Saturday marked the first true day of Spring practice for the Florida Gators. It was the first day in full pads, which also makes it the first day to actually find out what the guys stepping up can do.
Very few positions are locked in right now for the Gators. Offensively, the line will require some shuffling, and the wide receivers and tight end groups are totally wide open. Defensively, three of the five secondary positions have clear starters, but everything else is pretty open.
Deonte Thompson, despite his heretical remarks (wink, wink), is separating himself along with Carl Moore as a top receiving option. The two have been the most consistent receivers during the first two days of practice. Furthermore, Moore's back injury looks healed.
Another familiar face, Chris Rainey, was converted to the Percy position, but has been limited so far thanks to a minor injury.
As for the new faces, Solomon Patton, the freshman speedster, has been inconsistent so far but shows promise. Zach Azzanni was quoted talking about Patton's promise on Saturday. He said, "Patton, I promise I'm going to gut you if you drop one more ball, dammit!"
Stephen Alli is surprisingly far along considering his youth and inexperience. He only played two years of high school football before foregoing his senior year's eligibility to play at the next level.
Normally, that means he's a basketball player about to make millions of Nike dollars. In Alli's case, that means he's still playing football for less money than the NFL or USC would pay him.
At 6'6" with a three-plus foot vertical leap, Alli is a mismatch for everyone but LeBron James. His chances of seeing the field on Saturdays next August are increasing with each practice.
Back in my depth chart preview I guessed that Gerald Christian would be the guy getting the nod at tight end. So far, it looks that way. Physically, he's the closest thing to Aaron Hernandez on the roster, and has shown the best hands and blocking ability.
Jordan Reed is athletic as hell, but he's not far enough along to be the guy. I wouldn't be surprised if he's used in double TE sets though.
Desmond Parks is scheduled for wrist surgery and will likely be held out of spring ball.
Meyer lopped off one of the Gators' hydra running attack's heads when he moved Rainey to WR. However, the head has grown back quickly in the form of Mike Gillislee.
As it stands, he's the best runningback on the field (Demps is still running track), and he's in the process of stealing the number two spot from Moody. Offensively, this could be the best battle of the spring with both guys getting tons of reps.
For those of you who really like the option, don't fret. Just like when Chris Leak was here it will still be used, albeit in a less spectacular, less Mike Singletary way (you know, if Mike had ever lined up at QB and run an option).
Brantley has been spotted running the play in practice already and will use it just like every other Urban Meyer quarterback.
Freshman Tebow positioner Trey Burton has shown off very nice running ability including a couple of goal line touchdown runs.
Defensively, the middle linebacker position is the most competitive. Jon Bostic and Brendan Beal are both jockeying for the spot. Then there's Jelani Jenkins, who has taken a bit of a backseat, but will still be fighting for the starting job.
All are looking to carry the torch as the next Channing Crowderbacker, who is also known as the only good tradition that didn't burn out during the Ron Zook Era.
Joshua Shaw has heated up Moses Jenkins' seat as the cornerback opposite Janoris Jenkins (or that guy we're probably going to hate because he's not Joe Haden).
Jeremy Brown, UF's very own Greg Oden, is finally back (pun not always intended). He shows tons of promise but has an injury that is more likely for middle aged men than football players in their early 20s.
He's been working as the starting nickelback alongside Chad Kroger. Matt Elam is fighting for the position as well.
On the defensive line, nothing is set except for probably Justin Trattou.
Beyond him, Jaye Howard and someone else will maybe start the spring game on the line, and Jaye Howard and possibly someone different could start in the fall (there's a lot of big guys who haven't really separated themselves, except for Jaye Howard).
Of course, this is spring, so everything could change everyday from now until September. This is especially true with the influx of new defensive talent that will descend like a tidal wave this summer.
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