ROOKIE SENSATIONS: This award goes to the first year players that have stepped up their game and will likely be big contributors in 2005.
#91 Derrick Harvey as he's about to slam into Portis
DE DERRICK HARVEY: He was the most highly recruited player in the 2004 recruiting class and came in under weight enough to be a performer his rookie season. He is still growing and putting on weight and muscle, but has had a excellent spring and in my mind will start at some point next season.
OG JIM TARTT: He is the surprise starter on the team right now. The mauling right offensive guard has been pointed out by Coach Meyer numerous times for his style of play and the way it fits the offense. He will have surgery on Monday, but is expected back in time for the fall.
QB JOSH PORTIS: 20 for 30 in the spring game for 253 yards. He has quick feet and runs very fast. Portis has shown he is a serious player by staying number two behind Chris Leak all spring in the quarterback rotation.
RB MARKUS MANSON: He is still somewhat of a work in progress but no one can deny his ability. His pass protection skills have increased tremendously. He showed in the spring game when he ran behind a few first team offensive linemen that he can make things happen. He hasn't been given much chance with the first team.
TE DANE GUTHRIE: He is big, strong and fast. He blocks like a guard and runs like a running back. He hasn't been healthy all spring or he would be much further along but he has a good future ahead of him.
THE HUSTLE AWARD: Those guys that never fail to give effort and because of their extraordinary stamina or effort make things happen that might not otherwise.
OG LANCE BUTLER: The smile on the faces of the staff was priceless when they first saw Lance Butler leading a screen pass all the way down the field and knocking down smaller defensive players. This is nothing new to him, just something he's been doing here the last three years.
WR CHAD JACKSON: Chad could get every award in the spring not related to a rookie. He has had one of those springs that just make people wonder about the future. His hustle comes while the ball is in the air. He's the best at going up and getting it.
DT RAY MCDONALD: He deserves this award, because once called out by Coach Meyer, he has worked his butt off to fight to the ball. Coach Greg Mattison alluded to it in post game on Saturday that he had problems in the past, that wasn't the case for most of the spring.
TE TATE CASEY: He is aggressive and never takes a play off. He is a rough mismatch for the defense because of his size and because he hustles so much that linebackers can't keep up. Safeties are too small.
DE JEREMY MINCEY: This year's Channing Crowder. Mincey is probably the team's workout warrior now that Crowder is gone. Mincey has shown a lot of his hustle in zone blitz situations where he drops in coverage. He had numerous pickoffs and knockdowns.
CB VERNELL BROWN: I had to add Vernell to this list, and I couldn't take anyone off. Vernell is like a water bug on water dancing around the receiver. He is very quick and always hustling on the field.
UNDER THE RADAR: This award goes to several unsung heroes who played very well but without the acclamation. They may have an all-star in front of them or just may be waiting their turn. Either way they could be significant to the team's improvement this year and in the future.
DT MICHAEL HILL: Hill is a very solid defensive tackle prospect. Coach Mattison said in the press room Saturday that he has seven defensive linemen he feels good about right now. Hill is one of them. He is relentless and plays hard all of the time. He is just stuck behind Ray McDonald and Steven Harris, who had great springs.
OG DREW MILLER: He emerged as one of the more important players not on the first unit. It's only a matter of time before he is a starter Miller. He has all the tools and he will be playing behind a very good offensive front that will lose four starters to graduation in 2005.
LB TODD MCCULLOUGH: He hasn't played a lot this spring because the offense they faced only required two linebackers on the field. Every defensive coach along with Coach Meyer has said that McCullough will be a player for the Gators. When he has been in, he has been good.
CB TREMAINE MCCOLLUM: He has made a lot of plays this spring. There is a knock on his size but he is bigger than Vernell Brown. He fights through receivers even at his size and has a knack for getting to the ball when it is in the air.
FS DESHAWN CARTER: At a position that has suddenly become solid for the Gators, Carter stepped up his game toward the end of spring drills. He started out the spring at cornerback, but moved over to safety after the second practice. He still lacks some tackling skills, but he has a head for the ball and he can go get it.
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH: This one is awarded to the best positions on the team as of the end of spring.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: I bulked them together because in this offense, the tight end is nothing but a slot receiver/H-back. I would be shocked if there is a more talented group in the country than this one. There are veterans that have played a lot of owns. There are lots of playmakers and all of them seem to have the respect of the quarterbacks throwing the ball. The positions aren't especially deep, but deep enough that a true freshman won't be starting next season.
Coach Meyer as he talks to the O-Line
OFFENSIVE LINE: Anchored by four seniors, the offensive line could place three guys on preseason All-SEC lists. Lance Butler, Mike Degory, and Randy Hand are all highly proven commodities, big, strong and fast as any three players at their positions in the country. Tavares Washington has had a great spring and been praised a lot by the staff. Jim Tartt is a rookie, but he beat out two veteran players for the starting right guard spot. The backups are not ready yet, but the line will have eight guys that can play.
SAFETY: Jarvis Herring has played so well this spring, they pulled him for most of the end of it to get the younger guys more reps. He didn't participate in the spring game. It is my opinion that Kyle Jackson could be the best player n defense by the end of the year. He is as instinctive and gifted a free safety as we have had at Florida in a long time. Tony Joiner played very well late in spring and showed he has all the physical ability for the position. Terrance Holmes is a big hitter who can play either safety position, and Deshawn Carter has improved dramatically by the end of spring.
QUARTERBACK: The position is full of quarterbacks that can play the style of offense that Meyer likes. All can run, all can pass. Chris Leak had big questions coming into the spring regarding his physical abilities and his willingness to run. Meyer has said Leak has answered those questions. Leak had a great spring and improved his mechanics, too. Josh Portis played a consistent number two, capping it off with a great spring game. Portis has wowed onlookers with both his his feet and his arm. When he finally adjusts 100 percent to the speed of these players he will be hard to keep off the field. Gavin Dickey has a great attitude and had one scrimmage in particular where he showed he can play in this offense. His knock is his height, but he can move around to make space to throw the ball. Cornelius Ingram is behind everyone when it comes to passing but he has the great feet and the strongest arm. He needs coaching but there is no questioning his ability.
DEFENSIVE TACKLES: With the emergence of Steven Harris, this all of a sudden becomes a fairly deep position especially when Marcus Thomas returns. Harris moved inside about practice number three and from that moment on, made a big difference in the pressure the line was getting up front. Ray McDonald has had his best spring and will be an all-star. Michael Hill will be a force whenever he gets on the field. Coach Mattison loves Marcus Thomas' off the field demeanor. Clint McMillan just seems to make plays when he is in there so he will see time in the rotation.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYERS: This award goes to the players who began improving from day one and never stopped improving.
DL STEVEN HARRIS: He proved he can pressure the quarterback from the inside and if was needed, he could move back outside. He is highly respected by his teammates. When he speaks to the other players, he's in full control of the room.
Reggie Lewis as he chases down Dallas Baker
CB REGGIE LEWIS: When the defense needed him he switched from wide receiver to corner. He learned quickly and moved immediately into the rotation. Lewis is one of the bigger cornerbacks on the roster and the coaches have come to rely on him in pass coverage. He is challenging for the number two corner spot with Vernell Brown.
OG JIM TARTT: From redshirting last year as a freshman to starting this year as a redshirt freshman, Tartt has worked his way from the doghouse to the penthouse with the coaching staff.
OT TAVARES WASHINGTON: This was one player that some thought might not make it as a starter and I was one who thought no way. Washington has shown he can do it all at left tackle. I have seen him numerous times get out as the lead blocker on a reverse where he mauled some poor little secondary guy who lacked the speed to elude him. As the starting left tackle, Chris Leak needs to good friends with him.
Brian Crum hanging with Dallas Baker.
LB BRIAN CRUM: He's finally found a home after being the team's wanderer for three years. Finally settled in at linebacker, he had an excellent spring and as he continues to learn the intricacies of the position, he'll see a lot of playing time.
BEST SPRING: These are the players who consistently played the best this spring. One caveat with this award is that I will have to eliminate most linemen because it is hard to consistently follow line play and watch the entire field. Also, some players like Jarvis Herring just weren't on the field that much.
WR CHAD JACKSON: I can't remember a better spring from anyone since I began attending practices regularly in 1994. There is no doubt he will be the go to guy this spring. That says a lot since he plays the position with the most talent on a very talented team. He will burn defenders or outmuscle them and if the ball is in the air, you can just about bet he will come down with it.
QB CHRIS LEAK: Someone has had to get Jackson the ball and Leak showed he can do it. He proved he can run the offense and he also looks quite improved as a passer.
LB BRANDON SILER: The vocal leader on defense, he also leads by example. He is always firing his teammates up and has accepted the leadership role as a sophomore.
LB EARL EVERETT: He is a silent assassin. He makes plays and no one notices. He can take offensive players out of the game in coverage. He can blitz, and he can flat out hit. Everett will be an All-SEC player this year. Look for him to have a huge role in rushing the passer.
From left to right on the D-line Mincey, McDonald, Hill, and Cohen.
DE JEREMY MINCEY: My lone lineman making the list. The fact is he plays out in space sometimes. He is the guy that is always hitting the quarterback when he rushes. He has more hurries, pass deflections, sacks, and messed up option plays than anyone on the defense.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS: Finally, here is a lead-in to the fall. This award goes to the players that are most critical to the success of the team in the fall of 2005.
QB CHRIS LEAK: He is the veteran who brings with him all the credentials and experience to lead. The coaching staff has put a lot of responsibility on his shoulders and he will have to produce.
C MIKE DEGORY: He was allowed to rest a lot during spring. He is an All-SEC player and will need to take control of the offensive line to help Leak.
Bubba Caldwell (5) took a vicious hit from Jarvis Herring on this play which also knocked the ball lose. Wow!
SS JARVIS HERRING: He was given most of the latter part of spring practice off. He is like having a coach on the field and a leader on the defense. Herring will make plays a variety of different ways, but his best attributes are in leadership.
LB EARL EVERETT: The staff will ask him to do things that no one else is capable of doing on the team. Physical ability is what separates Earl from the rest.
LB BRANDON SILER: He is the true leader on the defense. He is very smart and plays at a high level all the time. He also brings a winning and relentless attitude the entire team.