Fall Camp Position Battles

The winners of position battles have been speculated throughout the offseason, but the first step to answers began Thursday when the Gators opened practice. The focus will be on the defensive side of the ball where Florida looks to revamp after having five players selected in the top three rounds of the NFL Draft.

With the way Florida has recruited, putting talented players on the field won't be an issue.

DE, MLB, CB, RG, KR/PR

WEAKSIDE DEFENSIVE END: Justin Trattou has the strong side defensive end position locked up, but the Gators are still searching for a pass rush threat from the opposite side. From the experienced players vying for the position, Duke Lemmens and William Green will be in the conversation.

However, it's a player that hasn't suited up for the Gators that is creating the buzz. Ronald Powell was the nation's top high school player last year, and he has created quite the stir in the weight room. Powell has lived up to the lofty expectations of him so far. The real test begins when the pads go on Thursday.

Lemmens is a fundamentally sound player, but there isn't much of an upside to starting him. If the coaches want to go the route of an experienced player, Green could be the answer because of his elite speed off the edge.

PREDICTION: Ronald Powell

MIDDLE LINEBACKER: This is a two-horse race between two second-year players. Redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins and sophomore Jon Bostic will battle it out, with Jenkins holding the edge going into camp.

Jenkins had a breakout spring. New linebackers coach D.J. Durkin experimented by moving linebackers to different positions, and the move of Jenkins to the middle paid huge dividends. From the first snap at the position, Jenkins made plays all over the field.

Bostic enrolled early for the spring of 2009 and was all over the field. The middle linebacker position seemed like a no-brainer when Brandon Spikes graduated. However, when he was supposed to dominate earlier this year in spring ball, Bostic was mediocre. He has taken steps to improve over the summer, but he now must battle from behind to win the starting job.

PREDICTION: Jelani Jenkins

CORNERBACK: Janoris Jenkins has the number one cornerback position locked down. The second cornerback spot couldn't be more open.

Moses Jenkins started the spring with the first team, but spring practice ended with Jeremy Brown taking first team snaps. Brown's back health has hindered his progress in his two seasons on campus. If the pain stays down, he seems to be the favorite to win the job. He was more active as the spring went on, baiting quarterbacks into making passes he could breakup or intercept.

Freshmen Joshua Shaw and Jaylen Watkins enrolled early to compete for the spot vacated by first round pick Joe Haden, but neither made strides to prove they could handle the job in their first year on campus. Cody Riggs enrolled over the summer and will join his fellow freshmen contributing on special teams and providing depth at cornerback.

PREDICTION: Jeremy Brown

RIGHT GUARD: This should come down to a three-man race, but the Florida coaches would welcome any other players stepping into it. James Wilson, Maurice Hurt and Jon Halapio begin their fight for the spot on Thursday.

Wilson and Hurt are the grizzled veterans who have spent previous years providing depth in case injuries affected the starters. Halapio is only a redshirt freshman but a bulldozer on the field.

Hurt experienced plenty of time at guard when one of the Pouncey twins was injured over the past two seasons. Wilson was even expected to start going into last season, but the offense picked up when Carl Johnson slid to left guard and Xavier Nixon started at left tackle.

PREDICTION: James Wilson

PUNT/KICKOFF RETURNER: These two could come down to two separate players. The Florida coaches will have an open tryout for any skill player that can handle it. Chris Rainey is the logical move on kickoff returns. He handled it in previous years during blowout games, most notably when he faked taking a knee in the fourth quarter of a 49-10 game against Georgia in 2008.

On the punt return, Rainey is a little shaky. This could open the door for a freshman like Solomon Patton or Robert Clark. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins could also get involved, but his importance to the defense makes it difficult to justify the risk of handling punts.

PREDICTION: Punt returner- Solomon Patton, Kick returner- Chris Rainey


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