The college football offseason seemingly never ends. It turns nice, respectable members of society into ravenous fans, thirsty for any kind of information that may seep out of their favorite team’s locker room. College football fans await the opening kickoff with a tapping foot and the patience of a four year old.
With just 99 days until the official kickoff of the college football season (100 days for the Gators), a sign that I know college football is coming back is Bruce Feldman’s annual list of the “20 Freaks of College Football.” Feldman has been putting out this list for over a decade with the criteria of a player who physically impresses his coaches or teammates in the weight room or with “other ‘wow’ aspects of athleticism.”
Reading over Feldman’s list – a list that didn’t include any Gators – got me wondering about who are the biggest “freaks” in Florida’s locker room. Before we offend anyone, the term “freak” is being used as a complimentary term, describing a player that is capable of doing insane things on the football field that make you rewind a game in the middle of a series.
For reference, former players on Feldman’s list include Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson, two guys who make you wonder if they’re actual human begins or if they are aliens from a different planet.
With all the athletes that Florida has in their locker room, it was hard to come up with a list of just 10 players, but we did it and here it is.
10. Alex Anzalone, Fr., LB
A 6’3”, 230-pound linebacker Anzalone makes this list as a freshman. Anzalone enrolled early this past spring but missed most of spring practice after tearing his labrum in the first padded practice.
Despite showing that he is an actual human who can get injured, Anzalone is a freak.
Anzalone is so athletic that he played halfback in high school. His high school highlight tape is a mixture of stiff-arms, interceptions and bone-crushing tackles.
While he won’t play offense at Florida, Anzalone is big enough to play middle linebacker – where he was playing in the spring before getting injured – but also good enough in coverage, fast enough and athletic enough to play either outside linebacker spots. He’s a dangerous pass-rusher and an instinctive player in coverage.
All reports on Anzalone have him being able to return to the team by fall camp at full health and ready to contribute immediately.
9. Antonio Morrison, So., LB
6’1”, 229-pounds, Antonio Morrison is a highlight hit waiting to happen. Just ask E.J. Manuel about the kind of power Morrison brings when he hits you.
When Morrison was asked this spring about what kind of reaction his teammates had when he knocked Manuel out of the game Morrison responded,
“Everybody was excited and stuff but I always do stuff like that. I mean they see me practice that way. It wasn’t really surprising for me.”
That’s Morrison’s attitude on the football field. Knocking a quarterback out cold is just another day at the office.
Freak case made.
8. Jonotthan Harrison, R-Sr., OL
Jonotthan Harrison has started 27 consecutive games for the Gators at left guard and center. That accomplishment is amazing on its own considering how banged up the Gators offensive line has been the past two seasons.
During his consecutive starts streak, Harrison has played through injuries, including playing with a massive brace on his right elbow after dislocating it against Vanderbilt last season.
Not to mention that Harrison looks the part with his old school Mohawk. Harrison went all out with his hair last season shaving the sides almost completely bald, no hipster-chic faux hawk for him.
Give me a center who continues to play even with a dislocated elbow and I’ll give him a “freak” stamp of approval every time.
7. Hunter Joyer, Jr., FB
Unless your name is Mike Alstott, playing fullback can be a pretty thankless job. Sure your teammates and coaches know how much you do for the team but most fans only notice players who score touchdowns or create turnovers on defense.
The position is even being phased out of the NFL and even in the college ranks. Not at Florida.
Joyer’s blocking makes Florida’s running game what it is. Sure, having a back like Mike Gillislee or Matt Jones on the roster helps, but Joyer is the guy in front, clearing the way for the man with the ball in his hands.
Did we mention that Joyer is a freak in the weight room?
No? Well he is.
Joyer set his high school’s bench press record when he lifted 435-pounds with relative ease. He bested his own mark on the way to a second place finish at the state competition when he put up 445-pounds on the bench. Joyer also competed as a shot putter in high school where he broke his high school coach’s school record with a toss of 56 feet, 7 inches. Joyer went on to regularly record throws that went over 60 feet. That’s a 12-pound ball of steel that he is throwing.
6. Marcell Harris, Fr., S
The coaching staff talked all during spring and into their summer talking tour about the need to get better at safety.
They might have already gotten better when Marcell Harris enrolled in class at the start of Summer A.
Harris, while only a freshman, is an absolute freak. He’s listed at 6’1”, 207-pounds but has the hips and feet of a cornerback. The son of former Gator Mike “Mud” Harris, plays the game with the instincts that are unrivaled by most players his age. It’s his football IQ that allows Harris to seemingly always find himself around the ball.
For fans that haven’t seen Harris play on tape or in person, think Major Wright 2.0.
5. Dominique Easley, So., DL
Dominique Easley can often be seen on the field dancing on the sidelines or in-between plays. When he isn’t dancing, Easley is dominating offensive linemen from all over Florida’s defensive front.
At 6’2”, 283-pounds, Easley has the size of a defensive tackle but his quickness makes him a dangerous pass rusher off of the edge. His initial burst off of the line is unbelievable for a player of his size. He’s also strong enough that you might even see him playing over the center as a nose tackle in Florida’s 3-4 front.
Add on the Chucky doll that Easley can be seen carrying during Gator Walk or in his locker during games, and the feeling that any second he could snap and fight the entire opposing team on his own, Easley easily comes in at No. 5 on our list.
4. Dante Fowler Jr., So., BUCK
Fowler showed up to Florida at almost 280 pounds, 20-pounds heavier than he was listed in high school. Fowler himself would tell you that all of that weight wasn’t good weight but it didn’t stop him from having a great freshman season.
Fowler totaled 30 tackles, 8.5 for a loss and 2.5 sacks as a freshman backing up Lerentee McCray at BUCK linebacker.
Fowler shed what he called “baby fat” and is down to about 265-pounds. The weight loss has made Fowler even faster than he was a season ago coming off the edge and he hasn’t lost any of the power we saw on display last season.
Fowler doesn’t rest on his physical abilities; rather he is on a quest to make himself better by watching film and constantly asking the coaching staff how he can improve. When a physical specimen like Fowler dedicates himself in the weight room, on the field and in the film room, he becomes a very, very dangerous weapon.
3. Loucheiz Purifoy, Jr., DB/WR
Football, like many sports, has become a year round endeavor for athletes. This has led to players specializing at certain positions from a young age and sticking to that position throughout their career.
Every so often, you get an athlete special enough and in the right situation where they can play on both sides of the ball. Oh, and he’s one of Florida’s most valuable special teams players.
We’re talking of course, about Loucheiz Purifoy.
Purifoy saw limited action at receiver a year ago but could see an expanded role on offense after spending half of the spring working as a receiver. Purifoy will begin the fall on defense for the first 14-16 practices. The coaching staff will then evaluate what they have and Purifoy’s future will be determined.
Purifoy is the most physical player Florida has at cornerback, a quality that Will Muschamp places a high value on.
Not to mention that Purifoy is a fearless kick-returner who gives you the feeling that any time he’s returning a kick it could go to the house. He’s also Florida’s best gunner on punts and kick coverage.
We could keep going on and on but we’ll just stop here and let Purifoy show you why he’s a freak on the field this fall.
2. Ronald Powell, R-Jr., BUCK
At 6’4” and a chiseled 234-pounds, Ronald Powell was made for the BUCK position.
Powell had turned the corner during his sophomore season and started playing his best football at the end of the year. He carried that momentum into the spring of 2012 before tearing his ACL during the Orange and Blue Debut.
Powell was given a very generous timetable to return before the LSU game last season but suffered a setback and ended up missing the entire season.
Ok, so he’s human.
Still, Powell has an almost video game like mix of size, speed, quickness, athleticism and cover skills. His cover ability is underrated and he will see some time at linebacker in the fall.
Powell’s work ethic and hunger have been lauded by the coaching staff with Joker Phillips saying that Powell has “that look, that hunger in his eye to get back on the field.”
A player with his skill and measurables, coupled with the hunger to get back on the field after missing over a year, gives you a very scary player.
Don’t believe me? Just watch.
1. Matt Jones, So., RB
At 6’2”, 226-pounds Jones allegedly ran in the 4.3 range when Florida held a mock combine for the football team.
While I’d like to see that stopwatch for myself, there’s no denying his physical ability.
Jones is a no nonsense type of running back who picks a hole, turns his shoulder pads up field and plows forward. He has surprising quickness and speed for a player of his size but doesn’t try to run around defenders.
Why run around people when you can run through them?
Jones will carry the weight of Florida’s offense this season as he is set to become the feature back and should carry the ball 20-25 times a game. He is strong enough to hold up carrying the ball that many times in the SEC and he will leave broken defenders behind him on the way to a 1,000-yard season.
How’s that for a bold prediction?