Tag:Brandon
Posted on: July 31, 2009 1:30 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2009 1:31 pm
 

2009 Florida Gators Football Previews: Sp. Teams

Written by Chris Canada, Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder

The long and dull offseason is finally coming to a close. Anticipation has never been higher in Gainesville, as last year's BCS champions are looking to do what no team in the BCS era has been able to accomplish: win a second consecutive championship.

With all of the players from last year's team coming back to defend their title, introductions are probably not needed. However, the Gatorsfirst.com team will give you the positional breakdowns you deserve to be fully ready for the 2009 season.

Urban Meyer has emphasized an importance in the special teams game ever since he got here. Last season alone, the Gators ranked 9th nationally in punt return yardage, with two punt return touchdowns, ranked 8th in the country in net punt yardage, and blocked a total of nine kicks. This year appears to be headed in the right track as all the big players are back, as well as some new blood. Here’s the special teams preview...

 

Punters

Florida returns one of the best punters in the nation in Chas Henry (Jr., No.17, P, 6'3'', 222lbs). Last season, he averaged 43.4 net yards per punt, which ranked him third in the SEC. He put 21 punts inside the 20-yardline, which is a huge benefit to the field position game.

Henry continually boom punts, and he had a season long of 67 yards against FSU. He was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy award given to the nation’s premier punter. I expect him to be in the running for that award this year.

In addition to booming punts, he will be our emergency quarterback if needed, as he started for his high school team. The trick plays are always a threat because of his strong arm.

Backing him up will be redshirt freshman walk-on David Lerner. Although we only have two punters, Lerner will not see any action with a star in front of him.

 

Kickers

Jonathan Phillips (RSr., No.38, K, 5'10'', 218lbs) returns for what seems like his 17th season in Gainesville, as he was able to get a medical redshirt for his missed 2007 campaign. Phillips was very steady last season, hitting 12 of 13 field goals, and making 78 of 79 extra points, which set an SEC record. We all know the one he missed...

Because of his accuracy, he was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza award, given to the nation’s best kicker. And although he’s accurate, he doesn’t have a very strong leg, so you’ll rarely see him attempt from lengths greater than 45 yards.

Caleb Sturgis (So., No.19, S, 5'10'', 190lbs) will be taking care of the kickoffs this season. He has an incredibly strong leg, as showcased at the Orange & Blue game. Unfortunately, he tends to pull a lot of kickoffs out of bounds (eight last year to be exact). This frustrated me constantly, because they always seem to happen after big scores. The coaching staff wasn’t too pleased either, often pulling him for the next kickoff. He has a lot of talent, and we’ll probably see him attempt some long field goal tries throughout the season.

 

Punt/Kickoff Returners

I’ve mentioned Brandon James (Sr., No.25, PR/KR, 5'7'', 185lbs) before in my WR preview. However his true threat to defenses is returning kicks. His ’08 campaign was something special. He was named an All-American by FWAA, Sporting News, and Phil Steele. He was also named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year.

He finished third in the country in punt return yards, averaging 29.7 yards per game, returning two back for touchdowns, including the breathtaking one against Tennessee, which I wrote about here. His ability to move the ball down the field creates an extremely important field position advantage.

James returns kickoffs as well. However, he’ll be sharing the field with a new returner now that Kestahn Moore has graduated. I expect some other burners to take his place. Jeff Demps returned a kick 39 yards last year in his lone opportunity. The boy’s got speed. I think he’d make a great option to fill that roll.

Another person that I can see fielding kickoffs is true freshman Andre Debose. He has a knack for making big plays, and when he’s alone in space, watch out!

 

Punt/Kickoff Coverage

The Gators have a fine punt coverage game. Because Chas Henry is able to get a lot of air time under his kicks, the speedy defenders have plenty of time to get down field and make the tackle, as evidenced by they’re low 5.6 yard per return average.

The area that concerns me is kickoff coverage. During both of the last two seasons, the Gator kickoff team has allowed over 20 yards per return. This is crucial because over time those extra yards of field position add up. Hopefully Coach Meyer will do something to shore this up.

 

Punt/FG Blocking

The most under-appreciated part of this special teams unit is the ability to block kicks. Last season alone, the Gators blocked nine kicks. Carlos Dunlap had three of those blocks, on both punts and field goals. Jeff Demps had two punt blocks as well.

The ability to not only stop an offense, but to also create the equivalent of a turnover by blocking a kick alters the field position game drastically. With all of the speed and size coming back, I expect the trend of blocking kicks to continue.

 

You can find the other position previews here: QBsRBsWRs/TEsOLsDLs,LBs, and DBs.

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Posted on: July 29, 2009 9:00 am
 

2009 Florida Gators Football Previews: LBs

Written by Chris Canada, Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder

The long and dull offseason is finally coming to a close. Anticipation has never been higher in Gainesville, as last year's BCS champions are looking to do what no team in the BCS era has been able to accomplish: win a second consecutive championship.

With all of the players from last year's team coming back to defend their title, introductions are probably not needed. However, the Gatorsfirst.com team will give you the positional breakdowns you deserve to be fully ready for the 2009 season.

We now cover the linebacking corps, which like the rest of the defense, returns every starter and backup from last year’s national championship team. This is the best set of linebackers I’ve seen at the University of Florida. They are the #1 squad in the nation, and second isn’t even close. They bring back multiple future NFL stars and have the most depth in the country. They’re experienced and hungry to win another title...

 

Returning Starters

The captain of the defense Brandon Spikes (Sr., No.51, LB, 6'3'', 258lbs) is the heart and soul of this defense, replacing Tony Joiner before him. He’s every bit Tim Tebow on defense, as he commands respect and expects greatness on the field.

I’ve had my radar on him since his freshman season, when he played in eight games, including the national championship game. He made some bone-crushing tackles, and I knew we’d have another great Brandon at middle linebacker after Siler left (this happened shortly thereafter). Last year, he didn’t put up the gaudy tackle stats from the year before (93 vs 131). But he did have an excellent season with eight tackles for loss, two sacks, and four interceptions resulting in two touchdowns.

Spikes turned down a sure 1st round NFL draft selection to come back to Florida. Now both James and I have said that if a player has a shot at guaranteed money in the pros, go a take it; ask Brett Nelson. However, we will gladly take him back, as we took back the famed “oh-fours”.

Spikes is a special linebacker that has the natural ability to sniff out offensive plays and make an immediate impact. He’s similar to Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, as he seems to make all the big plays, and he’s a vocal leader. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he has in store for this upcoming year!

This linebacking group isn’t just made up of one guy. There are two other starters that make this unit special. A.J. Jones (RJr., No.16, LB, 6'1'', 226lbs) will be starting at strongside linebacker. Last season he had 35 tackles, and a fumble recovery. He’s extremely quick, and will be primarily be used as a pass rusher.

On the weakside, Ryan Stamper (RSr., No.41, LB, 6'2'', 235lbs) took over last season and ended up starting 11 games. He recorded 45 tackles and one sack. He controls the middle when Spikes is out of the game, and you rarely see him miss a tackle.

 

Backups

Stamper better watch his back, because Dustin Doe (Sr., No.32, LB, 6'0'', 231lbs) has been shining during spring practices. He’ll see plenty of action, as he used to be the starter before Stamper took over. He had 30 tackles and one interception last year.

It’s quite possible that the next great Brandon may be Brandon Hicks (Jr., No.40, LB, 6'2'', 221lbs). Hicks started six games last season recording 34 tackles and two sacks. He’ll be in the main rotation, backing up both the strong and weak sides. He’s coming back from shoulder surgery, so we’ll have to watch his progress.

The last man of the main rotation is Lorenzo Edwards (Jr., No.26, LB, 6'1'', 236lbs). He came to Gainesville as a safety prospect, but was converted to linebacker. Using those skills, he is very good against the pass and has been known to lay a few people out from time to time. He recorded 27 tackle last season, and will be the main reserve for A.J. Jones.

 

Other LBs

With three seniors in the main rotation, and two possible early departures (Jones & Hicks), the young guys better get some work in to hone their skills and be ready for the 2010 season. Luckily, the Gators don’t lack talent in the wings.

This offseason produced two big-time recruits in Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins. Bostic is expected to compete for the middle linebacker role in the future, while Jenkins was the highest rated outside linebacking prospect. Jelani means “Mighty” in Swahili, and the Gators hope he’s very mighty for years to come.

Alongside the newest guys, sophomore Lerentee McCray is coming back after a solid freshman season where he played in eight games. Redshirt freshman Brendon Beal is coming back from a torn ACL last spring and looks to get his college career started.

Former walk-ons Chris PintadoScott Peek, and Michael Ross don’t expect to see much, if any, playing time.

 

I've already discussed the QBsRBsWRs/TEsOLs, and DLs. Look for the Secondary preview tomorrow!

You can view the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
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Posted on: July 24, 2009 1:19 pm
 

2009 Florida Gators Football Previews: RBs

Written by Chris Canada, Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder

The long and dull offseason is finally coming to a close. Anticipation has never been higher in Gainesville, as last year's BCS champions are looking to do what no team in the BCS era has been able to accomplish: win a second consecutive championship.

With all of the players from last year's team coming back to defend their title, introductions are probably not needed. However, the Gatorsfirst.com team will give you the positional breakdowns you deserve to be fully ready for the 2009 season.

One of the big question marks heading into last season was their lack of experience at running back. However, after leading the SEC in rushing last season, there is high anticipation for this upcoming season. We now look at the tailbacks and fullbacks for the 2009 season...

Jeff Demps (So., No. 2, RB/ATH, 5'8'', 183lbs) – Demps was a complete and pleasant surprise last season. No one expected this little guy to be able to handle the rigors that SEC defenses place on running backs. Everyone except the Florida coaching staff believed he was too small. Urban saw his breakaway speed, and boy is “breakaway” an understatement! Jeff Demps may be the fastest player I’ve ever seen play at Florida, and that’s saying a whole lot. Demps ended up rushing for over 600 yards and seven TDs. Along with Rainey and Moody, he’ll be able to stay fresh and not have to take more than 10-15 carries per game.

Chris Rainey (RSo., No. 3, RB, 5'9'', 175lbs) – Rainey had a bounce-back year last season as he was coming back from injuries sustained during his freshman year (which he ended up taking a redshirt). Chris averaged 7.8 yd/carry and scored four TDs. He’s just about as fast as Demps, so it’ll be fun to see those two burn. He’ll also stay fresh by taking only 10-15 carries per game.

Emmanuel Moody (RJr., No. 21, RB, 6'0'', 210lbs) – If Demps and Rainey are lightening, Moody is most definitely thunder. This bruising tailback is coming of what some can perceive as a disappointing year after transferring from USC. However, when you look at it, it’s not really his fault that coaching staff was reluctant to put him in after Demps and Rainey started scorching everyone. He has a few bright spots, including great showings in the Tennessee and Georgia games, as well as topping 100 yards against the Citadel. He’s been the most impressive back this spring and I expect him to be a force in our backfield for the next two years.

Brandon James (Sr., No. 25, RB/ATH, 5'7'', 185lbs) – Although he’s made his name as a return specialist, Brandon James did get to see some action on the offensive side of the ball last season, both running and receiving. He’ll probably get a couple of those touches that Percy Harvin had last year, along with freshman receiver Andre Debose. Look for him to score at least one highlight film score from the tailback position this year

Other RBs – There has been a whole lot of buzz about walk-on Christopher Scott who looks like he can steal a few carries here and there. True freshman Mike Gillislee has impressed coaches, but I expect him to redshirt and be part of the Gators’s long term plans. Vincent Brown and Marquis Hannah are also on the roster, but they will most likely not see the field.

Fullbacks – The spread offense doesn’t have much use for a typical fullback. Combine that with the fact that Tim Tebow plays like both positions most of the time, and you can see why touches will be scarce. Ask Billy Latsko. However, when in the newly implemented I-Formation sets, expect to see Southern Illinois transferRick Burgess and redshirt freshman TJ Pridemore battling for playing time. Steven Wilks tore his ACL in the spring and will miss the season.

We discussed our QBs yesterday. Look for the Wide Receivers and Tight Ends preview on Monday!

 

You can find the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com