Ack's Insights

For the Florida football players and coaches the week of March 15th cannot get here soon enough. With the bad taste from the Outback Bowl still fresh in their mouth and the drama of recruiting, it's time to get back to work. This youthful team will be looking for new leadership in Spring practice and new stars to emerge.

Spring practice is always a time for mixing it up with the depth chart. Let's take a look at the crystal ball and see how the two deep could shape up and where there might be some experimentation.

Ack's Depth Chart
This does not include everyone on the roster. This is how I see it unfolding but it could change during spring.

Offense
QB: Chris Leak
Backups: Justin Midgett
Notes: With essentially two scholarship players this could turn out to be a competitive battle. The job is definitely Leak's for the future but Midgett is a heck of a competitor and he will have some big scrimmages.

WR: Dallas Baker and Jemalle Cornelius
Backups: Andre Caldwell, Dallas Baker, Chad Jackson


Slot: OJ Small (veteran with savvy who could play tight end in UF's four wide look)
Backups: Reggie Lewis (Big spring for him to show some consistency)


Others: Kenneth Tookes, Vernell Brown
Notes: Caldwell played inside last season but has the speed to be an outside guy.


Tight End: David Kenner if healthy
Backups: Darrell Carpenter, Marquell Thompson
Notes: Don't expect much from the TE in the spring and look for UF to spread with 4 wide and work on tempo out of the flex formation.

OL: LT Jon Colon
LG Tavarus Washington
C Mike Degory
RG Lance Butler
RT Randy Hand
Backups:
LT Carlton Medder
LG Steve Rissler
C Billy Griffin
RG Mo Mitchell
RT Carlton Medder
Others: Ryan Carter and Anthony Guerrero at guard.
Notes: Washington can also play tackle as can Mo Mitchell depending on Colon's back. It would not surprise me if they move another defensive lineman over to offensive line.

RB: Ciatrick Fason is the starter with more big games the second half of the season.
Backups: Deshawn Wynn, Jimtavis Walker and Skyler Thornton.
Notes:Should be a competitive spring at tailback with plenty of reps for all four guys. Maybe the guy who can start and finish all 15 practices emerges as the starter.

FB: Billy Latsko
Backup: Joe Cohen
Notes: If Cohen does not move to defense he will also get some looks at the one back formation and short yardage tailback.

Defense:
Defensive Line:
DE Steven Harris
DT Marcus Thomas
DT Ray McDonald
DE Jarvis Moss
Backups:
DE Tranell Morant
DT Kenny Parker
DT Eric Holcombe
DE Julian Riley
More: DE MacKenzie Pierre, DT Clint McMillian, DT Ron Dowdy, DE Jeremy Mincey, DT Brandon Daniel, DT Michael Hill (Health concerns)
Notes: Probably Dowdy moves back to the offensive line. Also Taurean Charles is a candidate at defensive end. It would be nice if they had Johnny Dingle but Moss, Harris and Morant have great upside.

Linebackers:
WLB Channing Crowder
MLB Todd McCollough (if healthy) v Sam Travis Harris
Possible look: WLB Earl Everett, MLB Channing Crowder SLB, Cory Bailey or McCollough (if healthy)
Backups: WLB Earl Everett, MLB Taurean Charles, SLB Brian Crum
More: Howard Linguard at SLB and Walk-on Richard Brown
Notes: Could see a lot of nickel with C.Bailey /or Jarvis Herring in on the outside especially during scrimmages vs the spread offense. I like the idea of Everett and Crowder on the field at the same time. Crum needs to get tougher vs the run at him and Harris will be solid on the strong side. In Zook's defense the will and mike have the most playmaking opportunities.

Defensive Backs:
BC Demetrice Webb
SS Cory Bailey
FS Jarvis Herring
FC Reynaldo Hill
Backups: BC Deshaun Carter
SS Nick Brooks
FS Terrence Holmes
FC Jermaine McCollum
Others: Gavin Dickey could be at corner or safety, CB Tremaine McCollum SS Jermaine Thomas
FS Zephrin Augustine
Notes: I think Nick Brooks and Deshaun Carter will have a chance to earn some playing time. Dee Webb should win the job but Carter could flip over if Hill struggles. I think Hill will be more comfortable and this is definitely a position where a freshman could help.

Depth Chart thoughts:

First, look at the two deep and you will see 21of the 26 signees that reported in the fall from the highly acclaimed 2002 recruiting class. The five that are not are Johnny Dingle, Anthony Guerrero (who essentially is a two depending on my Mo Mitchell switch), Michael Hill (health), Jermaine Thomas(RS 3rd) and Skyler Thornton who played as a freshman but is behind Fason and Wynn. This is the class that will determine Ron Zook's success and he should and will get at least two more years with these players starting and playing. I mentioned the five that reported to campus in the fall with Dingle leaving, I also think Reggie Nelson would be a starter right now if he were on campus. This class may be one that lives up to the billing and if so the Gators will get to the top of the SEC.

One thing this year's class could do is help supplement the depth chart: Offensive and Defensive line depth (Drew Miller, Jeremy Mincey, Brandon Daniel, Derrick Harvey). Secondly, depth, athleticism and special teams (Dawayne Grace, Kyle Jackson, Tony Joiner) will be a plus. Fullback (Eric Rutledge), linebacker depth (Javier Estopinan and Brandon Siler) and special teams and finally the skilled positions on offense with playmakers (Mike McCintosh,Derrick McPherson, Markus Manson, and Cornelius Ingram). This is how you recruit and if UF can have a solid year with these types of players the future is bright.

Some key battles that I am already looking at in the spring will be on offense -

Wynn vs Fason
Receiver Caldwell vs Baker, Cornelius vs Jackson
Right Guard Butler vs Mitchell
Defensive End Morant vs Harris
Secondary Webb vs Carter, Brooks vs Bailey
These could develop and more may when March rolls around. I do expect UF to experiment offensively with moving some offensive lineman around and getting into a four wide set with all the young playmakers. On defense, look for inside linebacker, defensive end and safety to provide the most experimentation. One thing is for sure Eric Wilbur will punt and Matt Leach will kick field goals.

Where do the Freshman fit in? In this day and age I think you could almost count on at least ten newcomers on helping your program every year. UF has three (Thompson, Daniel and Mincey) of the 23 on campus already. I think some of these names could rise up in fall drills. Defensively, Derrick Harvey at end, Michael Brown at tackle both Siler and Estopinan, along with all four secondary signees all will have a chance to play. Both linebackers along with Joiner, Jackson, Grace and Nicolas add depth and athleticism to your special teams. All will have a chance at some early playing time. On offense I think Drew Miller and Jason Watkins could mix it up early on the offensive front while certainly Tate Casey and Dane Guthrie will have a chance to get in the mix at tight end. How those two develop this summer will determine their fate. I think UF will look at McCintosh outside at receiver and possibly inside with McPherson. Again how quick they can begin to play "fast" within the system will determine their chances. Eric Rutledge will be a good fullback and special teams player this season.

Snippetts and Tidbits
Tranell Morant could grow into a defensive tackle… Jarvis Moss is having a great winter in the weight room and is starting to develop the body to go with his frame. Florida's defensive front will be as big and talented of a unit as they have had since 1998.

Todd McCollough's rehab is going nicely but no word on whether he is officially out of spring practice yet. It does appear Travis Harris may get another look at linebacker in the spring.

The running back battle has fostered itself into the weight room where both Ciatrick Fason and Deshaun Wynn are doing extremely well.

Andre Caldwell seems to be emerging with confidence in voluntary drills. Caldwell, who has told coaches he wants to be the man, is leading more by example in his route running. Caldwell may be a multi-spot receiver much like Chris Doering was in the mid-90's. Last season he played inside but with his speed expect the coaches to use him on the perimeter as well. Reggie Lewis will be watched very closely this off-season. He was soaring up the depth chart in fall drill before losing his confidence then losing his game during the season. He did catch a ball in the Bowl game and if he can return to pre season level might end up being a nice surprise for UF.

The buzz for the past week has been the change at offensive coordinator from Ed Zaunbrecher to Larry Fedora. Fedora did a superb job at Middle Tennessee State but now must duplicate that feat for the Gators to get to Atlanta. He will remain wide recievers coach where he has sent a couple of guys to the NFL. Derrius Thompson from Baylor had 53 receptions in 2002 for the Redskins before making only 26 last season for the Dolphins. He did start 12 games however and play in all 16. Tyrone Calico is a kid Fedora recruited to Middle Tennessee State and in his rookie season with the Tennessee Titans he played in 14 games had 18 receptions and four went for touchdowns.

Finally I expect Zook to name a defensive backs coach any day now. The coach will also help coach special teams. It will be someone who can work hand in hand with Zook on both of those facets of the team and not mine having the Head Coach step in during some drill. It will also be someone who can recruit and especially recruit the state of Florida.

Final Stat: 82
This is the wingspan in inches of Gator signee Derrick Harvey, who had a Maryland state record 31 sacks last season.


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