Florida's search for a running game starts with the talented junior from Cincinnati. After red-shirting in 2002, Wynn burst on the scene with a scintillating 65-yard touchdown in Florida's near upset of Miami in the Orange Bowl. The next week Wynn scored four touchdowns in Florida's rout of Florida A&M and it appeared he was the next great Gator runner. Since then, however Wynn has had uneven performances, suffered through injuries and struggled to deal with backup status after Ciatrick Fason took over the position.
Now Wynn gets a chance to battle Skyler Thornton and Markus Manson for the top job. To me, Wynn is the guy who sets the tone in terms of effort and attitude and how well he sets that tone is crucial to the unit. His physical nature should make him the ideal guy to pick up the tough third-and-two yards that Florida will undoubtedly need during the course of the season.
The fifth-year senior came to the Gators with excellent credentials as a first-team junior college All-American, but has contributed little on Saturdays. Washington was impressive enough early on to convince Joe Wickline to re-arrange his unit to get him in there. He got 40 snaps opening day 2003 but only 25 more the rest of the year. He sat out all of last season but somehow made it onto the coaches' pre-season All-SEC third team.
Solid play from Tavares Washington could solidify the Florida front wall and help ensure there is a legit running game. It should also allow Florida to bring along younger linemen more gradually.
One of the more interesting battles this fall will be the one to see who is next in line behind quarterback Chris Leak. I choose Portis as the guy to watch because of his play in spring, especially the Orange and Blue game. While Cornelius Ingram divided time with the basketball team and Gavin Dickey played baseball into the summer months, Portis was all-football all the time. The California prep star looked like a true freshman part of the time, but when a guy has his best day of the spring in front of 58,000-plus it tells me a lot about his moxie.
Portis is the first Californian to sign with the Gators out of high school in 45 years and did so after a brilliant career that included 36 TD passes and just 7 interceptions his senior season. He seems to be a perfect fit for this scheme.
For added drama, consider how Portis' development might impact on the future plans of the other quarterbacks on the roster. Indications are Dickey will/could become some sort of hybrid QB/WR. That would open up some interesting play-calling options. Ingram has given up basketball for now. But fourth-string status might get him to re-think that decision.
I consider the receiving corps and Chris Leak as definite strengths for this team while the core of the offensive line is proven. If the list were four, I'd probably be inclined to add freshman kicker Jonathan Phillips.
Next, three defensive players to keep your eyes on when camp opens up.