Ack's Insights: August 20, 2004

In this week's edition of Ack's Insights I discuss snippets and tibits about many of the players. Get the real inside scoop about who's looking good, which players have quietly had a good camp and who among the incoming freshman have stood out. Plus, I discuss what UF needs to do to reclaim the Swamp this season. Read all that and more inside.

The Gators are heading down the homestretch of fall two a days and Ron Zook's team has been able to avoid any serious injuries so far during camp. Skyler Thornton's knee has been the one major injury and his should keep him out a week or two. There have been some little nicks and so forth but for the most part the team has done well to this point. The biggest concern up til now is when Tavares Washington will get fully into the mix. Washington had a great spring and finished as the starting left tackle. He has gone through drills this fall but as of Wednesday he had not seen much in the way of scrimmage action. Jon Colon is holding up pretty well but I believe it will be a two man position the entire season. Speaking of injuries, the freshman class has shown a great deal of toughness this fall. Almost all of the freshman have participated in every practice and have shown incredible toughness for newcomers.

Snippets and Tidbits…
Billy Latsko is developing into a really top notch fullback. Latsko is a solid blocker and is very good at catching the ball in the flat on play action. Many remember the extra effort fumble against Kentucky, but in this camp he has been solid.

Marcus Manson showed unbelievable toughness Monday night in the scrimmage carrying the ball 22 times against the number one defense. The biggest key for young backs is positive yards. Manson showed quick moves and did not have a negative carry. He will only get better as he adjusts to the speed of the game.

Reggie Lewis has put together his second consecutive good fall camp but ran into another bit of bad luck this week when he spent the night in the hospital. Reggie was the starter with three days to go in last year's fall camp and went through a tough stretch of the drops and lost his confidence. Coaches are hoping he can finish fall camp very strong and reach his potential.

Phil Trautwein, the true freshman at right tackle out of New Jersey, has shown great toughness so far during camp. He also is battling for playing time as the top backup to starter Randy Hand. Trautwein came in with the reputation as an athletic guy, but has surprised folks with his physical play. Trautwein was clocked as fast as a 4.8 in the forty yard dash.

The tight end spot is looking more and more like a block first position right now. David Kenner looks like the starter and is capable of getting open and catching the ball. I believe it will be a group effort that could include both freshman this season. Larry Fedora likes two tight end sets and really uses the tight end as a passing threat in the redzone area.

Justin Midgett had some arm problems earlier this week but came back with a vengeance after the Monday scrimmage in which he sat out. Midgett really tries to make every throw hard and will learn in time that proper footwork and timing will take some of the pain out of his throwing shoulder/arm.

Defensively, Earl Everett is rounding into a more complete linebacker. Several times Monday night Earl stuck his head in on the run for a big hit. Everett who is a fast athlete that can cover a lot of ground seems to be displaying more toughness this fall camp.

Travis Harris has had a solid but quiet camp. One reason the tight ends have struggled so much is they lack the experience to beat savvy guys like Harris and McCollough (when healthy).

Jarvis Moss is actually looking more comfortable at linebacker, but I believe his future is a pass rushing end.

Marcus Thomas and Ray McDonald are clearly the top two tackles and they know it. They need to also take over some of the leadership of the defense, especially for the first game with Crowder out. Thomas and McDonald make few mistakes and they mostly come when they get greedy on a play. Both guys are very talented and must continue to prove themselves to reach their fullest potential. Right now Kenny Parker is the top backup and then the race is on. This weekend's scrimmage could go along way to seeing who gets in the mix as the fourth and fifth guy. Eric Holcombe is in the fourth spot but he has not played the way you would hope. Julian Riley, Brandon Daniel and Michael Hill are all possibilities. True freshman Michael Brown has shown glimpses of being a future star in the SEC and he may sneak into some playing time.

The three freshman secondary guys have proven they are ready to be top backups. Kyle Jackson, Tony Joiner and Dawayne Grace have all shown the toughness and flashes of the skill that could get them on the field. They all lined up with the second team first on Monday and continue to make plays. Charlie Strong has simplified some of his defensive calls when the young guys are in, so they do not have to think as much and they can go play.

Dee Webb has been the best defensive back so far and could be "Corey Webster-LSU" good. That said Reynaldo Hill is fighting off a good battle with Vernell Brown at the other spot.

Eric Wilbur will probably win the punting job but he must get more consistent. Right now both guys are neck and neck during camp.

This and That...
After the Gators two preseason games UF has four SEC home opponents left. If the Gators are to be in the hunt for the SEC and retake the Swamp they must go 6-0 at home this season. Kentucky comes in with 10 returning starters and a new quarterback. Arkansas comes in with 5 returning starters and only quarterback Matt Jones on offense. South Carolina returns 13 starters and Dondrial Pinkins has not locked up the job yet at quarterback. The big one is LSU who returns 14 starters and a bunch of key backups from last year's title team. The one thing they don't return is a quarterback. Marcus Randall is the leading candidate for the job but if he struggles at Auburn or Georgia , the Tigers could be bringing a  young inexperienced quarterback to the Swamp for the home game of the year.

CNNSI had Florida's backfield rated among the nation's elite. Right now only Southern Cal and Oklahoma would be ahead on my list. Georgia has lost Lumpkin and the way Chris Leak has looked in fall camp he may be the best in the conference. The last time Chris Leak threw an interception in practice Ron Zook was the defensive coordinator for the Saints. He has looked that good…

Stat of the Week: 12. This is where the preseason magazine of all magazines has Florida ranked in the top 20. Playboy has USC and LSU number 1 and 2.

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