Media Day Special: In the Shadows

Chris Leak gets the spotlight, but the rest of Florida's quarterbacks aren't backing down....

At least 25 reporters packed into a room, craving the alleged savior's first media appearance.

Cameras. Notepads. Tape recorders. All pointed in his direction.

They kneeled before him and stood on chairs, wide-eyed and waiting for the words of Florida quarterback Chris Leak.

"Everything is going great," he'd say, hidden beneath the pile of writers. "Everyone is working hard."

One after another, during Saturday's annual media day, the true freshman threw out more clichés than passes in a practice. He appeared as coached on what to say as he did on how to play.

If you don't believe he's the student of the game, get this. Leak doesn't even plan on dating until he wins his first national championship.

Freshman Tranell Morant said on one occasion while Leak was studying film, a blonde-haired vixen took a seat in his dorm room. Engulfed in his work, the freshman actually asked her to leave.

"And she was hot, too," Morant said.

But for just one second, look behind Leak. In two other seats, a pair of Gators looked dazed. One is a veteran – former Lincoln High standout Gavin Dickey. The other is a freshman – media-proclaimed underdog Justin Midgett.

Both are vying for the same job as Leak. And neither could care less about their loneliness on this day.

"Once you get out on the field and between the lines, talent speaks for itself," Dickey said. "The hype is gone."

Midgett said the best player will start.

"Leak came in on a pedestal," he said. "But the coaches are going to play the best person. The hype won't matter. The press won't matter. It's going to come down to who is the best player."

Leak proved himself in high school, throwing a national-record 185 touchdown passes and won 46 consecutive games. But Midgett and Dickey, as some seem to forget, don't have pasts to be ashamed of, either.

Dickey, as so many in Tallahassee know, was Florida's Gatorade Player of the Year two years ago.

And Midgett, from Punta Gorda, was one of 12 quarterbacks in the nation to attend the Elite 11 Camp in California.

So while the world may have its plans for Leak, these two "underdogs" have set their sites on a similar goal. The starting job.

"I think the Tennessee game is a reasonable goal to have the knowledge to be able to just react," Midgett said.

But as a starter?

"Yeah," he said. "A starter."

Dickey plans on starting the first game of the season – Aug. 30 against San Jose State.

But before you flinch at either notion, don't forget about the Gators' short-term history.

Two years ago, Rex Grossman was overshadowed by Brock Berlin, one of the nation's top recruits, and Jesse Palmer, the planned starter.

Then, Berlin transferred to Miami as Grossman came off his season as the Heisman Trophy runner-up.

Grossman has spoken to both Dickey and Midgett about his past, letting each know the public's favorite doesn't always win the job.

"He called me after Leak committed," Midgett said. "He said, ‘Don't falter on your beliefs. Don't waver that on where you go. People bad mouthed me. They praised him. Just don't falter. If you think you can do, do it.'

"And that's what I'm going to do."

Only three days into summer practice, three quarterbacks each have their minds made up. They will start.

But look to the left of these three quarterbacks. There's another Gator wearing No. 10. Another quarterback, who happens to be the oldest and most experience of the pack, keeping quiet in the corner.

"There's definitely competition," Martin said. "All I can say is that we're all trying to do the best we can."

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