a commitment from very soon will all have time in the offense under their belts and be ready to contribute consistently.  And don’t forget the biggest question unit of 2010.  The tight ends.  In 2011, Gerald Christian, Michael McFarland, and Desmond Parks should all have enough experience to line up in the Florida version of the TE.

The offensive line appears to be set for the future.  Big names like Xavier Nixon, Matt Patchan, and James Wilson should anchor the line in 2011.  Florida coaches actually considered playing Sam Robey at center in 2009 because he was that good.  Expect him to be one of the nation’s best over the course of the next few years.  Depth is definitely a priority and the Gators appear to be set in that department.

Go to the other side of the ball and directly across the line and you get what could have the most star power on the entire team.  Defensive line is nothing to worry about anytime soon.  There are those already on the roster: Gary Brown, William Green, Jaye Howard, Omar Hunter, Earl Okine.  And there are those about to arrive.  If you’ve had a pulse over the last month, you’ve seen Florida get commitments from three of the Rivals100’s top seven players: #1 Ronald Powell, #4 Sharrif Floyd, #7 Dominique Easley.  Oh yeah, all three are defensive linemen.  And all three could play right away.  Take a moment to wipe the drool off your face.

The linebacker position also has its share of big names.  Brendan Beal has caught the injury bug big time since his arrival, but if he can stay healthy, he’ll be an important contributor.  We’ve already seen moments from Jon Bostic that lead us to believe he’ll be a great one.  And Jelani Jenkins has All-American and future top 15 draft pick written all over him.  With Dee Finley making the move to LB from safety, there’s another body the Gators can rely on.  Add Michael Taylor – one of the MVPs of the Under Armour All-American Game – and Gideon Ajagbe – one of the most underrated recruits in recent memory – to the mix and depth will be good in 2011 as well.

Do we really have to even go over the secondary?  The current commitment list of those expected to be part of the 2010 recruiting class is a who’s who of the nation’s best defensive backs.  The current roster is no different.  In 2011, Janoris Jenkins could be starting at cornerback for the fourth straight year and Will Hill should be one the defensive leaders.  Good luck passing on the Gators that season.

The special teams should continue to be a strength with players like Demps, Rainey, Dunkley, and Robert Clark all being perfectly capable returners.  Caleb Sturgis will still have one of the strongest legs in the game and should have the control and accuracy to go along with it.  The biggest concern in 2011 could actually be at punter.  Since 2003, the Gators have not had to worry about the position in the least.  Eric Wilbur and Chas Henry were and are among the nation’s best.  In 2011, Henry will be gone and who knows who will take over the position, but if history is any indicator, Florida has nothing to worry about.

Most importantly, Meyer will still be the head coach.  There was no resignation.  At this point, there isn’t even a true leave of absence.  Meyer has announced he will coach spring practice.  All that means he will continue to be on the short list of the country’s best head coaches.  So despite assistant coaching changes (expect that when you’re a premier program), the leader will remain constant.  Think nine-win seasons are acceptable to Meyer?  Think again.  He has put Florida in a position to see at least 10 victories a year for the foreseeable future.  2011 will be more like 13 or 14 though.  Introducing the 2011 National Champion Florida Gators.