After two weeks of fall practices, which five Gator freshmen have made the best impression? While I like the long-term potential of this rookie class, there are a handful of newcomers who appear to be at a different leve"> After two weeks of fall practices, which five Gator freshmen have made the best impression? While I like the long-term potential of this rookie class, there are a handful of newcomers who appear to be at a different leve">

VETTEL: Gators have their own "Fab Five" and more

<img src=http://www246.pair.com/autoybkh/albums/albun10/P1010115.thumb.jpg align=right>In 1992 Michigan made it to the NCAA Championship game starting five freshmen. The "Fab Five", led by Chris Webber and Jalen Rose made the most impressive debut in college hoops history. <p> After two weeks of fall practices, which five Gator freshmen have made the best impression? While I like the long-term potential of this rookie class, there are a handful of newcomers who appear to be at a different leve

If you've seen any practices, feel free to agree or disagree.

BRANDON SILER---- Orlando Evans did a great job preparing this specimen for the next level. Siler goes about 6'2" 225 and looks like every pound is right where it belongs. He has the physical tools, but it his ability to pick things up quickly which has impressed me most. After Saturday's scrimmage, I asked Charley Strong about # 40:

"The thing Brandon can do, he can run. He's kinda like Earl (Everett), but probably Brandon is further along than Earl was this time last year. He's sharp in that you can tell him something and he understands the defense and knows what's going on. He studies the game and you don't have to tell him but one time."

Siler will play a lot from day one and could well be Florida's third-best linebacker by opening day.

KYLE JACKSON AND TONY JOINER---- Just had to list these guys together since the first-year safeties have been equally impressive from the very first day. Neither has backed down since the competition has gotten physical and both will be significant contributors on special teams and potentially in nickel and dime packages. It will be interesting to see how first-year DB Coach Dan Disch gets playing time for these guys early in the season, because they have great potential.

DERRICK HARVEY---- Harvey was a consensus elite prospect from Maryland who turned down his home state Terrapins along with Tennessee and Ohio State to join the Gators, and Florida's coaches likely haven't stopped celebrating. While Florida has much better depth and athleticism at DE, there are no proven performers there. That opens the door for Harvey to get on the field quickly as he battles Harris, Morant, Mincey and Cohen for playing time. Early action the first two games should earn Harvey a spot in the rotation throughout the season.

MICHAEL McINTOSH---- The final member of my Fab Five will have the toughest time getting on the field, through no fault of his own. McIntosh has the graceful stride you love to see (but seldom do) in a receiver, but it'll take time for him to get on the field. Florida's receiving corps gets my vote as the best unit on the team, and with Small, Baker, Caldwell, Cornelius et al already on board, McIntosh will have to bide his time. But you'll love him when you get to see him. And for future trick-play reference, he was a pretty good prep QB as a junior.

So those are the five freshmen that have impressed me most. Others, notably Javier Estopinan may get more playing time, but these five guys will have a major impact this year and on into the future. Also, don't be shocked if Markus Manson, Drew Miller, Dawayne Grace and Michael Brown get on the field against Middle Tennessee State.

'Noles Have Major QB Depth Issues

Every time I see the Gators this fall, I get a strong feeling it is absolutely crucial the Chris Leak stay healthy. But if depth behind the starting quarterback in Gainesville is a concern, in Tallahassee it's desperation. In their last scrimmage, FSU saw Wyatt Sexton struggle mightily and put up numbers only a parent could love. Actually, since his dad is FSU running backs coach Billy Sexton, numbers only a mother could love.

Sexton went 13-for-29 for a grand total of 98 yards. He failed to get the offense into the end zone once, but was intercepted three times. He also lost 79 yards in sacks.

While Chris Rix has had his ups and downs in Garnet and Gold, his health is every bit as critical to FSU's hopes as Leak's is for the Gators.

Congrats Ryan Lochte

The University of Florida has a phenomenal history of great success in Olympic Swimming and Diving and that tradition has improved another notch in Greece last week. Ryan Lochte, a junior from Daytona Beach was part of the US Gold Medal 800-meter freestyle relay team and added Silver in the 200 individual medley.

It's the first individual medal for a Gator men's swimmer since Barcelona in 1992 ---- Martin Zubero (Gold, 200 back) Greg Burgess (Silver, 200 I.M.) and Anthony Nesty (Bronze 100 fly) all brought home the hardware from that Olympiad.

Donovan Gets Head Start On Season

The Gators get to work Monday on their ninth season under Billy Donovan. (Man has it been nine years already?!) Starting this week, the Gators get ten practices in advance of a three-game tour of the Bahamas scheduled for Labor Day weekend. The extra work will be a big help as Donovan looks to integrate a talent four-man freshman class with a squad that returns everyone except Bonnell Colas from last season. (Unless you include Benedict Drejer) Keep an eye out for Al Horford to give a little added inside muscle this year. Horford will get some extra playing time as Chris Richard continues to rehab from knee surgery.

Don't forget to email me your questions and comments, but please do not include attachments! Many emails this week had them and had to be left unopened. My email address is: vettel@gatorcountry.com.

Finally, I look forward to you joining me on the radio, Sunday nights from 6:00-to-8:00 on Gainesville's WSKY-FM 97.3 (877/975-9825 toll free)


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