Grading The Freshmen After Two Practices

If you watched both Florida football practices, both the freshmen in the morning and the veterans in the late afternoon, then day two was a long one. The freshmen started before sun up and ended at 7:45 a.m. while the veterans had to make the best of a scorching day with humidity to match. Here is a look at today's freshman practice and an assessment of the first two days for the Gator newbies.

The freshmen have put in two good practices with lots of hustle and hard work. They have the look of a group that is ready to begin competing with the veterans on Tuesday. For the most part, all of the freshmen have had impressive moments. This is a great class of players and I believe it will be the backbone of the Florida program for a long time in the future.

RUNNING BACKS ARE SOLID: In an earlier report I said that Mon Williams runs like Ciatrick Fason, although I think Mon is a little bit faster. It may take Williams a while to catch on to everything, but if he can do what Kestahn Moore did last year, he could see some playing time this season and maybe a lot.

Chevon Walker's physical ability is as good as anyone, I just think it takes him a little longer to process than most. I love his foot speed and quickness. He is impressive that way. He is also built solid as a rock. Look for him to be a special team demon blocking punts and field goals this year.

FRESHMEN WIDE RECEIVERS BEST GROUP IN AWHILE: All of them are going to play. That's all you can say about this bunch right now. Percy Harvin and Jarred Fayson are two that stand out more at this point, but I believe that all five are going to make big contributions at Florida if they all stay healthy. Justin Williams is probably the third guy and a damn good third one at that. This is the order I see them on the field and why.

Percy Harvin: Just electric, He is the guy that can do things with the ball that makes teams have to double him. He is an absolute weapon. His physique is still surprising in that he really gained some muscle in the off-season from when we saw him in San Antonio back in January. If there is a drawback it is that he may need to show some respect to defenders rather than thinking he can just whip anyone. He will have to work for it sometime.

Jarred Fayson: Much like Percy, except stronger and maybe smoother. The scary thing is he was a quarterback in high school and will get better catching the ball in stride and moving afterwards. Getting off the line is a drawback but once in space he is as good as you're going to find anywhere.

Justin Williams: Williams is surprisingly fast and smooth. Almost any other year he would be first on the list, including last year. He was a sprinter in high school and has great take off. He may need a little upper body strength, but isn't too far off.

Jamar Hornsby and Riley Cooper: Both are really big targets as freshman and I couldn't put either one of them last. Cooper is faster, I think Hornsby is smoother. Both go get the ball with authority. Both guys love to attack the defender head on at five yards. That is okay sometimes, but other times, they need to make a move to get right by them.

Trent Pupello is thrown in this group. Trent will be a force one day. He is physically ready and I have no doubt he can handle the mental load of the offense. I just think he would be a better asset as a red-shirt and playing down the road. His best trait is blocking at the line of scrimmage, although he is a real beast after catching the ball.

PREDICTION: Harvin and Fayson see the field as a receiver in game one. All five receivers see the field on special teams.

FRESHMAN OFFENSIVE LINEMEN ARE SOLID: Maurice Hurt and Carl Johnson may see the field earlier because they were here for the spring. Both have gotten themselves in great playing shape. Hurt is more polished as a blocker and uses his leverage wisely. Johnson is a huge ball of athleticism and strength. He never had to rely on leverage in the ball he played in North Carolina. I still think Johnson could go back outside to tackle, but we will see. One will definitely play this year. Which one will be interesting to find out.

Marcus Gilbert is my pick to wind up as a second team tackle this season. I love his tools. He has quick feet and very powerful arms. I can't wait to get a better glimpse of him when the offensive line gets closer to where we can watch, although moving up that high before they close practice may be wishful thinking.

Jim Barrie will have to gain weight, but I like the shape he came in. He looks prepared and ready to do what he needs to do. I am sure that is what they want out of him.

PREDICTION: I think two true freshmen linemen make the two deep this year, Gilbert and either Johnson or Hurt.

WAIT AND SEE FOR THE D-LINEMEN: So we find out that the two guys that were dragging at summer workouts were Corey Hobbs and Brandon Antwine. Both had medical issues to deal with. Hobbs has a case of Plantar Fasciitis which makes him very tender when running. Antwine had nasal surgery that meant he wasn't working out for quite some time. That should send a great deal of relief to Gator fans that were worried about the bunch.

Hobbs and Terron Sanders have been limited to only upper body work at practice and so they haven't really shown what they can do. Antwine, for being out of shape, is really quick. He will only get quicker and better as he gets into football playing shape.

Jermaine Cunningham looks like the real deal. It is very surprising how big he is compared to when I met him for the video DVD back in March. He has lights out quickness and I expect him to be the backup to Moss before too long. The staff may be wise to red-shirt him, but he's so good they may not be able to.

Lawrence Marsh is a big strong side defensive end and is physically ready to contribute. He looked like he was playing at tackle the Sunday, but was definitely at an end spot on Monday. It is hard to gauge these guys right now without contact. That should come a little easier by Wednesday.

ATHLETIC LINEBACKERS: The three freshmen linebackers are athletic to say the least. All are quick and Brandon Spikes has the size to play middle linebacker right away in the SEC. It will be a steep uphill curve learning everything for Spikes, but I think he is second team by the first game, backing up Siler.

Dustin Doe has had a great two days of camp and is that linebacker that just knows where the ball is and gets to it. If he was bigger, he would be the Siler clone in the bunch for his ball hawking ability. Doe intercepted the first two passes of the 7-on-7 drills in his collegiate practice career. He was known in high school as the backside tackle guy, because he comes from nowhere to make the play.

A.J. Jones is a bullet on defense. Listed as a strong side linebacker right now, he will get on the field as a safety this season. I really have no doubt he will grow into a linebacker spot, but he needs to be on the field and he is a little small for the position right now. He will play and be a real force on special teams.

PREDICTION: All three play this year. All three will make some big plays in 2006.

SAFETY GRADE INCOMPLETE: Bryan Thomas has such a promising future and he came into the season in great shape. He will be one of the hardest workers out there for the Gators when he can actually work. His knee injury will keep him from being evaluated at practice by anyone but the coaches this season.

CORNERBACKS WILL GET SOME ACTION: Jacques Rickerson has the loose hips and the speed to be a player early at Florida at the cornerback position. He gets beat because he is really aggressive but Coach Chuck Heater will take that every time at this stage in Rickerson's career. In my opinion he is further ahead than any of the freshmen cornerbacks at this time.

Wondy Pierre-Louis is just a great athlete. I am not sure he is quite as quick and can flip his hips like some others, but he is so fast and has great make up speed. He is another that gets burned from aggression, which is a good sign. I think Pierre-Louis is one that will play this year.

Markihe Anderson is athletic, but probably a little smaller than the other two and a little more hesitant to get in there and mix it up at the moment. He has shown some very good action in two days, but my opinion is slightly behind the others.

The darkhorse of the group is the ultra-athletic Brandon James. Always the smallest guy around, James has learned to not back down from anyone. In my morning video on Monday he took on Harvin head on, which pretty much surprised Percy and really got him out of his route. I believe he came back and broke up another pass intended for Fayson. The coaching staff raved about James since they signed him. They just weren't sure what position he would end up on the roster.

PREDICTION: Rickerson and Wondy are in the top five rotation at corner very early. One pushes for a starting spot and makes the coaches think hard about putting Reggie Nelson back at safety and nickel.

TOP FIVE FRESHMEN AFTER TWO PRACTICES: 1. Dustin Doe was everywhere. At a position with depth issues his play was a welcome site. 2. Percy Harvin made a bunch of good athletic players look silly. 3. Jarred Fayson wasn't far behind Harvin and is going to make the wide receiver depth chart race very fun this year. 4. Jacques Rickerson blanketed most receivers from a very good bunch of receivers. He will be a good player for UF and probably soon. 5. Wondy is big and athletic and has a prototype build for a college or pro cornerback. He will play a lot as a freshman in my opinion.

Of course, these guys haven't met head on with the upper classmen and the stars could come crumbling down. But, the group as a whole is very solid and they are very competitive amongst themselves. Their athletic ability will get them by where they may be lacking in the experience department against the veterans.

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