Gators Finish Off Successful Spring

There's no way any team can have a perfect spring practice season. Unless every player plays at a high level every day and no one makes a big mistake and no one gets hurt there will be ups and downs during spring drills, it's unavoidable. But the Florida Gators have to feel very good about what happened during this spring.

Sure, the Gators were handicapped by a beaten up offensive line, but that created opportunities for Sam Robey, Byran Jones, Nick Alajajian and Jonotthon Harrison. All four of those guys are further along than they would have been and that could pay dividends this fall and beyond. Riley Cooper missed all of spring and David Nelson missed quite a bit, but that allowed Carl Moore, Deonte Thompson, Frankie Hammond Jr. and T.J. Lawrence to make major strides as well.

Desmond Parks got hurt, reducing the team to one scholarship tight end, but that led to the fullbacks getting much more involved. Steve Wilks had an excellent spring before suffering the most significant injury on the team, but T.J. Pridemore and Rick Burgess showed they can make contributions.

Perhaps the most important thing about the spring was the excellent progress made by John Brantley. Florida now has a clear back up quarterback who is ready to play. That wasn't true the past two years, and while you hope it won't be important it certainly could be.

Defensively the Gators return the entire two deep from last season, which means a lot of competition for playing time. The area that showed the most improvement is the depth on the defensive line. Jaye Howard and Omar Hunter have established themselves as solid defensive tackles and Duke Lemmens is making a move on the top three defensive ends. The Gators will open this fall with the potential to be as good as they were up front in 2006.

Jon Bostic was the star among linebackers and I consider him to be the most natural freshman middle linebacker the Gators have had since Channing Crowder. Despite the depth and talent on hand in this unit, Bostic will be in the two-deep this fall.

Florida's secondary now has ridiculous depth with four "starters" at safety, four more "starters" at corner and young players like Adrian Bushell, Jeremy Brown and Dee Finley looking to make their mark.

No spring practice will ever be everything you hope for, but this one had to come very close for Urban Meyer and his staff. The Gators should be stronger, deeper and healthier this fall, and they'll need to be since they are almost certain to carry the No. 1 national ranking into the campaign as they pursue their third national title in four years.

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