Florida Football: Previewing 5 Biggest Position Battles Heading into Fall Camp

Randy ChambersAnalyst IJuly 21, 2014

Florida Football: Previewing 5 Biggest Position Battles Heading into Fall Camp

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    Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

    The Florida Gators will soon have another batch of practices, and with the season nearly a month away from kickoff, players continue to battle for playing time. Whether it’s a backup role or a position that just hasn’t been settled yet, everybody can take advantage of fall camp to earn themselves more opportunities to see the field this upcoming season.

    Florida has a lot of position battles that need to be determined. This has to do with injured players coming back, new enrollees just now getting on campus and, well, players just not living up to their expectations.

    The pressure is on everybody to make an impact if they want to be a part of what should be a turnaround season.

    Here are the biggest fall camp position battles for the Florida Gators.

Left Guard

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It once looked like Tyler Moore was going to be Florida’s starting left guard, and there’s a pretty good chance that’s still the case. But Roderick Johnson seems to be making progress during the summer from a head injury and should be ready to go once fall camp arrives.

    Will Muschamp mentioned Johnson during SEC Media Days, per Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports: "To see Rod Johnson, Antonio Riles, and some of those guys moving around excites you about the athleticism and the future of our offensive line."

    Johnson, who redshirted last season, is an extremely athletic player who can get to the second level in a hurry. He's just the type of player Florida needs in this new style of offense. If he can prove he's healthy and make a big enough impact on the coaching staff in a short period of time, there's no doubt he could steal a starting job away from Moore.

    Besides, it's not like Moore isn't injury prone in his own right after fracturing his elbow last season. 

Safety

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    Florida has a handful of players fighting for two safety positions. Jabari Gorman should be considered a solid favorite to get one of the spots, and I’d like to think Marcus Maye is the front-runner for the other vacant position. However, we’ve seen Maye’s work last season and because of his struggles in pass coverage, the coaching staff rides him harder than most of the players.

    Some of the players pushing these two guys include Keanu Neal, who played in all 12 games last season as a freshman and led the Gators with five special teams tackles. Marcell Harris is also competing, and he was one of the top spring game performers with six tackles and has shown he’s 100 percent recovered from last year’s knee injury.

    I wouldn’t rule out Nick Washington just yet considering he also had a solid spring, but it’s mainly those four players competing for two positions.

    You have to believe the two more experienced players have a considerable edge given the fact you don’t want the entire secondary to be young faces. But like every position, Maye and Gorman have to earn the starting role.

Slot Receiver

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    PHIL SANDLIN/Associated Press

    It seems like every wide receiver position is wide open for Florida after what took place last season, but there’s a good idea of who will land the starting job. As for the slot receiver, well, not so much.

    Many are sure to peg Latroy Pittman as the starter given his experience and the way he came on late in the season. But Valdez Showers was one of the few offensive bright spots last year and had an impressive spring. Right now it seems like it’s a battle between those two players, as Muschamp made sure to mention their names during media days, via ASAP Sports.

    "Latroy Pittman and Valdez Showers, two young men as well that have done some nice things for us," Muschamp said. 

    Another name to keep an eye on is Alvin Bailey, who had his moments during spring ball as well. 

    None of these guys really have a clear-cut edge as far as experience and skill sets are concerned. A decision is really a tossup at this point. Right now, I'd say Showers lands the starting job simply off what I saw last year and the fact he's the most dangerous of the three to make plays after the catch. 

Cornerback

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    The ongoing battle between two true freshmen in Duke Dawson and Jalen Tabor continues. Brian Poole has an outside chance as well to start alongside Vernon Hargreaves III, but the coaching staff would prefer he stays at nickelback, his more natural role.

    Tabor and Dawson are pretty much neck and neck, and have been ever since they both stepped on campus during the spring. They’re both physical players and have the potential to be extremely good corners at the highest level of competition in college football. Dawson is a smaller, feistier corner, while Tabor is the lengthy and longer corner. This is a position battle that will likely come down to the final rep of the final practice.

    The good thing is that the coaching staff really can’t make a wrong decision no matter who they pick. The bad thing is that one of these talented players is going to be spending some time on the sidelines this season.  

Backup Quarterback

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    Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

    After a productive spring game from Skyler Mornhinweg, it looked like Will Grier and Treon Harris were going to get their redshirts. Now after hearing Muschamp’s comments during media day, it’s still anyone’s ballgame as far as who is going to be the backup quarterback.

    Muschamp said he plans to play whoever wins the position rather early, per ASAP Sports.

    We need to develop a backup behind him.  I don't know who that would be right now.  But I would plan on playing that person early in the season, talking about the first game, just like we did with Jeff his freshman year when John Brantley was our quarterback because of the lack of experience behind Jeff.  We need to develop that guy and be ready for a situation where we might have to play him. 

    Florida’s backup quarterback is probably more important than Jeff Driskel being the starter. With Driskel’s constant struggles throughout his career and his recent injury history, the Gators need to find somebody they can trust to lead the team.

    This just gave Florida fans another reason to pay close attention to the quarterback position.