Florida's perennially strong defense carried the team to a 21-6 record and two bowl wins even while Steve Addazio was doing his best to level the Gator offense. The recent dismissal of cornerback Janoris Jenkins for a third marijuana arrest, though, casts a glaring spotlight on just how depleted that defense will be in 2011.
The Gators now head into summer practice with only 12 starters returning, fewest in the SEC except for Auburn. Jenkins was the most experienced player returning to this year's defense, and earned All-SEC honors last year after pulling down three interceptions (one returned for a TD) and anchoring a pass defense that finished second in the league. Now the Gators are left with only four returning starters on that side of the ball, including just one in the secondary -- and even that deserves an asterisk, as cornerback Jeremy Brown found himself splitting time with Moses Jenkins in the latter half of 2010.
Moses Jenkins (no relation) was named the starter opposite Janoris for last year's season opener against Miami-Ohio, but hyperextended his left elbow early in the matchup and missed the next seven games. Because he also missed 10 games in 2009 due to a concussion, Moses was granted a medical hardship last year that allowed him to return for 2011; he seems the most likely candidate to replace Janoris on the depth chart. But with only 37 tackles and one pick in four years at Florida, it's safe to say he's got a difficult job filling Janoris' shoes.
Of course, Florida head coach Will Muschamp certainly knows how to put together a defense, and given Florida's breakneck recruiting pace over the entirety of the Urban Meyer era, he's certainly got loads of raw talent to work with in 2011. In what sets up to be yet another transitional year for the Gator offense, though, it would've been nice to have some consistency and senior leadership on the defense. Without it, the margin for error in Muschamp's first year in Gainesville just got slimmer.
For more on Janoris Jenkins' dismissal and what it means for the Gators' 2011 campaign, head over to SBN's Alligator Army.