Breaking down five positions


Here’s our look at five positions less than halfway through the spring:
 Tailback ” Junior Kestahn Moore is the veteran of the group and he’s performing like it. He’s been UF’s most consistent and complete back. Not only is he running the ball well, he’s doing his job in pass protection and catching the ball coming out of the backfield. At this point, he’s the solid No. 1 guy. Moore is never going to give the Gators the breakaway threat they’re looking for, but there’s something to be said about steady and reliable play at this position, especially with so many other play-makers in the offense. The way it’s looking right now, Moore could end up being the every-down back in the fall. He isn’t really being pushed this spring. Mon Williams, who has the most talent and speed among the backs, has not been a factor. He’s looked lost and confused at time and now he could miss significant time after injuring his knee in practice Wednesday. Brandon James is the No. 2 guy and he’s shown some flashes, but he’s simply not big enough to be an every-down back. He figures to be a role player in the fall. Redshirt freshman Chevon Walker is very fast and he had some good runs Wednesday, but he still has a long way to go. True freshman Bo Williams looks good in shoulder pads, but he’s out for the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery. He’ll get a long, early look in August because he has the speed/size combination the Gators are looking for. For now, though, Moore is the guy.
 Quarterback ” Tim Tebow looks much more comfortable and confident running the offense and his passing skills are starting to shine through. He’s in a non-contact jersey, so we’re only seeing half of his game this spring. By next season, Tebow could be one of the best dual quarterbacks to play at Florida. He’ll be an unbelievable weapon ” and a perfect trigger man for the spread ” when he has a chance to combine his running and passing skills. It’s still far too early to guess who the No. 2 guy will be. One thing is obvious, though. True freshman Cameron Newton is benefitting from all the reps he’s getting in the absence of injured junior college transfer Bryan Waggener. Newton is throwing the ball much better than he was a week ago and seems to be gaining some grasp of the offense. Like Tebow, he could be a dangerous dual-threat QB.
 Center ” Once he gets the shotgun snaps down, former guard Drew Miller should be a force (and a leader) in the middle of what should be a vastly improved offensive line. Miller is strong and athletic and probably has an even bigger up side than UF’s last two centers ” Mike Degory and Steve Rissler. The interesting thing at this position has been the improving play of another former guard, redshirt freshman Maurice Hurt. He’s starting to show he can play. If that continues, the Gators will be a legitimate two-deep at this position for the first time since Urban Meyer’s been here.
 Strongside linebacker ” It’s easy to see why the coaches were ready to play A.J. Jones as a true freshman before he injured his foot early last season and had to sit out the year. This kid is very fast and very explosive. He nearly knocked Mon Williams out in a one-on-one tackling drill Wednesday and it looks like he’s going to be a big-time hitter. To go along with that, he runs like a very fast strong safety. If he stays healthy, Jones could emerge as one of the young defensive stars in the SEC this season. His buddies at the other two linebacker positions ” Brandon Spikes and Dustin Doe ” also are having excellent springs. The Gators don’t have much depth at linebacker, but this linebacking corps has big-time potential if the starters stay healthy.
 Place-kicker ” Having a chance to finally compete for the starting job seems to be having had a very positive effect on Jonathan Phillips, who was not a factor the past two years sitting behind Chris Hetland. Phillips has been very consistent in practice and has clearly been UF’s best kicker. He nailed a 47-yard field goal into the wind earlier this week. He’s always had a strong leg and now he has some confidence to go along with it. It’s looking more and more like he’ll be the kicker in 2007.