Saturday Spotlight: Alabama at Florida

It's another SEC battle this week for the "Saturday Spotlight" as two old-time foes face off in Gainesville, Florida this weekend when the Gators play host to the Crimson Tide. There are several other big games that have national championship implications, but for NFL talent, nothing beats the match-up in "The Swamp" on Saturday.

Florida head coach Urban Meyer has recruited well in his two seasons, but a lot of that talent is still young and won't be draft-eligible. However, the Gator program never lacks for talent and they have several players who should get some NFL-looks and still others who could see their stock rise as the season progresses and find themselves drafted by teams after solid pre-draft workouts.

Alabama's outstanding defense from 2005 was raided last April as four starters on the stop unit, along with QB Brodie Croyle from the offense, were drafted and two other starters on defense were signed as free agents. Head coach Mike Shula's defense is still solid and they've begun to make their presence felt as they are now ranked 29th overall in the nation allowing only 268 yards per game.

Florida is ranked 5th in the polls right now, while Alabama is just on the outside of the top 25, but when these two teams face off, you can usually throw rankings out the window and prepare for a war.

Here is a breakdown of the players to keep an eye on when these two titans of the SEC take the field on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (Eastern).

Florida

QB Chris Leak – He isn't your typical drop-back passer and he's been somewhat miscast as a running threat in Meyer's spread-option attack. However, he's smart, has an above-average arm and he's tough. At this point, it's very questionable how his talents translate to the next level, but with his experience – he's started since he was a true freshman – and knowledge of defenses, he will probably, at the very least, be a solid backup in the NFL.

RB DeShawn Wynn – At 5-11 and tipping the scales at a solid 230 pounds, Wynn has an NFL-body and could be a good one-back runner. His negatives are that he isn't as quick as you would like and he doesn't make a lot of people miss. He's rushed for over 300 yards in four games and he's a leader for the Gators on the field. Like Leak, he doesn't fit the system he's in and Florida's linemen are not good run-blockers. Expect him to have his name called sometime during April's draft, but at this point he's probably a third-rounder.

WR Dallas Baker – Baker has a big body (6-3, 205) and enough elusiveness to be a playmaker at the next level, but he still lacks concentration at times and he needs to get better at reading defenses. Baker has all the physical tools you could want and he's got speed to burn. His 24 receptions for 406 yards and four touchdowns are impressive through four games. Now he must finish strong and have a good showing in pre-draft workouts and he could end up at the top of the second round or at the end of the first.

LB Earl Everett – The leader of the Gator defense, Everett is a physical tackling-machine who runs well and can make plays in pass-defense as well. He's on the smaller side, only 6-2, 231, but he makes up for his lack of ideal size with attitude and smarts. He can read plays well and he has great instincts. Still needs to do a better job of breaking down and not always resorting to arm-tackles, but there is no denying his skills. Everett is most likely a late first-day selection at this point.

Other Florida players to watch:

DT Ray McDonald (6-2, 285)
DT Marcus Thomas (6-2, 290)
PK Eric Wilbur (6-1, 200)
TE Tate Casey (6-6, 245) **underclassman
DE Jarvis Moss (6-6, 255) **underclassman
LB Brandon Siler (6-2, 240) **underclassman
FS Reggie Nelson (6-1, 200) **underclassman

Alabama

RB Kenneth Darby – He doesn't have a lot of speed, but he could be a solid change-of-pace back at the next level. He's only 5-10 and 205 pounds, but he's a strong, inside-runner who has good vision and cutting ability. He'll never be mistaken as a burner, but he doesn't need to be. Alabama doesn't use him much in the passing game, but he's got good hands and a knack for finding soft spots in the flats on zone coverage. He's a second-day selection right now.

WR Keith Brown – Because of the presence of D.J. Hall, Brown (6-3, 205) isn't the most explosive wideout on the Alabama squad, but he's turned out to be a game-breaker in his own right. Brown is much more consistent than Hall and he still has that extra-gear you look for when you're projecting players to the next level. He gets excellent separation on his routes and he has good hands. He needs to sharpen up his routes, but the sky is the limit for this talented receiver. So far in 2006, Brown has amassed 26 receptions for 410 yards and two touchdowns. He's only a third-year junior so the chances of him leaving early, at this point, are pretty slim.

Other Alabama players to watch:

WR D.J. Hall (6-3, 185) **underclassman
DT Jeremy Clark (6-3, 306)
LB Juwan Simpson (6-3, 226)
CB Ramzee Robinson (5-10, 195)
DE Wallace Gilberry (6-4, 264) **underclassman
SS Jeff Dukes (6-2, 200)
CB Simeon Castille (6-1, 190) **underclassman




Other games to watch this weekend: Ohio State (1) at Iowa (13); USC (3) at Washington State; Georgia Tech (24) at Virginia Tech (11); Oregon (14) at Arizona State; Michigan (6) at Minnesota; Texas Tech at Texas A&M.

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