Key Questions for Spring 2009

Perhaps no BCS Champion ever lost less than the 2008 Florida Gators. That's no knock on Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy et al, but it's just the reality of the situation facing the Gators this season. Florida heads into 2009 with seven starters back on offense, all 11 on defense and both kickers.

The Gators are clearly loaded to take a run at a repeat title, but that doesn't render spring practice meaningless. Florida still has questions to be answered positively in order to put together a team capable of matching or even improving on last season.

How will the offensive line come together?

Michael Pouncey is out for the spring and Carl Johnson will be limited so Florida really only has one starter, Maurkice Pouncey back for spring drills. The main issue is replacing departed senior tackles Phil Trautwein and Jason Watkins. Marcus Gilbert, who has bounced from guard to tackle during his career is the favorite to claim one job. David Young, Matt Patchan and newcomer Nick Alajajian could all get a look. Offensive line coach Steve Addazio is determined to get his best five linemen on the field, so if James Wilson or Mo Hurt proves he's ready for a bigger role, Johnson could end up at tackle.

Is Deonte Thompson read to emerge?

Harvin and Murphy combined for 78 receptions, 1,299 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Florida has solid performers back in Carl Moore and David Nelson, but they need a receiving threat that can scare people. Thompson has the potential to be that guy. The third year sophomore has the explosiveness to join the list of star wide outs at UF. The key will be his concentration and focus day in and day out. If he shows that this spring it could be a very exciting fall for the youngster from Belle Glade.

Where does Will Hill fit in?

Some teams would be thrilled to have two returning starters at safety, but the Florida Gators have at least four guys ready to play at a high level. Hill is the only one of the four who has not started a game, but he probably has the most potential of the group. The Gators might play a lot of nickel this year so Hill, Ahmad Black and Major Wright could be in their together quite a bit. Hill is going to get his share of snaps, but what's not clear is what role the defense will have for senior Dorian Munroe who is returning from a major knee injury.

Is Omar Hunter ready?

One of the most highly touted defensive linemen in recent years, Hunter battled back and weight problems in his freshman year and was never the factor many expected him to be in. Defensive line coach Dan McCarney says Hunter is in much better shape now and is eager to get him on the field. Hunter needs every snap possible this spring to make up for lost time. If Hunter can reach his potential, Florida will hardly notice the absence of the troubled yet talented Torrey Davis.

Will John Brantley make progress?

One of the truisms about football is that you are always one play away from making your backup quarterback the starter. With only one other quarterback on campus, any setback for Tim Tebow would make Brantley the man in charge of the Florida offense. There are few if any concerns about Brantley as it relates to the passing game, but running the spread is not a natural thing. He's a better runner than Chris Leak, but nowhere near the threat that Tebow is. This spring will be a chance for him to make crucial strides (literally and figuratively) in that regard.

Who will snap and hold?

You know your team is loaded when one of the key questions in spring ball is about the long snapper and holder, but that's the situation in Gainesville. Florida got spoiled with the flawless performances of James Smith and Butch Rowley in these roles and the Gators will work hard to find the right guys to perform them this fall. A snapper or holder will never win a game for you, but they can lose one.

SO that's my six pack of questions as spring drills get underway. Sure there are other questions ranging from Emanuel Moody to the redshirt receivers to JUCO transfer Edwin Herbert and so on, but if Florida is happy with the answers to the first six questions there are no others that will make that much of a difference.

SeeYa Wednesday!

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