The 2009 season had its ups and downs, but one thing that stayed pretty fluid, sans the SEC Championship, was the dominance of the Florida Gators defense. The defense had a litany of playmakers in all three sections of the defense. Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham dominated the defensive line, Brandon Spikes and Ryan Stamper played great at linebacker and Joe Haden and Major Wright held down the passing attack as premier defensive backs. Unfortunately for Gator fans, all six of these players graduated.
Furthermore, Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong left to become the Head Coach of Louisville and Cornerbacks Coach Vance Bedford joined Strong at Louisville to become the Defensive Coordinator. The Gators replaced these two losses by hiring former Miami Dolphins LB Coach, George Edwards as Defensive Coordinator, and hired Stanford Linebackers Coach D.J. Durkin to the same position for the Gators and Safeties Coach Chuck Heater had his role expanded to include all defensive backs.
Needless to say, this year will be a significantly different defensively. However, the Gators have great depth and have recruited the consensus number 1 defensive class in the country, so expect the Gators to be just as dominate.
Neiron Ball – (6’4, 210 lbs from Jackson, GA) Neiron, who is already enrolled on campus, will need to put on a good amount of weight before the start of the season to even consider playing time. He is a very speedy defensive end (ran a sub 4.6 40-yard dash at Friday Night Lights), but will undoubtedly lose some of that speed as he adds some size. In high school, Neiron had a knack for getting into the back field and the Gator staff hopes he can play a Jermaine Cunningham type role after he grows into his frame. Neiron will be one to look for in two or three years.
Ronald Powell – (6’4, 230 lbs from Moreno Valley, CA) Ronald Powell is one of Urban Meyer’s biggest recruiting coups in his five year tenure with the Gatos. Very seldom does any coach go to California and steal a prospect right out of USC’s backyard. However, Urban Meyer sold Ronald on a family atmosphere, as well as his ability to put defensive lineman in to the NFL. Ronald is tall, strong, fast, agile, smart and has great technique. Furthermore, as we saw in the Army All-American game, he can play Tight End and Linebacker as well. Ronald Powell will be a star and he will play in the 2010 season. Three years from now, Ronald Powell will be considered one of the best Gator defensive linemen ever.
Lynden Trail – (6’7, 220 lbs from Miami, FL) Very simple, Lynden is tall and lanky. You can compare his height to Carlos Dunlap and his weight to Chas Henry. After a season or two, I imagine Lynden will weigh between 245-260 lbs, so I do not imagine you will see him on the field too much before then. Lynden is a very quick Defensive End and will beat a lot of offensive lineman because of that speed. Furthermore, he keeps is eyes on the ball carrier at all times is a very hard worker, that doesn’t give up until the play is officially done. Look out for Lynden in two years or so.
Dominique Easley – (6’3, 258 lbs from Staten Island, NY) Dominique Easley was the official end to the horrible month of December for the Gators and a huge January welcome after Easley surprised the world and picked the Florida Gators at the Under Armour All-American game. The defensive MVP for the Under Armour All-Star game is speedy and extremely strong. He has a non-stop motor and knows how to get leverage against offensive lineman. Dominique will be a mainstay on the DL for the next three to four years. Although if we switch to a 3-4 defense he will probably play slightly less than…
Sharrif Floyd – (6’3, 310 lbs from Philadelphia, PA) Sharrif Floyd will play a significant amount of time next season and if the Gators switch to a 3-4 defense will play the nose tackle position. Sharrif has the ability to drive lineman and will need to be double teamed. He is extremely strong, both in the legs and arms, which will allow him to stay low, while keeping balance but pushing the offensive line back towards the quarterback. Floyd will be one of the top defensive tackles in the country by his sophomore year.
Leon Orr – (6’4, 300 lbs from New Port Richey, FL) Leon Orr is currently in Gainesville, but not enrolled for academic reasons. Furthermore, Leon Orr played OL in High School, but projects as a DT in college and as such will be rather raw at the DT position which will be loaded especially with the additions of Floyd and Easley. However, Leon Orr is extremely athletic and extremely quick especially for his size. I would not be surprised to see Leon Orr head back to the offensive line as a guard after a little while simply because of his size and quickness.
Gideon Ajagbe – (6’2, 197 lbs from Coconut Grove, FL) Ajagbe is small, very small. He will need to add at least 20 pounds to play the strong side linebacker spot that Urban wants him at. However, he is very speedy and pretty strong for his size. He will be at least a two year project if they keep him at LB, but do not sleep on him as a RS Junior or Senior.
Michael Taylor – (6’1, 205 from Atlanta, GA) Michael Taylor was originally committed to Tennessee, but after the departure of Lane Kiffin, Taylor jumped ship and joined the Gators. Michael Taylor was the Co-Defensive MVP from the Under Armour All American game and was considered one of the biggest surprises of the week. He is quick and plays with good instincts and at the same time, is a tough hitter. Michael will probably redshirt this season, but will be a good one for the Gators as an outside linebacker.
Demar Dorsey – (6’1, 175 from Lauderdale Lakes, FL) Demar is a great player, with exceptional speed and great coverage skills. As a junior in High School, he was clocked at 4.25 in the forty and was named by Rivals.com as the fastest player at the Under Armour All-American game. Not only is Dorsey fast, he plays great in coverage and has good field smarts. Demar had a great interception at the Under Armour game and showed that he is always around the ball. Dorsey is one of the only players that I would worry about losing from this recruiting class. He is visiting FSU on the 23<sup>rd</sup> of January and USC on the 29<sup>th</sup> of January. However, if the Gators have a good in-home visit the week before National Signing Day, I expect him to stay with the Gators.
Matt Elam – (6’0, 205 lbs from West Palm Beach, FL) Anybody that even remotely followed recruiting his year is already tired of Matt Elam. Matt Elam was committed to Florida, then decommitted, then committed to FSU, then decommitted and re-committed to Florida in less than a week. Despite all the drama, Elam is worth it. Elam is strong, agile, versatile and relatively quick. I imagine Elam will play special teams this season and play a little safety, but will not start until he is at least a sophomore. One of Elam’s downfalls, however, is his desire to always go for the big hit, somewhat similar to Major Wright.
Jordan Haden – (6’0, 198 lbs from Ft. Washington, MD) Jordan Haden is the brother of All-Pro Joe Haden and was considered at the same age, as more athletic. He is fast, instinctive and has great coverage skills. Furthermore, he runs a 4.41 forty yard dash and is pretty strong for his size. I expect Haden to grow into a linebacker in College as he is the third best Safety in this class alone and has the body build to add 20-30 more pounds. Look forward to another great Haden Gator.
Cody Riggs – (5’9, 156 lbs from Ft. Lauderdale, FL) Along with FSU commit Lamarcus Joyner, Riggs helped St. Thomas Aquinas have one of the top secondary’s in the country. As I am sure you can tell Cody Riggs is very light. He will need to add at least 15 pounds to even fill out his frame. But at the same time, Riggs is extremely fast (4.43 forty) and has great coverage skills, including hip change and good ball skills. He will play on kickoff coverage as he will be tough to block. It will be interesting to see how the added weight will affect his play.
Josh Shaw – (6’1, 195 lbs from Palmdale, CA) Josh was dominate at the Under Armour game and could fight for a starting position this year. Shaw is strong, fast and has great ball skills. Moreover, at 6’1 he is the perfect size for an elite cornerback. Josh Shaw is another great grab for Urban Meyer, as went into California and pulled a recruit from USC. Josh Shaw will play next year and he will be dominate.
Jaylen Watkins – (5’11, 172 lbs from Cape Coral, FL) Jaylen Watkins has good height, great speed and plays very well within the first five yards of the line of scrimmage. However, he is slightly skinny and not very strong. He will need to add about 15 pounds of muscle to “out muscle” wide receivers at the next level. I expect Jaylen to redshirt or play special teams only his first year. Jaylen can also play wide receiver, so if the Gators are not having much production in the next two years, you may look for this switch.