Ack's Insights 8/20/03

Camp Zook is coming to a close. After 19 practices, its time to take a look back over the questions I raised before the start of camp. Who will be the starting QB? Who will emerge at linebacker? Can Zook improve Special Teams? Those questions and more are answered in this edition, plus check out some news and notes about the team.

At the end of July we previewed nine questions that had to be answered during fall camp. Well, fall camp is winding down and the Gators are almost ready for game week preparations. The questions surrounding this team prior to camp have found a multitude of answers. The one thing that remains is the biggest question of them all: Can these players do it on the field in front of 90,000 with the game on the line? If fall camp is the  proving ground then UF has a chance to make some serious noise this football season. Let's take a look at our 9 preseason questions and the answers we have discovered over the last 19 practices.

1. Who will be the starting QB? 
Chris Leak has looked the best but Ingle Martin will probably draw the nod versus San Jose St. He is a bright athletic leader who will handle the early game jitters probably better than Leak. He can move the team but Leak could be starting by FAMU. Gavin Dickey has played himself back into consideration. Justin Midgett will more than likely redshirt.

2. What will be the defensive tackle rotation? 
This has been a major surprise for UF in camp considering the loss of incoming freshman Michael Hill prior to the start of drills. Kenny Parker, Mo Mitchell, Ray McDonald and Eric Holcombe provide the top 4. Ron Dowdy and Marcus Thomas along with Pierre are the next in line if anyone gets hurt. Darrell Lee can move inside during "dime" rush situations where he, McCray and Travis Harris are rushing the passer.

3. Will Keiwan Ratliff play both ways this season? 
I would have said yes and a lot of offense 19 practices ago but now he looks like a full time corner with the emergence of several players at receiver. He knows the offense and can play situationally or during a serious injury run.

4. Who will emerge at linebacker? 
Channing Crowder is the most active and dominant backer in camp and projects to have a big year. Crum and Charles when healthy have had good camps. Todd McCullough has quietly led the group and will be pivotal versus Tennessee and Miami.

5. Can Zook improve Special Teams?
They have only practiced but so far so good. The combination of Griffith, Morton and Leach has looked solid at the kicking spot. Eric Wilbur consistently gets his punts off in sub 2.0 times with distance.

6. Will Ran Carthon hold up as number one?
This has been a disappointment for Zook in that Carthon has not been injured but just dinged up enough to feel like he cannot get a good look at Ran. The other three of Wynn, Fason and Walker are too talented to not be tailback by committee. Keep an eye on Walker.

7. Will the passing game be more vertical?
Did anyone see the first scrimmage? Dallas Baker, Jemalle Cornelius, Andre Caldwell and Chad Jackson have proven they are ready for prime time. Look for UF to go down the field a lot in the opener versus San Jose St.

8. Will Darrell Lee and Bobby McCray play to their potential?
It appears that Darrell Lee will. He has improved tremendously versus the run and has shown a toughness that we have not seen in his prior seasons. McCray has been bothered by a toe injury but it has led to the emergence of Travis Harris.

9. Will UF emerge from Camp a confident hungry team?
I believe this team is hungry and with the rise of some young players as well as veteran players finding their nitch, this has become a very close team. Confidence means executing on the field in adverse situation but this is a close team.

News and Notes

The injuries to the offensive line mean the depth could be an issue the first month. Ryan Carter needs to get healthy while Billy Griffin and Lance Butler/Randy Hand could double train positions. Max Starks could always go back out to left tackle if Washington got hurt.

The first unit has a chance to be real good and one reason has been the fierce competition. It is a shame for Jon Colon, who's career has been a roller coaster ride. It seemed as if the light had finally gone on for him. It would also be a shame if Starks has to go back out to tackle. He has been a difference maker inside.

The news of Johnny Dingle being lost  for the season is one all too familiar to Florida fans. He was a tremendous surprise in camp and had moved into the two deep. Again though he was a surprise the top 3 are settled and Tranell Morant is the number 4 guy right now.

The Gators have played a lot of zone coverage in fall camp to help bring along the young linebackers. Expect the main blitzes out of the nickel personnel to come from Crowder or the nickel back.

The inside running game has been strong for two reasons: 1. The middle of the line has been solid with Max Starks in there but more importantly 2. The backs have done a good job being patient "in the hole." This is a technique that has to be pounded home by the running back coach. Give Locksley credit for harnessing the young backs.

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