Scouting the SEC: Florida

Scouting the SEC:  Florida

How will the Gator football program, one of the most successful in the nation for more than a decade, respond now that Steve Spurrier has moved on to the NFL? Will they continue to offer hordes of talented receivers as in the past? Or is there going to be more of a defensive theme from the players coming out of Gainesville? Regardless, UF will still offer plenty of quality prospects for the next level.

Florida Gators

We've always felt Rex Grossman has the tools to be a big time player and ranked him as the sixth quarterback prospect in the nation last August. Grossman owns an adequate arm, for the most part makes good decisions in the pocket and is very, very accurate, which one of the more exciting parts of his game. He likes to challenge the vertical game, takes chances down the field and is very poised and patient in the pocket. Grossman buys as much time as possible, surveys the field and takes what the defense gives him, going to the safe underneath routes if primary targets are covered. He must learn to use his tight ends more and unfortunately on occasion Grossman will try and thread the needle or force the pass into coverage. If you overlook his lack of height Grossman has the physical skills, mental abilities and intangibles to effectively play at the next level as a starting signal caller. Another we've been high for three years is ball carrier Earnest Graham, a hard running interior back with power and the ability to pick up yardage off initial contact, while also being a good receiver out of the backfield, something you expect from a UF skill player. Graham is best between the tackles but like Grossman, lacks the pure size/speed numbers for his position and will be downgraded accordingly. Still, he is a legitimate prospect in the first two rounds of next years' draft and has the skills to be a number one back at the next level. UF is known for putting a plethora of talented receivers on the field and that will change somewhat next season. Wide out Taylor Jacobs is a prospect ready to bust at the seams and now moves into the starting slot. A track athlete, Jacobs has adequate playing speed, seems to be a natural receiver and has improved his overall football skills the more playing time he's been given. Case in point; when afforded the opportunity to see extensive action last January in the Orange Bowl all Jacobs did was break the record for receiving yards five minutes into the third quarter during that annual post season classic.  What stands out to us is the overall awareness Jacobs displays on the field and the way he continually makes himself an available target for the quarterback. He is a player that could make a big move up draft boards this year. Along with receivers, talented offensive linemen continually come out of this program and Max Starks is the next to carry the mantle. Starks, a big, powerful, dominant tackle, destroys opponents run blocking and does not give up an inch in pass protection. Only a junior, Starks carries a first round grade now as a right tackle but will move to the blind side of the line for the upcoming campaign. If he performs well and handles the left tackle duties Starks is poised to move into the top 15 choices when he enters the draft. Senior center David Jorgensen has some size on the pivot but is a limited athlete not overly effective in space and likely to be a rookie free agent. The Gators have a pair of very good tight ends in junior Ben Troupe and Aaron Walker, a senior. Walker, a fine athlete with solid football fundamentals as both a blocker and pass catcher, consistently gives top effort and makes positive plays. He makes the receptions in both the long or short field and holds his own blocking. In what looks to be a weak draft for tight ends Walker could sneak into the first day next year. To our minds Troupe is a tremendous prospect and should move into the upper echelon of his position this year. Big and strong, Troupe dominates blocking at the line of scrimmage while also displaying the ability to make big plays as a pass catcher over the middle or down the field. In a lot of ways Troupe reminds us of former UF tight end Erron Kinney, though he may be more athletic and is a better pass catcher.

While there may be no Jevon Kearse's or Gerard Warren's in the Florida defensive line-up this is a strong unit with a lot of draft picks. Up front Ian Scott is a talented run stuffer that clogs the middle and commands double teams from his tackle position. Displaying the ability to bull-rush opponents off the ball Scott has opponents playing back on their heels with his quickness off the snap. What stands out about his play is the relentless hustle Scott shows for sixty minutes. Only a junior, he presently stands as a top sixty-pick and the arrow is pointing up for him. Senior tackle Tron LaFavor may possess a little more athleticism but has size limitations and needs to get more involved in the action. At one time we had high hopes for junior Clint Johnson and thought the defensive end could develop into a fine pass rusher but off-the-field incidents have kept him exactly that; off the field. Johnson needs to focus, mature and get his act together if he's to have any chance at the next level. UF has numbers at the linebacker position and a lot of solid pro-prospects. Seniors Marcus Oquendo-Johnson and Mike Nattiel do a nice job on the outside but lack the top size/speed numbers and as a result will be pushed late into the draft, something we think Byron Hardmon could avoid with a big final campaign in college. Hardmon, an active sideline-to-sideline weak-side linebacker that effectively pursues the action does a fine job in pass coverage as well as run defense. He is a prospect that could move into the middle rounds with a solid senior season and/or workouts prior to the draft. Matt Farrior is an underclassman to watch and a prospect with a nice upside. The defensive secondary is a very talented unit. For our money the steadiest player in the backfield is safety Todd Johnson who stepped to the forefront as a sophomore. A skilled and smart centerfielder constantly in the right place at the right time making plays against either the run or pass, Johnson lacks the great speed but makes nothing but positive plays.  We would liken him as a lesser version of Jon McGraw, the former K-State star now with the Jets and expect Johnson to fall into the opening rounds of the draft's second day. Junior Gus Scott moves into the starting role at strong safety and displays a decent upside to his game. We like Scott's range, speed and ability to make plays when the ball's in the air. Cornerback Robert Cromartie returns after being sidelined by injury last season and could break into the late rounds with a solid campaign.

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