Florida Gators Football: 5 Freshmen Poised to Make an Immediate Impact

D. PritchardContributor IMarch 1, 2011

Photo courtesy of Tim Casey @ GatorCountry.com
Photo courtesy of Tim Casey @ GatorCountry.com

The 2011 Florida Gators recruiting class has generated plenty of discussion, some good and some bad. Based on the low number of signees, many of the talking heads in the recruiting world have criticized the class. There is no doubt the Gators struck out on some of the big-name recruits. However, there were also plenty of players to get excited about and many will make an immediate impact this fall.

Jeff Driskel highlights the 2011 class. However, do not look for Driskel to splash on the scene and immediately steal the quarterback position away from Johnny Brantley. If you are a Jeff Driskel fan, do not be discouraged, because Driskel is certain to play a role in the 2011 offense.

As Charlie Weis has shown in the past with Jimmy Clausen, he is not afraid to turn to the young guy. Weis realizes Brantley gives them immediate success, but Driskel is Florida's key to winning for the next three or four years (which is probably the length of Weis’ tenure in Gainesville).

With the new offense, look for Weis to make good use of Hunter Joyer, the freshman fullback from Wesley Chapel, Florida. Joyer has great size and speed for a fullback. If he can excel in blocking and providing the quarterbacks some blitz protection, he will see the field often this fall.

Over the past few years, Urban Meyer has brought in a lot of quick running backs who have outstanding speed, but they have struggled with pass blocking. If Joyer shows promise in this category, he may be one of the keys to whether or not the 2011 offense is successful.

On the other side of the ball, for the second year in a row, the Gators are loaded in the secondary.

Marcus Roberson and Jabari Gorman highlight the secondary with their size and matchup abilities. The defensive backs should be a team strength heading into the 2011 season, and Roberson and Gorman will compete immediately for the weak side corner position opposite Janoris Jenkins.

With a lack of depth at the linebacker position, look for Clay Burton to step in and make an immediate impact in 2011. The Gators have two very solid linebackers in Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic, unfortunately, there is a huge drop-off behind them. If Burton can show the work ethic his brother showed in 2010, a weak side linebacker position could be in his future. The key here is contribution. If the Gators can find enough contributors at linebacker, they can be successful with a rotation.

Of course there are other true freshmen that have the potential to make an impact in 2011.

Mike Blakely and A.C. Leonard both come to mind. However, due to the current depth at both the tight end and running back positions, Blakely and Leonard may have an uphill battle in 2011. Creating a spot on a crowded depth chart may be their biggest challenge.  

The Gators had an unbelievable class in 2010, and there is enough talent in the 2011 class to really add to the depth of a terrific roster.

You can also read this article at GatorRaid.com.