Florida Gators: Jessamen Dunker

Florida O-line needs infusion of talent

December, 12, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With a strong desire for early playing time, new Florida offensive tackle commit David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School) couldn't help but see plenty of opportunity with the Gators.

Florida's offensive line has been a sore spot for the past two seasons. It's been beaten up by marauding defensive linemen, battered by injuries and called soft by head coach Will Muschamp. The O-line became an easy scapegoat on an offense that has struggled not only to throw forward passes but to keep quarterbacks healthy and clean.

[+] EnlargeD.J. Humphries
Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesD.J. Humphries is all that's left on the offensive line from Florida's 2012 recruiting class.
Getting a commitment from the nation's No. 2 offensive tackle prospect comes at just the right time for a UF program desperate to discover an offensive identity.

Muschamp is fond of calling the SEC a line-of-scrimmage league, but his Gators have missed on a few high-profile offensive linemen in recent years.

Last year it was Laremy Tunsil, the No. 1 offensive tackle prospect in the nation, who lived 45 miles up the road from Gainesville in Lake City. He had significant interest in Florida during his junior year of high school, but it waned throughout his senior year before he signed with Ole Miss. Tunsil lived up to his billing this fall, starting all but four games at left tackle for the Rebels as a freshman.

The Class of 2012 was a strong year for offensive linemen in the state of Florida. But Jacksonville's John Theus signed with Georgia and Palm Beach Gardens' Avery Young chose Auburn. Both are solid starters in the SEC.

UF wound up signing just one of the 2012 Floridian offensive linemen in Jessamen Dunker, who redshirted and was expected to compete for a starting job last spring. But he was arrested, suspended and transferred not long after his first year was complete.

Dunker's departure reduced Florida's already-tiny 2012 OL class to just D.J. Humphries, who started seven games at left tackle this season before a knee injury sidelined him for the final five games.

To bolster depth and stabilize the line, the Gators dipped into the transfer pool. They signed former Maryland left tackle Max Garcia, who stared all 12 games this past season; former Nebraska tackle Tyler Moore, who made eight starts before breaking his elbow; and juco transfer Trenton Brown (five starts).

The roster numbers are dwindling. UF loses three seniors in Jon Halapio, Jonotthan Harrison and Kyle Koehne. The school also announced Thursday that junior guard Ian Silberman is departing, and freshmen Quinteze Williams and Trevon Young will transfer.

That means the Gators will have just two seniors next season in Garcia and Brown among nine returning offensive linemen. Starting right tackle Chaz Green would have been a part of that senior class, but he was injured in preseason camp and missed the 2013 season. With a medical hardship waiver, he can return as a fifth-year junior.

With six linemen leaving, the pressure is on Florida to sign at least the four pledges it currently has in Sharpe, Travaris Dorsey, Nolan Kelleher and Dontae Angus.

Another key to balancing the classes will be the progress of Florida's redshirt freshmen. While the Gators missed on some touted high school prospects, they instead stocked up on projects and players with projectable frames in their Class of 2013.

Florida was able to redshirt the three true freshman offensive linemen it signed. Guard Octavius Jackson drew the most praise in practice and came the closest to playing. Cam Dillard is being groomed to be UF's center of the future. Roderick Johnson has the size (6-foot-5, 315 pounds) to compete for playing time in the spring.

Of course, they'll all have to contend with Sharpe, who plans to see the field in 2014 as well.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Not everybody can get on the field right away. Some players take longer than others to develop.

Florida signed 23 players in 2012 and several made an immediate impact: offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, defensive linemen Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler Jr., and linebacker Antonio Morrison were Freshmen All-SEC. Others, however, didn’t get a single snap of playing time.

Here’s how we see the rest of the class shaping up:

Top of the class

Week in review: No. 2 RB, ESPN 150 

April, 27, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The selections of Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam in the first round of the NFL draft dominated the news this week, but there were plenty of other things going on at GatorNation.

We took a look at the eight players who enrolled early and participated in spring practice to see how they fared and what their potential role could be in the fall.

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GatorNation position breakdown: G/C 

January, 10, 2013
Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday through Jan. 31, 2013, GatorNation will break down each position. We’ll look at 2013, of course, but also try and give you a peek beyond next season, too. Today is guard/center. We will profile tight end on Jan. 15.


[+] EnlargeJon Halapio
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackGuard Jon Halapio has been UF's most consistent lineman for the last three seasons.
Two-deep: With the graduation of sixth-year senior James Wilson, redshirt freshman Jessamen Dunker and redshirt junior Max Garcia will compete for the starting job at left guard. Jonotthan Harrison and Jon Halapio will return as starters at center and right guard, respectively. Both will be redshirt seniors. Redshirt senior Kyle Koehne and Ian Silberman, provided his shoulder injury is healed, are the reserves.

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Mailbag: Will loss to UGA affect targets? 

October, 30, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It’s time to dip into the GatorNation recruiting mailbag and answer your questions. Because of the amount of questions we’ve received, we won’t be able to get to all of them today -- but we encourage you to post your questions on our Insider fan forum, The Chompions Club.

Chancez321: How, if at all, does this loss affect recruiting?

A: I'm a big believer that a single loss will not affect recruiting in the long run. If Georgia would have blown out Florida then maybe it would have had an impact, but it was a close game. Let's say Florida wins the rest of its regular-season games and finishes 11-1. Do you think recruits will hold against them a tough, hard-fought loss to a rival? Probably not. Guys like Laremy Tunsil, Trenton Brown and Shaq Wiggins are considering both schools, but they're smart enough to make decisions based on what is the right fit for their future, not solely based on one game.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp had the following to say about the Gators’ first scrimmage of the fall, which took place on Saturday:

The offense was productive and quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel were solid. "We had 11 explosive plays, which is great for the offense and not so good for the defense," Muschamp said. "Pleased to see that. Both quarterbacks were pretty even through those explosive plays and how they played. They're both completing, throughout camp, right at between 63 and 65 percent of their passes. They're both about dead on statistically in terms of attempts, completions, everything. I thought they managed our football team really well."

The quarterbacks, however, did throw three interceptions, although one was a tipped ball. "Disappointed with ball security," Muschamp said. "We had the ball on the ground four times. We can't afford that to happen. Three interceptions. One was a tipped ball, one was a busted route. But still those are turnovers."

Muschamp liked what he’s seen out of the pass rush, specifically inside. "We've improved our four-man pass rush with Lerentee [McCray], Neiron [Ball] and Sharrif [Floyd] and Dominique [Easley] doing some nice things inside," Muschamp said.

More notes from scrimmage:

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ESPN’s GatorNation is previewing each position leading up to the start of the season with a short video. Each Friday until the season kicks off, Michael DiRocco and Jeff Barlis will analyze a position group, tell you who is starting and why, and provide a breakdown of the depth at the position. This week it’s offensive line.

The starters: LT Xavier Nixon (Sr.), LG James Wilson (RSr.), C Jonotthan Harrison (RJr.), RG Jon Halapio (RJr.), RT Matt Patchan (RJr.)

The backups: D.J. Humphries (Fr.), Trip Thurman (RFr.), Jessamen Dunker (Fr.), Kyle Koehne (RJr.), Ian Silberman (RSo.), Sam Robey (RSr.), Tommy Jordan (RFr.), Chaz Green (RSo.)

Comment: This unit was the reason UF coach Will Muschamp called his team soft and the group responded in the spring. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and several defensive linemen said they noticed the OL was mentally and physically tougher. The biggest questions are whether Wilson and Patchan can stay healthy and if Nixon is going to play like he did as a freshman or struggle as he has the past two seasons. Green will play a lot at tackle in a rotation anyway.

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ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida is one of only five SEC programs to make the top 25 in ESPN’s team recruiting rankings in each of the past five seasons.

In fact, the Gators finished in the top five in four of those five years. But somehow that hasn’t translated to consistent on-field success.

Florida lost just two games combined in 2008 and 2009, but very few of the members of those signing classes contributed significantly -- which shows how good UF’s roster was in those two seasons. Since then, however, the Gators are a combined 15-11, and while some of those highly touted signees have turned into very good players, UF has slipped from its spot among the national elite.

But things are looking brighter entering 2012. The core of this year’s team is comprised of members of the 2009 and 2010 classes, and several members of the 2011 class appear to be ready to become significant contributors or are on the verge of being elite players.

Here’s a look at those signing classes (see chart below):

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- At the beginning of spring practice, GatorNation brought readers' attention to five questions, five guys under pressure and five players to watch.

With 15 spring practices behind the Gators, including Saturday’s spring game, let’s re-examine those questions and decide whether they were answered as well as take another look at those guys to see whether they handled the pressure and made any improvements.


Will there be a clear-cut starter at quarterback by the time spring practice ends?

[+] EnlargeMike Gillislee
Phil Sears/US PresswireMike Gillislee (left) made a case during the spring to be Florida's top running back.
Nope. Coach Will Muschamp said the competition between Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will continue into the offseason -- and likely into fall practice, as well. The two played pretty well in the spring game -- Driskel completed 12 of 14 passes for 147 yards and Brissett completed 9 of 16 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns -- but neither has been able to gain separation.

What will UF's new offense look like?

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida held its first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday. It was closed to the media and public, but coach Will Muschamp said the following:

[+] EnlargeMike Gillislee
Courtesy UF CommunicationsFlorida running back Mike Gillislee was singled out for praise after Saturday's scrimmage.
Running back Mike Gillislee was the offensive player of the day. The senior continues to hold onto the No. 1 spot atop the depth chart, especially with his improved pass-blocking.

Defensive end Ronald Powell was the defensive player of the day. He had several third-down stops, a sack and several quarterback pressures. Muschamp singled out Powell and Gillislee for having great offseasons.

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Spring preview: Eastern Division

February, 24, 2012
Now that you've seen what to watch in the SEC Western Division, let's check out the East:


Spring practice start date: March 14
Spring game: April 7

What to watch:

Finding offensive playmakers: Year 2 of the Will Muschamp era begins with the team trying to find someone who can make a few plays for this fall. New offensive coordinator Brent Pease has a host of unproven offensive talent to work with. Wide receiver Andre Debose was Florida's best deep threat last year, and the coaches raved about receiver Quinton Dunbar's potential, but neither was consistent enough in 2011. Maybe Florida can finally turn to bigger backs Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown in the playmaking department.

Toughening up the offensive line: The Gators' line struggled throughout the 2011 season. It wasn't always at 100 percent, but Florida's line also just wasn't tough enough -- mentally or physically. The Gators couldn't get the tough yards on the ground and didn't exactly protect quarterback John Brantley enough. The line should get a boost with early enrollees D.J. Humphries, who was the top offensive line prospect in the 2012 class, and Jessamen Dunker, but Florida will have to get improvement from players who return to a line that lost just one starter from last season.

Quarterback battle: Brantley is gone, leaving rising sophomores Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel and Tyler Murphy. Brissett replaced Driskel as Florida's No. 2 quarterback last year, while Murphy has yet to take a college snap. Brissett and Driskel had plenty of down moments last fall but should get a chance to reinvent themselves this spring with new leadership and more practice reps. This spring will be extremely important for all three quarterbacks as they try to improve a position that struggled mightily the past two years.

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UF needs Matt Jones to spark offense 

February, 6, 2012
[+] EnlargeMatt Jones
Courtesy T.J. LaFlamboyMatt Jones, ESPNU's No. 11 running back in the nation, sports some Florida gear at his signing day ceremony on Wednesday.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The pressure is on running back Matt Jones.

Florida coach Will Muschamp won't admit it, but it's pretty clear that the signee from Seffner, Fla./Armwood High School has to be pretty good next season or the Gators' running game will be even worse than it was this past season.

Muschamp wants the Gators to become a power-running team, and that requires a big, bruising back who has the capability to run between the tackles. UF didn’t have that with small speedsters Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, while Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown have struggled picking up the offense. That leaves the 6-foot-2, 213-pound Jones, who rushed for 896 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games this past season, as UF's No. 1 option at tailback in 2012.

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Chomp Confidential: Recruiting notes 

January, 26, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation brings you the latest installment of Chomp Confidential, a look inside Florida football recruiting for GatorNation subscribers only. As with anything exclusive, what's reported in the weekly Chomp Confidential must stay here. A few things discussed in this week's update:

• The latest on the quarterback situation
• Will a commit qualify?
• Derek's mock class

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Where UF recruiting stands on offense 

January, 24, 2012
[+] EnlargeMatt Jones
Davide De Pas2012 running back prospect Matt Jones committed to Florida on Feb. 15, 2011.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The countdown is on until national signing day. With just over a week left until the big day, Florida's recruiting board is taking its final shape. Here is a position-by-position look at where the Gators currently stand:

Commits: none
Prospects: Skyler Mornhinweg, Paxton Lynch and Jacob Guy

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Bullard, Poole jump in final ESPNU 150 

January, 19, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -– Now that the season is over and the all-star games are completed, ESPNU has released its updated top 150 rankings.

The Gators still have eight committed prospects on the list. Safety commit Marcus Maye (149) is a new addition to the ESPNU 150, while wide receiver commit Latroy Pittman (157) just barely dropped out after previously being ranked the No. 106 player.

After his strong performance at the U.S. Army Bowl in San Antonio, Florida offensive tackle signee D.J. Humphries moved up one spot from the No. 8 to No. 7 player in the country.

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McElwain discusses new Florida football
SEC Network's Greg McElory and Booger McFarland sit down to discuss the future of Florida football with head coach Jim McElwain.