Inside Look: Florida Spring Practice

Over the next couple weeks NoleDigest will be teaming up with the publishers and contributors of the Scout.com websites that the Seminoles play this fall to give the readers a look at what to expect this upcoming season. First up is the ‘Noles archrival, the University of Florida.

In order to get ready for summer workouts and fall camp NoleDigest is giving its readers an inside look at what the ‘Noles face this year on the football field. We've teamed up with each team's website on FSU's football schedule to talk about the spring, and to give a glimpse into what the team looks like heading into fall.

The first installment is from FightingGators.com's Bob Redman. He talks about the Gators' spring, and what the team needs to work on heading into the season.

Gators Spring Recap

As the Florida Gators look to defend their national championship, there aren't a lot of holes to fill. The Gators return every one of their two-deep on defense and seven starters on offense along with all their reserves on that side of the ball. Spring 2009 was all about solidifying the depth on the roster, finding two offensive tackles, and replacing two very talented receivers.

The top priority for Florida this spring was replacing two starting offensive tackles. Phil Trautwein and Jason Watkins were both fifth year seniors and multi-year starters at their positions and helped pave the road for a high octane offense the last two seasons.

With their departure, the Gators turned to some familiar faces to man those spots. Starting left guard Carl Johnson was moved to left tackle and the junior had a very good spring on the outside, even fighting through injuries. Junior Marcus Gilbert, who started three games at guard last season has moved out to his more natural position at right tackle and should be the starter there when the season starts.

With Johnson out at tackle the left guard spot was dutifully manned by sophomore James Wilson until he incurred a foot injury that kept him out of the last half of spring. Wilson was a beast inside while in there and his injury is not supposed to keep him out very long.

In the meantime, injuries to Wilson and both starting center Maurkice Pouncey and guard Mike Pouncey allowed newcomers like freshman Sam Robey to get a lot of work at center. Robey ended up being one of the positive surprises of spring for Florida. Sophomore Matt Patchan needs to add a lot of weight, but was a monster at tackle late in spring, while freshmen David Young, Nick Alajajian, and Jonotthan Harrison all played well and look to see time on the field in 2009 and any of the three could play four spots on the line.

Of utmost importance this spring was replacing departed receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy. Murphy's loss should be handled by a platoon of guys who will all see their playing time increase from 2008. Sophomore Deonte Thompson and seniors David Nelson, Riley Cooper, and Carl Moore will all get much more time on the field this fall.

Replacing Harvin will be tough and the Gators really didn't find an answer to replacing his skills in the slot position. Florida head Coach Urban Meyer said after the spring that incoming freshman Andre Debose along with athletes Jeff Demps, and Chris Rainey are going to get the first shot at the position in the fall. Oddly enough, Rainey nor Demps (who only practiced three times this spring due to track), saw any time at the slot this spring, so the fall will be their first look at it.

The Gators seemed to solidify some depth issues this spring throughout the roster. We have already talked about the offensive line, but at quarterback, John Brantley had a big time second half of spring and he looks very comfortable in the Gator offense. He finished the spring game going 14-23 for 263yards and three touchdowns. Freshmen wide receivers Frankie Hammond and T.J. Lawrence also turned in good springs and look to add to the depth at receiver in 2009.

The Gators look to add the fullback back into the offense a little in 2009 and sophomore Steven Wilks was having a good spring until tearing his ACL in the last week, he will miss most of the season. Freshman T.J. Pridemore also stepped up and looked solid, but I don't anticipate the fullbacks doing too much in the offense again in 2009, look for them to take a bigger role in 2010.

This is the deepest and most talented linebacker group the Gators have had and are enjoying some experience with three seniors and four juniors on the roster for 2009.

Juniors Ahmad Black and Major Wright also return in the secondary and actually had a pretty uneventful spring at safety. On the other hand, their backups, sophomore Will Hill, and senior Dorian Munroe (returning this season from ACL injury in 2008) were a bit more active and led Meyer to announce at the end of spring that there are four starters at the position. Hill will start in 2009.

At cornerback, the Gators return 2ndteam All-American and junior Joe Haden and freshman All-American Janoris Jenkins. The Gators played a lot of nickel this spring and Jenkins moved to the nickel spot with former starter and senior Wondy Pierre-Louis starting on the outside. Senior Markihe Anderson had more interceptions than anyone this spring. The top newcomer was redshirt freshman Adrian Bushell who plays the game a lot like Jenkins. Look for freshman Jeremy Brown to also contribute this fall, but he missed most of spring still recovering from a back injury he incurred before the start of last season.

Brandon James, the Gators electric kick returner, missed the spring with a foot injury but is expected to be full speed by May. The senior will man both kick return and punt return duties.

The Gators also got a break from the NCAA when kicker Jonathan Phillips received a fifth year of eligibility after playing only a couple of snaps in his first year on campus. So, the Gators return their two place kickers and punter Chas Henry who has an all conference leg.

The top three performers of the spring were likely Aaron Hernandez who showed why he will be a huge target for the Gators this season, Frankie Hammond, who impressed every day at practice and made tough catch after tough catch all spring long, and Jon Bostic who performed like one of the top two linebackers already on campus after never playing the position in high school.

It was a productive spring with many young guys getting a lot of reps to help when a starter has to come out of the game for one reason or another. The only unanswered question seems to be how to replace the Percy Harvin role in the offense. That question will have to be answered in the fall.>br>

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