Spring brings competition


Tebow calls a play during the Gators' practice on Monday.

Carlos Baez/Special to Gatorsports
Published: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 30, 2009 at 11:33 p.m.
Under Urban Meyer, it's always about competition at Florida, whether it's in those early morning runs, mat drills or spring football.


To add a potential extra spark to ongoing battles on the practice field, veteran college football staff writer Robbie Andreu ranks the position groups in order through one week of spring football:

1. SECONDARY
This has a chance to be one of the greatest secondaries in school history. Cornerbacks Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins have been suffocating in coverage and the talent at safety is ridiculous. There's some real chemistry developing here.
Spring standout: Haden has taken his game to another level this spring.
Rising star: True sophomore Will Hill definitely has the "it" factor at safety.

2. LINEBACKERS
The linebackers have been almost as dominant as the secondary and almost as fast. Led by senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, these guys have the speed to really get after people.
Spring standout: Spikes has been doing his usual thing, stuffing the run and making plays all over the field.
Rising star: Redshirt freshman Lerentee McCray is pushing for serious playing time at outside linebacker.

3. BACKFIELD
The quarterback play of Tim Tebow and John Brantley has been very good, and tailback Emmanuel Moody is making some things happen. But Jeff Demps is only a part-time player this spring because of track, and the fullbacks look lost at the moment.
Spring standout: Moody appears to be on the verge of a breakout spring. He finally appears comfortable in the offense.
Rising star: Watching Brantley throw the football is always a good reason to attend practice.

4. DEFENSIVE LINE
Even with Carlos Dunlap sidelined, the Gators are looking strong at the end positions, where Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Trattou have all kinds of experience and William Green is fast emerging as a player. Lawrence Marsh has been a dominant nose tackle, but the Gators are thin and unproven at tackle.
Spring standout: No surprise here. Marsh has been a reliable rock in the middle.
Rising star: Green, a true sophomore, has a chance to become UF's next great defensive lineman. His motor never slows.

5. RECEIVERS
Meyer called the receivers one of the weak spots on this team at the moment. Riley Cooper, a starter at wide receiver, is playing baseball and not available. The Gators still don't know how they will replace the playmaking ability of Percy Harvin.
Spring standout: Junior tight end Aaron Hernandez is the go-to guy in the passing game right now. He could be one of the nation's best tight ends in the fall.
Rising star: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Frankie Hammond is very smooth and fast, and he's made a bunch of catches.

6. OFFENSIVE LINE
The overall play has been very inconsistent, which was expected given the many changes from last season. This group will look much stronger with the addition of starting guard Michael Pouncey, who is out for the spring, and Matt Patchan, a potential starter at tackle who has been sidelined with a knee injury.
Spring standout: Junior center Maurkice Pouncey is Mr. Reliable in the middle.
Rising star: Redshirt freshman David Young is getting plenty of reps, and he looks the part at left tackle.

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