Since this is a time when players have to assert themselves to get noticed, here are five players that need to be doing everything they can in the mat drills to gain the attention of the Florida coaches. All five of them have been on campus for at least two falls and this has to be a time when they start making a move. It's time to make a statement.
What makes the situation more complicated for each of these guys is Florida's outstanding recruiting class. These outstanding freshmen are coming to Gainesville with the attitude that they can get on the field immediately, so for these five guys --- and there are others we won't mention today --- it's make a move now or find yourself buried on the charts with freshmen ahead of you.
Jason Watkins is a red-shirt sophomore from Lakeland Florida that has grown from a skinny 6-7, 265 when he arrived to a hulking 300-pounder. His physical stature is impressive now that he's filled out. The little bits that we have seen from him in practice show promise but he needs a great spring to make himself a fixture on the offensive line.
A positive for Watkins to get his chance is that the tackle spots will be open for fair game in the spring. The Gators lose both starting tackles and the opportunity for Watkins seems prime but he's got to step up.
Carlton Medder, a red-shirt junior, hasn't played any significant football at Florida. He spent the last year transforming his body from soft and pudgy into the kind you expect of a lineman in the Southeastern Conference. Now that he's in the kind of shape he needs to be in to play, it's time for this huge guard/tackle from Groveland to understand that his time is running out. This is his fourth year and it's either step up or watch younger guys pass him up on the depth chart.
Medder has lined up at both guard and tackle in practice and we keep hearing that he will settle in at one spot or the other during the spring. I have him destined at guard but playing time is going to be a lot more difficult to come by in the middle of the line with three experienced guards returning. He might have a better opportunity by sliding out to tackle where he would have to compete with Watkins, red-shirt freshman Simon Codrington and true freshman Carl Johnson.
Jermaine McCollum is the taller and lighter of the McCollum twins. The red-shirt senior corner from Miami also has not seen any significant playing time on defense. He has excelled on special teams and he can be counted on to contribute there. However, this is a time when he needs to assert himself for playing time on defense.
With the loss of both starting corners, the Gators could use a surprise to step up in the secondary. His brother Tremaine made more plays in the spring than anyone last spring and looks to be in the two deep early in 2007 but that does nothing for Jermaine. In his favor is that only four corners total return for 2007 and this will be his fourth year working in a system run by co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong.
Mike McIntosh was one of the biggest mysteries from last season. The highly recruited receiver out of Jacksonville was on the bullet train to playing time under the old staff but he just never got into it with Urban Meyer and company. In a season of injuries last year where they badly needed receivers to step up and play, McIntosh never got a whiff of playing time.
McIntosh needs to get on the stick this spring before the slew of new receivers arrive on campus. There may be as many as five new receivers dotting the roster in the fall and three freshmen from last year's recruiting class look to make an impact this spring, also. He definitely has his work cut out or him, but a favorable impression this spring could go a long way in holding off all the talent coming in August.
Eric Rutledge is somewhat of a mystery in that no one knows where he will end up. The Gainesville red-shirt sophomore fullback turned linebacker is probably headed back to fullback with the addition of three more linebackers in the recruiting class of 2006. He definitely needs to find a position where he can contribute.
Wherever he ends up, Rutledge needs to make a move this spring and show he belongs. He has the physical tools to play in the SEC but he has to get into the right frame of mind to prove to the staff that he's ready to play. On offense he would only compete against Billy Latsko, but the time for a fullback would be greatly limited. The competition at linebacker isn't so great this spring but no matter what position he settles in to, he has to make a move now or probably he will be lost in the fall shuffle.
The Gators start spring practice on March 29th and Gator Country will be keeping tabs on these five and all of your Florida Gators throughout practice.