While most of the national media is focused strictly on the Gator basketball team, and deservedly so, there is another front opening today for Gator fans starved for anything and everything Orange & Blue. The Gator football team takes the field Wednesday afternoon for the first of fifteen practices and InsidetheGators.net will be there every step of the way with daily practice reports, photo galleries, notebooks, interviews, video features and much more.
Here are a couple of lists for Gator fans to look over while you wait for our first live practice reports from the field to be posted in the Alley starting at around 3:30 this afternoon.
TIME TO SHINE: Five players who will need to emerge this spring
1. Brian Crum, Sr., LB: He has bounced around from position to position without finding a home or making a contribution equal to his athletic ability. He has the spring to himself while Jonathan Demps rehabs from surgery. Crum has shown flashes of potential in the past, however if he doesn't put it together this spring, watch for Demps or incoming freshman Brandon Spikes to take his spot this fall.
2. Reggie Lewis, Sr., CB: Much the same as Crum in that he has been on offense and defense without doing much in his career to this point. He is in a little different situation in that as it stands now, his only competition is himself because of the lack of numbers at the corner position. Will the game saving interception he recorded against Vanderbilt last season be his springboard to a big spring?
3. Phil Trautwein, Jr., OT: Here is the perfect example of why coaches want and need to redshirt offensive linemen. He is a junior already and has only played a handful of snaps after wasting what should have been his redshirt year by playing a total of 60 plays. Former tackle Lance Butler raves about his technique – this is his time to prove him correct. If he can't get it done, it could leave the door open for Jason Watkins
4. Chris Leak, Sr., QB: You're probably wondering how an All-SEC type of performer makes a list such as this. In the case of Leak, he doesn't have to prove that he is a player or a leader, he needs to show that he can be do what Meyer asks of his quarterbacks. Coming into the spring he has had three offensive coordinators in the last three years. His second year under Dan Mullen should help improve his comfort level, but will that show up on the stat sheet?
5. DeShawn Wynn, Sr., RB: For the second spring in a row, Meyer has called out the running back position. Last year, Wynn responded by being in the best shape of his career, but was hampered by nagging little injuries. Now entering his final season if something positive doesn't happen, he could find himself stuck behind two-to-three underclassmen. His potential has never been in question, his productivity has.
IT'S THEIR TIME: Five Impact Underclassmen
1. Avery Atkins, So., CB: His name is penciled in at one starting cornerback slot. The talent is there and he responded in a positive fashion when called upon against FSU at the end of last season.
2. Tim Tebow, Fr., QB: This is a case of being out of the frying pan and into the fire. He has gone from being perhaps the most celebrated prospect in the history of recruiting to having all eyes on him as the top backup to Leak. Barring an injury, he won't start, but he should see plenty of action.
3. Ronnie Wilson, Fr., OG: Two weeks ago in Tallahassee, Meyer called him one of the top five linemen on the team. The talented youngster could be a four year starter.
4. Derrick Harvey, So., DE: Although it seems as though he has been around much longer, he is only entering his sophomore season. Talent + opportunity could = star in this instance.
5. Nyan Boateng, So., WR: This could have been anyone of the three freshmen receivers from last year, but Boateng gets the nod based on his big play potential.
BATTLE ROYAL: 3 Position Battles to Watch
1. Running Back: Meyer has been so disappointed in what he's seen from his stable of backs that he has threatened to sit them all and move another player to the position in running situations. While there's little chance of that happening, for the second year in a row the position has been called to the carpet. Although Kestahn Moore got the nod over Markus Manson and DeShawn Wynn when the head coach spoke of the group a couple of weeks ago, his position at the top is iffy at best.
The winner is... Manson finally grabs a hold of and keeps the top spot with his game breaking ability.
2. Tight End: Converted quarterback Cornelius Ingram started to come on after being switched to the position at the end of last season. We heard rave reviews about him during the off-season workouts. His competition for the job is incumbent starter Tate Casey, who was inconsistent much of last season. Add to that the fact that he is recovering from a staph infection and we could see a shakeup at the position.