As you've probably noticed, college football preview magazines have begun popping up at stores around the country.
Most, if not all, predict all-conference teams, and there have been some unusual omissions in the SEC—a good bit of them list no Gators. In fact, the Sporting News lists two Kentucky Wildcats and no Florida players.
I'm not saying those publications are wrong. Actually, based on past performances, the mags are right on (with the UK picks, too), especially with previous no-brainer Gator selection Janoris Jenkins now at North Alabama.
But it's all about proving yourself during the season. Remember, Cam Newton was nowhere to be found on last year's preseason lists.
So, who has the best shot at busting through for UF? I have a strong opinion, and I'd love to see yours (agreeing or offering another name) at the bottom of this story.
I'm going with sophomore defensive end/linebacker Ronald Powell.
In his first year on campus, Powell learned a great deal. He came to Gainesville from Moreno Valley, California, as the nation's No. 1 recruit and no doubt experienced a bit of homesickness at times.
There was talk his ego was a little too inflated early, and there was a story that then-Gator center Mike Pouncey beat some of that out of him in a one-sided fight late last summer. That actually happens more often at schools than you probably would imagine.
But as the season went along, Powell showed more maturity (check out the great block he made to help spring Andre Debose on his 99-yard kickoff return against South Carolina), and the kid who was rumored to be ready to quit the team took big steps.
Those aren't necessarily evident in his numbers (25 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss and two passes defensed), but there were a lot of plays he almost made in 2010 that I think he'll make in 2011.
The most major improvement should come in his sack total.
Powell had a combined 26 sacks his final two years of high school, but just one (against Tennessee) his first season at Florida. However, at 6'4", 250 pounds (up 20 from when he arrived on campus) with multiple clockings in the 4.5 range for the 40, Powell has a great burst off the edge, and he's probably capable of producing double-digit sack totals in each of the next two or three seasons.
New head coach Will Muschamp has a background in defense, and with Dan Quinn (defensive coordinator/defensive line coach) and Bryant Young (defensive line coach), Powell will now hear from three voices with NFL coaching (and in the case of Young, playing) experience.
Look for them to put Powell in favorable situations to do what he can do best, and then watch him do it.
I think his time has arrived.