Five Freshmen to Watch

When fall practice begins today, the Florida Gators will welcome 18 newcomers to the team. Florida's highly regarded recruiting class showed up in two shirts, with several guys entering school back in January and the rest joining the squad for the summer "B" term.

It's time to find out which of those 18 are most ready to get into the mix for playing time from day one. There's no question several of these guys will see playing time in 2007, but which ones will be under the most scrutiny as practice begins? It's hard to know for certain, especially with multiple guys as key positions, but what the heck let's hazardous a guess about the top five.

Carlos Dunlap ----- Defensive end is an absolute must position where freshman will have to contribute this fall. Putting them in any priority order is a risk, but a couple of players have indicated to me that the star recruit out of North Carolina might have the best combination of speed and size among the defensive end candidates. With only three scholarship ends among the veterans, two newcomers (and maybe more) will be given the chance to contribute from day one. Dunlap will be joined in that pursuit by Justin Trattou, Duke Lemmens and Jay Howard.

Lorenzo Edwards ----- Depending on the recruiting service you like best, Edwards was an elite prospect as outside linebacker or strong safety. One look at him in person will eliminate any talk of Edwards being on the back row. Florida's painfully thin linebacker group that desperately needs depth to come out of the rookie class, and none of the newcomers is as physically advanced as the 6-2 head hunter from Orlando Edgewater. Edwards might be the ideal backup for Brandon Spikes at the middle spot, but don't be shocked if he challenges for the strong side linebacker job before long.

Torrey Davis ----- Many felt Davis was the best football player in Florida last year, and he has the size and speed to be a mega force eventually. With the Gators looking for size in the trenches Davis is one guy who certainly offers that at 6-4, 285 and growing. If Davis becomes a factor inside, Florida will have the luxury of moving Lawrence Marsh around to create match up problems.

Deonte Thompson ----- Receiver is certainly not a position of need for the 2007 Gators, but who isn't dying to see this speedster out on the field? Thompson was a game breaker in high school and I remember Ray McDonald, Sr. telling me just how good he thought Thompson would be. Seeing how Ray caught the touchdown passes that earned Florida its first No. 1 ranking back in 1985, I suspect he knows what he's talking about. He could also become a factor in the kick return game, especially with Brandon James out for the opener.

Chas Henry ----- Florida has not had a vacancy at the punter position for four years thanks to Eric Wilbur. However Wilbur is gone and Henry has all but been handed the job. But being told you're the man only lasts until practice begins and then you have to produce. Henry was ranked the best punter in the nation by so you know he has the leg. Now he has to show the poise, the hands and the consistency. He's a good athlete having quarterbacked his high school team as a junior, passing for over 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns. Henry also nailed a 52-yard field goal in high school and might be Florida's best there, too.

Oh, I'm eager to see all the rookies, but those five really stand out. If it was a list of size, Chris Rainey, the runner from Lakeland would be next on my hit list. We'll be eyeballing all of them for the six measly days we get to watch, but I will admit this, I will be focused on the defensive linemen more than anywhere else. Football season is here!

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