Who’s Going to Break Out In 2011?


Everybody here knows that John Brantley, Deonte Thompson and Jeff Demps didn’t live up to their potentials last year for various reasons.

Because those three guys failed to live up to expectations (not that it’s their fault… COUGH COUGH COUGH STEVE ADDAZIO) the Gators’ offense floundered.

In 2011, and I HATE to say this, because it is exactly the kind of talk that leads to a collapse, but this coming season, the Florida Gators are as packed to the rafters with talent as they have ever been.

So let’s take a look at the 2011 team, offense, defense and special teams, and see who will break out.

Green smiley face means yes, they will break out next year, yellow neutral face means wait until 2012, red frown means no they won’t ever break out.

John Brantley, QB J

The most obvious player is first. Quite simply, he has shown the ability to throw a great deep ball, and now, in an offense that suits him and a play-caller who isn’t afraid to throw, he should thrive. He’ll also have good receivers to throw to, and Jeff Driskel pushing him for the job should give him the confidence he needs- assuming he beats him out- to play FAU.

A good game against FAU should give him confidence against UAB, which gives him confidence for an SEC team in Tennessee, which gives him confidence for a road game to Kentucky, and a 4-0 start in a good system should give him far more of a boost for Alabama than it did a year ago.

Deonte Thompson, WR J

Put simply: he better or else he’ll be forever known as one of the biggest busts ever to come to Gainesville. We’ve all been waiting for him to break out and he never did, thanks to Louis Murphy, Riley Cooper, Percy Harvin, Carl Moore and co. playing ahead of him in 08 and a terrible offense in 2009 and a downright disgraceful offense in 2010.

His biggest problem is his hands. The funny thing about Thompson is that he has an equal chance percentage of catching a 10 yard crossing pattern with nobody near him as he does catching a 50 yard bomb on the sidelines in triple coverage- see the Georgia game where he somehow stayed in bounds in heavy coverage and held on for the big reception.

Chris Johnson, S K

Perhaps the sleeper of this recruiting class, Johnson is a perfect example of one thing trapped in the form of another. He is a heat-seeking RPG in a human body, a linebacker trapped in a safety’s body. Expect him to be the Major Wright of the future, a knockout hitter with a better work ethic. He may very well see some time as a freshman in the secondary. Though he is small for a defensive back, he does have long arms and is a good open field tackler. He covers the field very well, thanks in large part to his instincts and SEC level quickness. If he doesn’t play in 2011 as I believe he will, watch out for him to break out big time in 2012.

Jeff Demps, RB L

Just a few weeks ago, I said that Demps would have a breakout 2011 season. The more I hear about the pro style pass happy offense, however, the more I tend to disagree with myself. He’ll have a decent year, sure, but he was recruited to be a spread style running back. I believe that his sheer speed will be enough to have him a decent season, but he is too small to get 30 carries a game. We saw what happened in the Tennessee game- he can’t take the pounding. Because of that, he can’t take the superhero load against the big teams. Expect him to be just one of many running backs making a solid contribution. I love Demps, but I don’t see him sticking out so much. Maybe a little bit because he’s an experienced senior, but certainly not at the Marcus Lattimore or Michael Dyer level. Really, I wish this kid the best, and I hope he proves me wrong, but I just don’t see it.

Kyle Christy, K K

There isn’t a whole lot to say about kickers compared to every other position. Either you have a powerful leg, or you don’t. Either you have accuracy, or you don’t. Christy has both. He has made 60 yard field goals before, and has kicked off with hangtime of more than 4 seconds. However Caleb Sturgis is back for his senior season, and barring another catastrophic injury, Christy likely won’t get playing time until 2012, where he’ll have to battle Zachary Brust for the job. But don’t be surprised if you see him kicking off. He’s also a very good punter, and may see some time there.

Andre Debose, WR J

Let’s face it. He’s no Percy Harvin. Then again, nobody else is. And Debose is perfectly happy with that. He says he wants to carve his own name at Florida, and that’s just fine and dandy with me. He is an electrifying talent and a terror in space. Maybe that’s why he took a pair of kicks to the house last year and nearly hit on a third as well.

Quite simply, he is dangerous every time he touches the ball, and in an offense that will maximize the opportunities of big time playmakers like Debose touching the ball, expect great things from him. He will contend for the Hornung trophy as a sophomore and maybe even win it barring a made up sprained ankle from an assistant coach.

Chris Rainey, WR J

Rainey, like Debose, is an incredible athlete. He hits top speed at the snap of a finger, and can break tackles as good as anybody in football. The glaring difference between the two is that Rainey is a senior. He’s no longer the wide eyed freshman saying- or texting- idiotic things, and he is less likely to try to do too much. It’s natural for a young, talented player to try to be a hero, but sometimes, it’s best to just admit defeat on a play and get as much as you can going forward. Chris Rainey Running back Chris Rainey #3 of the Florida Gators runs the ball against cornerback Tony Carter #4 of the Florida State Seminoles at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 29, 2008 in Tallahassee, Florida.  The Gators defeated the Seminoles 45-15.

Whether or not Rainey does this is yet to be seen, but he is the senior leader and will be expected to do so. He’s seen it all by now and should use that to his advantage en route to being a Heisman contender. No kidding, I don’t think he’ll win it, but his name will at least be mentioned once or twice. Hey- nobody thought Cam Newton would win it a year ago at this time, right?

Gerald Christian, TE K

He’s a phenomonal overall athlete, to be blunt. But like I said at the top, there’s so much talent ahead of him that he has to wait his turn. Jordan Reed will probably get first crack at tight end, and should do very well. But Christian is simply too good to keep on the bench. He’ll almost certainly play as a freshman, and maybe get some good looks, but with the talent around him, it’s safer to list him as a contributor, not a playmaker. This kid is definitely somebody to watch out for in 2012.

Mike Gillislee, RB J

Gilly!!! Yes, that’s right Gator fans, this might the pro style tailback we have so sorely lacked in years past. In fact, the last dynamite traditional running back we’ve really had was DeShawn Wynn, and before that, Ciatrick Fason. Gillislee blends speed with jukes nastier than the bottom of the Swamp. But since that’s what the Gators are all about, we’re all for it. No, he isn’t really huge but he’s big enough to be depended on in blocking schemes and if need be, he is eligible to run dive plays once a game or so. Maybe twice.

Anyway, the point is that Gillislee is more of a traditional back than Demps, so although Demps will probably get first crack, I don’t see him playing any more than Gillislee. Gillislee should thrive in the new set assuming the blocking is good, and may be a contender for the Doak Walker Award.

Marcus Roberson, S K

He doesn’t hit quite as well as Johnson, but it’s pretty damned close. He’s a fantastic overall defender, 6 feet even, 170 pounds, and spurned Auburn to come to Gainesville. But again, there’s so much talent ahead of him that he’s going to have to wait his turn. When he gets his shot, he should be dynamite. Look out for him in 2012.

Jeff Driskel, QB K

We’ve all seen his highlight film. We’ve all heard the (rediculous) Tebow comparisons. There is only one Tim Tebow and he is no longer a Gator (well, not on the active roster, anyway. He’ll always be a Gator). And Jeff Driskel, much like Andre Debose, has tried to avoid comparisons to the great player they’re taking over for. Unlike Debose, however, Driskel’s chance of stepping into that role are much slimmer. That’s not to say they’re impossible- I just don’t believe he’ll take Brantley’s job before he departs for the NFL. But Driskel does have all the tools: strong arm, good footwork, good accuracy, smart football guy, good at reading defenses and grew up a Gator. That should be good enough to do what I believe he will eventually do- lead Florida to a national championship. In 2012. Which is not this year. He’ll learn from watching Brantley (hopefully), pick up some things here and there and will have crossed first base with a crystal ball before his name is entered into the NFL Draft.

Sharrif Floyd, DT J

If you want to pick one guy to get excited about, here he is. Floyd is a beast. He had a very good year as a true freshman last year. Look for more of the same out of him and more of it. What’s it, you might ask?  Everything between shooting the a-gap and crushing unsuspecting tailbacks and pancaking a blocker to create what I call the h-gap- the gap in between the two blockers right next to the defender Floyd just laid out. H stands for huge, because, well it is. He has godly strength and deceptive speed for a nose tackle. Basically, if you steal something from him, he’ll chase you down with his blinding first step- again, relative for a nose tackle- and the rest of them aren’t too bad either, and he’ll crush you unless you’re a track runner. Put simply, Floyd wreaked havoc as a freshman and barring injury should duplicate that success and then some in 2011.

Jacoby Brisset, QB L

Brisset qualifies as a dual threat QB. He can run, and he can throw. What he most likely cannot do is beat out Jeff Driskel. He has talent, but most likely is not a fit for the passing offense I believe Florida will develop. I wish him the best and respect him, but I don’t think Florida is the right fit for him. However, since he dissed Miami I believe Florida owes him a shot to shine. Just a chance. Come on, we don’t play Miami anymore because Jeremy Foley is a big ({}) so how else can we beat them? I guess in baseball. Anyway, thank you Jacoby for dissing those inbreds from the school down south (a Mullen phrase). It also shows that no matter how hard Steve Addazio screwed us over, we still control the recruiting in our own state.

Mack Brown, RB K

Second in line for the title of King of the Running Backs is Brown, a powerful traditional tailback out of Atlanta. He carried THREE times last year as a true freshman for 24 yards. Not bad, despite all three being Steve Addazio’s wife (you know… the dive play). Seriously, he should learn the new patterns watching Demps and Gillislee do it for a year, get some carries as the third down back and in 2012, explode as a top runner in college football. He is a tall, strong bruiser, a perfect complement to Gillislee’s flash and dash. Thunder and lightning in the Gator backfield means raining touchdowns. Watch out.

Cody Riggs, CB K

I was on the border with Riggs, a sophomore out of St. Thomas Aquinas. But it’s becoming a pattern- there are too many guys jockeying for time that no one player can fully break out and have a dynamite season. There is no one cornerback, aside from Janoris Jenkins, that is clearly better than the rest. Here is what Riggs has going for him: great speed and a fantastic man coverage guy. The only major downside to Riggs is that he’s small, and should not be put in one on one situations in jump balls. Expect him to see time covering the small, quick slot receivers- i.e. the Rainey type. And expect him to be good at it… next year. He’s still a year away from making some noise as a top cover corner in college football.

Janoris Jenkins, CB J

We start with Brantley, one of the most known, and we end with Jenkins, one of the other most known. There isn’t much Jenkins doesn’t do very well, on the field, anyway. He’s got to stay out of trouble if he wants to have the breakout season I predict he will have.

He is one of if not the best in college football, and will show everybody why with a fantastic 2011 season.

7 thoughts on “Who’s Going to Break Out In 2011?

  1. Good post Neil. I agree with a lot of your assessments. But why didn’t you say anything about Powell, Easley, or Elam? Those are 3 superb athlete’s that can break out this upcoming season as well.

  2. I can’t do everybody on the team!!! LOL. I’d put Powell, Jordan Reed and Easley in green and Elam, Watkins and Burton in yellow.

  3. Haha I know it. Are you excited about the Cam Newton jokes post that’s coming soon?

  4. Great post Neil I agree with everything except the Brissett and Brantley post. Brissett played in more of a pro style offense than Driskel and Weis really likes him so don’t count my boi out lol. Brantley has to prove it on the field, I still say Driskel starts the Tennessee game. Bring on the Cam jokes!

  5. Great post Neil I agree with everything except the Brissett and Brantley post. Brissett played in more of a pro style offense than Driskel and Weis really likes him so don’t count my boi out lol. Brantley has to prove it on the field, I still say Driskel starts the Tennessee game. Bring on the Cam jokes!

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