The loss of senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was dismissed from the team Tuesday, leaves a major hole in Florida’s already inexperienced secondary.
Let’s face it: Jenkins was Florida’s best defensive player and arguably the Gators’ best player overall. So, it took a lot of guts for Florida coach Will Muschamp to dismiss him.
Jenkins, a three-year starter, was named to the All-SEC first team by the Associated Press in 2010 and held the SEC’s top two receivers from 2010 -- South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery and Alabama’s Julio Jones -- to a combined 10 catches for 72 yards in two games.
He seemed to take his entire side of the field out of play and had eight career interceptions.
So where does Florida turn now that Jenkins is gone?
Florida now turns to sophomore Cody Riggs, redshirt junior Jeremy Brown and fifth-year senior Moses Jenkins to carry its secondary.
Fortunately, they all received quality reps in practice after Janoris Jenkins missed all of spring practice recovering from shoulder surgery.
None of Florida’s immediate options has a lot of experience, but Brown and Riggs did play extensively in 2010.
Brown, who missed his first two seasons at Florida because of a severe back injury, started 10 of the 11 games he appeared in last season. He recorded three interceptions, including one that went 52 yards for a touchdown.
Riggs played in all 13 of Florida’s games in 2010, starting three, and recorded one interception.
Moses Jenkins started Florida’s season opener, but missed most of the rest of the season with an elbow injury. He returned on Nov. 20 against Appalachian State and started in Florida’s 31-7 loss to Florida State -- a game in which FSU quarterback Christian Ponder picked on him.
Then there’s sophomore Jaylen Watkins, who appeared in 10 games last season, but mostly on special teams.
Of those four, Riggs and Brown could be the best options at the two corner spots for Florida. Brown was impressive at times last year and didn’t seem to be bothered by his back, but he occasionally looked like a player who had been out of football for two years by getting turned around on deep plays.
Riggs was a pleasant surprise for the Gators last season, earning more playing time throughout the season, but he was picked on from time to time. In his defense, he was fresh out of high school and going up against SEC talent.
Moses Jenkins has the most experience, but a concussion in 2009 and an elbow injury in 2010 have really impacted his career.
After that, Florida will have to look at its incoming freshmen for help.
Florida signed four potential corner prospects in its 2011 recruiting class. One of those signees -- De’Ante Saunders -- went through spring practice, but struggled at times and was listed as a backup in the nickel corner spot.
Former Fort Lauderdale, Fla., St. Thomas Aquinas standout Marcus Roberson probably has the most skill of Florida’s defensive back signees, but with his size he could potentially move to safety. This recent development could force Florida’s coaches to keep him at cornerback longer than expected.
Signees Louchiez Purifoy and Valdez Showers were two of Florida’s most athletic recruits in this class, but are pretty raw at the corner position. It would be hard to believe Florida’s coaches would expect either to be able to contribute at the corner spot early for the Gators.
There is talent there, but it clearly lacks experience. It says a lot about Muschamp to kick a player off with Janoris Jenkins' ability, especially considering the bind his secondary is now in.