(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Last year, we tried 50 For 50, and got halfway done before things cropped up. This year, Alligator Army is coming back with 100 For 100, with 100 articles in the 100 days leading up to the first Florida Gators football game of the 2012 season, and will run down storylines, profile players, examine history, and make some predictions, possibly all haphazardly. The only thing we can promise is that each day's entry will bring us all one step closer to "Herrrrrrrrre ... come the Gators!"
Rewind to Jan. 9, 2010. It was the 2010 Army All-America Game in San Antonio, Texas. The Florida Gators had beaten the pulp out of overmatched Cincinnati just eight days before. The team was losing a high number of its core players, including Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, Joe Haden, Carlos Dunlap, Jermaine Cunningham, Aaron Hernandez, Riley Cooper, Maurkice Pouncey and more.
But there was reason for optimism, even with all the departures. Fans were sad to see Tebow leave, but were cautiously optimistic to see what John Brantley and his pocket-passing skill-set could achieve. Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey and a few other key players were returning. But more importantly, Urban Meyer was coming back, after a brief leave of absence because of health concerns.
With Meyer at the helm, Florida was on a run similar to the one Alabama currently is. Two titles in three seasons, a Heisman winner and the nation's top recruits lining up to join your team.
And that brings us to the 2010 Army All-America Game, when Florida picked up three commitments, all from five-star players: Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd and Ronald Powell. These three players, along with Dominique Easley, headlined the Gators' 2010 recruiting class, one that was considered possibly the greatest ever on paper and is now in charge of righting the ship in Gainesville.
Florida's 2010 class was 27 members strong. Nine of the 27 have either transferred or been kicked off the team. Initially, the plan was for this class -- heavy on defense -- to infuse with a number of players left over from previous seasons.
It seemed as though the Gators weren't going to miss a beat after Tebow and Co. left. Brantley, in limited action as Tebow's backup, was pretty solid. Mike Pouncey would move over from guard to center, and he should have no problem with that. Ahmad Black, Janoris Jenkins and Will Hill would be an outstanding defensive anchor.
But as we saw in Game 1 against Miami (OH) and throughout the course of the 2010 season, things don't always go according to plan. In addition to the on-the-field-issues, there were rumors of the team being split a number of different ways: Team Brantley and Team Jordan Reed, in Meyer's Circle of Trust and out of it, and upperclassmen and underclassmen.
After a complete coaching overhaul, it's now time for what's left of the 2010 class to make it's mark in Florida football history.
The core four of the class -- Elam, Floyd, Powell and Dominique Easley -- all fit in perfectly to what Will Muschamp likes on defense: hard-nosed, line-of-scrimmage defense and a hard-hitting secondary. Lunch-pail overachievers. These are the players who are going to have to deliver in order for Florida to be successful in 2012.
Aside from the core four, Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins will be battling for the starting cornerback spot opposite Marcus Roberson. Michael Taylor will have a larger role at middle linebacker and will likely take over as the starter when Jon Bostic graduates after this season. Quinton Dunbar will be called upon to be a playmaker at receiver, something we expected to see from him last season. Mack Brown will be fighting for carries. Chaz Green, Ian Silberman and Leon Orr will all be seeing the field.
This year's starting lineup will feature many Class of 2010 prospects. This is their team now. How far the team goes depends largely on where they take it.