Florida Gators: Rhaheim Ledbetter

Gators fall camp preview

July, 31, 2013
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Ronald PowellJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesAfter missing all of the 2012 season with a torn ACL, Ronald Powell is ready to return to the Gators. He was the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2010 ESPN 150.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida begins August camp on Friday. Here’s a primer to get you ready:

Three questions the Gators must answer in camp

Can the receivers contribute? It must sound like a broken record, but the development of the receivers is the key to the season. They haven’t been very good for the past three seasons, and that really hurt the Gators in 2012 because of quarterback Jeff Driskel’s inexperience. H-back/wildcat QB Trey Burton, with 69 career catches, will line up at receiver. That will help, but he’s not a downfield threat or someone that scares a secondary. Redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar and sophomores Raphael Andrades and Latroy Pittman must become consistent with their routes, adjustments and blitz reads. At least two of the five freshmen -- including early enrollee Demarcus Robinson -- have to become significant parts of the rotation, too. New receivers coach Joker Phillips, who has 18 years of experience and two former pupils in the NFL (Randall Cobb and Steve Johnson), should make a difference. But remember, a chef is only as good as his ingredients.

Can the linebackers hold up their end? The Gators are loaded in the secondary and with pass rushers, and the defensive line should be fine. The question mark on defense is at linebacker, especially with starting middle linebacker Antonio Morrison suspended for the first two games. There’s little doubt that Morrison is going to be a big-time player, but there are questions at every other spot. Buck/strongside linebacker Ronald Powell is coming back from a torn ACL and the top two candidates at weakside linebacker (Darrin Kitchens and Michael Taylor) have been role players throughout their careers. Taylor will likely start in the middle while Morrison is out. That’s a steep drop-off from Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins, and the Gators need to find playmakers. Don’t be surprised if freshman Daniel McMillian takes over as the starter on the weak side by the middle of the season.

Will either kicker turn out to be reliable? It’s unfair to expect Austin Hardin or Brad Phillips to have the same kind of impact as Caleb Sturgis. He was the best kicker in school history and was accurate from long range. But it isn’t unreasonable to ask either of those guys to be consistent in the 40-yard range, and neither was during spring practice. It’s a battle that will continue throughout camp -- and possibly into the season. Sturgis consistently bailed out the offense in 2012, and the Gators won’t have that luxury if the offense struggles again (see receivers above).

Three position battles to watch

[+] EnlargeTyler Moore
Brad Barr/US PresswireTyler Moore made four starts on the offensive line at Nebraska as a true freshman. He is battling Chaz Green to be the Gators' right tackle.
Right tackle: Chaz Green, who has started 18 games in his career and 10 last season, sat out spring practice after undergoing offseason ankle surgery. Tyler Moore, a Nebraska transfer, took all the first-team reps and heads into camp with a slight lead. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Moore has 10 pounds on Green, which isn’t a big deal. What is, however, is the fact that Green has missed six games over the past two seasons because of injuries. The loser of the battle will still get a lot of playing time in the Gators’ jumbo package.

Tight end: Clay Burton, Tevin Westbrook, Colin Thompson and Kent Taylor are competing for playing time. The group struggled during the spring and Burton has a slim lead. Thompson was more of a blocker in high school, but his size makes him an intriguing option in the middle of the field and the red zone. He’s a better blocker than any of the other tight ends and could win the job if he can show some consistency and prove he’s a reliable receiver. Westbrook is more of a blocker and Taylor is a flex tight end with potential, but the coaching staff isn’t happy with his toughness. There’s not a lot of experience here -- they’ve combined for four catches for 17 yards in their careers -- and it’s unlikely any can be the weapon in the passing game that Jordan Reed was the past two seasons (73 catches, 866 yards, 5 TDs).

Safety: If the season started today, cornerbacks Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs would be the starters. That’s not a bad thing because both are solid players who understand the defense and won’t give up big plays. But what is a concern is that none of the other safeties showed enough consistency in the spring to earn one of the spots. Marcus Maye, Jabari Gorman and Valdez Showers have four weeks to prove they can get the job done.

Three players you might not have thought to watch in camp, but really should

Bryan Cox: A redshirt freshman defensive end, he showed flashes of potential in the spring and made a few plays during the final scrimmage. He’s playing behind Jonathan Bullard, so he gets overlooked, but he’s got good size (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) and athleticism and could be a breakout player on defense.

Gideon Ajagbe: Hunter Joyer was the only fullback on the roster until the staff moved Ajagbe and redshirt freshman safety Rhaheim Ledbetter there in the spring because the staff was worried about overworking Joyer during the season. Ajagbe adjusted well and should give Joyer some valuable rest and therefore reduce his risk of injury.

Chris Wilkes: It was obvious that the staff wasn’t happy with backup quarterbacks Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg, which was one of the reasons UF added Wilkes. He was an Ole Miss signee in 2008 but instead chose to sign a baseball contract with the San Diego Padres. Wilkes enrolled in May and missed spring practice and hasn’t played football in five years, but he’s a former pro athlete and should at least push Mornhinweg and Murphy a bit.

Gator Breakdown: Hunter Joyer 

July, 1, 2013
7/01/13
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During the summer, GatorNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Florida roster -- excluding the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class -- in our Gator Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Quinton Dunbar, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 97 Brad Phillips.

No. 41 Hunter Joyer
Junior fullback

Gator Breakdown: Rhaheim Ledbetter 

June, 26, 2013
6/26/13
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During the summer, GatorNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Florida roster -- excluding the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class -- in our Gator Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Quinton Dunbar, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 97 Brad Phillips.

No. 29 Rhaheim Ledbetter
Redshirt freshman fullback

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Gator Breakdown: Gideon Ajagbe 

June, 24, 2013
6/24/13
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During the summer, GatorNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Florida roster -- excluding the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class -- in our Gator Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Quinton Dunbar, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 97 Brad Phillips.

No. 25 Gideon Ajagbe
Redshirt junior fullback


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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


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Spring football may be over, but there's still plenty going on at GatorNation.

Miss anything from the past week? Here's your chance to catch up:

Some position battles got a little clearer (running back) while some got murkier (safety) during Florida's 15 spring practices. Here's where things stand heading into August practices in terms of the depth chart on offense and defense.

One of the positions that is settled is fullback, where Hunter Joyer remains the starter. But he has some help behind him in Gideon Ajagbe and Rhaheim Ledbetter, both of whom were moved over from defense. Finding fullback recruits in the future isn't going to be easy for UF coach Will Muschamp, so he may have to do more moving around.

Florida also has a new special teams coordinator with the hiring of Jeff Choate.

SEC blogger Edward Aschoff spent some time on campus this week. He wrote about buck Ronald Powell's humility after his knee surgeries and shot video interviews with Powell, Jonotthan Harrison, Matt Jones and Jeff Driskel.

On the recruiting trail ...

(Read full post)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel is searching for a new safety net.
With tight end Jordan Reed, the Gators’ leading receiver last season, headed for the NFL, Driskel has to find someone else upon whom he can rely for a sure completion and positive yardage.

Offensive coordinator Brent Pease wants him to start looking at the guys lined up beside and behind him.

Pease said the Gators’ running backs were not used enough in the passing game last season. Not counting Trey Burton and Omarius Hines -- who were utility players who lined up in the backfield as well as at tight end and receiver -- UF’s backs last season combined to catch just 26 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown.

(Read full post)

Opening spring camp: Florida

March, 13, 2013
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Schedule: The Gators open spring practice today at 4:30 p.m. ET and will conclude the spring with their annual Orange & Blue Debut on April 6 at 1 p.m. ET inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

What's new: Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn left to become the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. Will Muschamp then promoted D.J. Durkin from linebackers/special teams coach to defensive coordinator. Brad Lawing was hired away from South Carolina to help coach Florida's defensive line and was given the title of assistant head coach. Interim wide receivers coach Bush Hamdan was replaced by former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips.

On the mend: Redshirt junior offensive lineman Chaz Green will miss all of spring after undergoing ankle surgery following Florida's bowl game. Redshirt junior defensive end/linebacker Ronald Powell will also miss the spring while he continues to rehab his ACL injury that he suffered last spring. Redshirt junior offensive lineman Ian Silberman is out for the spring, as he recovers from shoulder surgery that he had before the bowl game. Freshman linebacker Matt Rolin is also out, recovering from ACL surgery. Senior offensive lineman Jon Halapio (knee scope), senior wide receiver Solomon Patton (broken arm), redshirt junior linebacker Neiron Ball (ankle) and punter Kyle Christy (shoulder) will all be limited this spring.

On the move: Junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy will start the first seven practices at the "Z" receiver spot. Redshirt freshman Quinteze Williams moved from defensive tackle to offensive tackle. Sophomore Antonio Morrison moved from Will to Mike linebacker, while redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor has moved from Mike to Will. Redshirt freshman Rhaheim Ledbetter moved from safety to fullback. Redshirt junior Gideon Ajagbe also moved from linebacker to fullback. Redshirt junior Cody Riggs has moved from cornerback to safety, where he's listed as a starter.

Question marks: Heading into the spring, the biggest questions remain on offense, where the Gators were incredibly inconsistent last year. Workhorse running back Mike Gillislee is gone, and while the Gators should feature a stable of running backs this fall, throwing the ball has to improve or this offense will go in reverse. Quarterback Jeff Driskel says he's more confident and offensive coordinator Brent Pease expects to open things up more in the passing game, but the Gators also have to get better protection up front and develop some more reliable receivers and replace top target, tight end Jordan Reed. Florida's defense has a lot of experienced youngsters, but it won't be easy to replace the production that guys like Sharrif Floyd, Matt Elam and Jon Bostic had last year. Florida is also looking for someone to replace kicker Caleb Sturgis. Redshirt freshman Austin Hardin and senior Brad Phillips will compete for that spot.

New faces: Rolin, running back Kelvin Taylor, linebackers Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian, defensive lineman Joey Ivie, and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson all enrolled early as true freshmen. Florida also welcomed Nebraska offensive lineman transfer Tyler Moore (sophomore) and junior college transfer Darius Cummings (DT). Offensive lineman Max Garica also transferred from Maryland and sat out last season.

Key battle: Florida has to find a reliable receiving target at either tight end or receiver. The athletic Kent Taylor figures to be the favorite at tight end, but he'll have to compete with Colin Thompson, Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook. At receiver, it's a free-for-all, and there isn't a ton of experience. Purifoy will certainly get his shot, but vets Quinton Dunbar and Andre Debose have to make significant strides. So does rising sophomore Latroy Pittman, who fell off last year after a successful spring. Sophomore Raphael Andrades will be back and forth between football and baseball, while Patton will be limited. Keep an eye on Robinson, who was the top receiver in the Gators' 2013 class and is a downfield threat and someone who can be elusive through the middle of the field.

Breaking out: Florida needs to replace Gillislee, and sophomore Matt Jones has already had a solid offseason, according to coaches. He progressed as last season went on and has both speed and strength to work with. The plan is for him to be a 20-plus-carry player this fall. Morrison's role now expands, and after having a very solid freshman year, even more is expected from him now that he's at the Mike. If he improves his coverage ability, he could be a big-time player for the Gators. Also, keep an eye on junior safety Jabari Gorman. He covers a lot of ground and isn't afraid to play in the box.

Don't forget about: Ball and Riggs have dealt with injuries in the past, but as they get healthy, Florida's coaches are excited about what they could do in 2013. Ball will play some Buck and provides Florida with another solid third-down pass-rusher and should help the Gators put more pressure on opposing backfields this fall. Riggs played in just two games last year before fracturing his foot, but he's a very physical defensive back. With his speed, moving to safety should provide him a chance to make more plays in Florida's secondary. He was also the starter at safety when Elam went to nickel last year.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- There will be some new faces at several positions when Florida begins spring practice Wednesday.

Loucheiz Purifoy
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsFlorida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, who will be a junior this fall, is ready to take on the challenge of learning the wide receiver position.
The biggest change, which has previously been reported, is that junior CB Loucheiz Purifoy will spend the first half of spring practice working exclusively at receiver. He won’t be able to absorb the entire offense in that time, but he will have a better understanding than he did last season and will be able to run something other than a deep sideline pattern.

"I think up to this point what he's done has been very specific," offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “Get him over for a few plays, here's what you’re doing and there's no adjustments. You can't adjust to anything and play off anything that defense is doing. Now you're getting into a set position and you're seeing how teams play against you. You play maybe a couple different spots in there and we can move you around."

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Spring question No. 3: Safeties 

March, 6, 2013
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As part of our spring practice preview, each day this week GatorNation will address the five biggest questions facing the Gators. Today we’ll look at the uncertain situation at safety. On Thursday, we’ll examine whether the offense can make a jump in the second year under Brent Pease similar to what the defense did last season in its second year under Dan Quinn.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- One of the better competitions during Florida’s spring practices will be to find a pair of safeties.


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Promoting Durkin smart move 

January, 17, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Will Muschamp’s search for a new defensive coordinator didn’t last very long.

Just two hours after Dan Quinn was named the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, Muschamp promoted D.J. Durkin to replace Quinn.

D.J. Durkin
Kim Klement/US PresswireThe Gators' new defensive coordinator/linebackers coach D.J. Durkin was originally hired by Urban Meyer.
Durkin has been UF’s linebackers coach and special-teams coordinator for the past three seasons. He joined UF’s staff in 2010 under former coach Urban Meyer and was one of three assistant coaches Muschamp retained for his inaugural staff.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida freshman cornerback Willie Bailey is transferring.

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Bailey enrolled in January and redshirted in 2012. The former Hallandale, Fla./Hallandale High School standout was a three-star recruit and ESPN's No. 24 cornerback. He chose Florida over Miami, North Carolina and South Florida.

The loss doesn't impact Florida's secondary much at all. Florida's top four corners (Marcus Roberson, Loucheiz Purifoy, Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins) return in 2013. Freshmen Rhaheim Ledbetter, Marcus Maye and Brian Poole were ahead of Bailey on the depth chart. The Gators also have commitments from Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, Fla./Wharton), the nation's No. 1 cornerback, as well as three other defensive backs: Keanu Neal (Bushnell, Fla./South Sumter), Marcell Harris (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) and Nick Washington (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian).

What if .... UF's D.J. Durkin left? 

December, 7, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – D.J. Durkin has been a valuable member of Florida coach Will Muschamp’s staff, both as a linebackers coach/special teams coordinator and a recruiter. But he’s not going to be around forever.

Durkin is headed for a coordinator’s job, and there are plenty of jobs available across the country. What if Durkin were to leave Florida? What kind of impact would that have on the Gators’ recruiting?

D.J. Durkin
Kim Klement/US PresswireGators special teams coordinator/linebackers coach D.J. Durkin was originally hired by Urban Meyer.
Potentially a pretty significant one.

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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 the secondary.

The starters: CB Marcus Roberson (So.), S Matt Elam (Jr.), S Josh Evans (Sr.), CB Loucheiz Purifoy (So.)

The backups: CB Jaylen Watkins (Jr.), CB Jeremy Brown (RJr.), S Cody Riggs (Jr.), S Jabari Gorman (So.), S De’Ante Saunders (So.), S Valdez Showers (RFr.), DB Willie Bailey (Fr.), CB Brian Poole (Fr.), S Rhaheim Ledbetter (Fr.), S Marcus Maye (Fr.)

Comment: The secondary is loaded with a good mix of young and veteran talent. Elam is a potential first-round NFL draft pick. Roberson started 10 games last season before going down with a neck injury. Purifoy had a great spring and pairs with Roberson to give the Gators a pair of big corners. Watkins, Saunders and Riggs all started games last season. Gorman had a good spring and led all tacklers in the spring game. Plenty of opportunities on special teams for the other freshmen.

(Read full post)

GatorNation recruiting mailbag 

July, 17, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It’s time to dip in to the GatorNation recruiting mailbag and answer your questions. Because of the number of questions we’ve received, we won’t be able to get to all of them today, but we encourage you to ask your questions on our Insider fan forum, The Chompions Club. Astute readers will also notice a new spot on our homepage where you can submit mailbag questions about the Gators and/or UF recruiting at any time. We read every question we receive.

secrocks2000: With Josh McNeil postponing his announcement and not visiting UGA for their camp and coming to Florida's Friday Night Lights camp do you think UF has a chance?

A: Yes, Florida certainly has a chance with the talented tight end. I think it's very telling that he postponed his announcement and did not visit Georgia for Dawg Night. With a successful Friday Night Lights trip, the Gators could be in good position to land McNeil -- if they decide to take a tight end this early.

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