Florida coach Urban Meyer will wait until next week to make some key personnel decisions. We don’t have to wait, so we’re going to go ahead and offer up a few predictions.
The battle for No. 2 at quarterback: A week ago, it appeared a lock that true freshman John Brantley was going to be Tim Tebow’s back-up and fellow true freshman Cameron Newton would redshirt this season. Newton had missed the first week of practice to take care of some academic work and he was still feeling some pain from a summer back injury. Plus, Brantley had impressed with his passing arm and presence. Well, things have changed. Newton, who was behind, has caught up and Brantley’s learning curve has slowed down. Newton gained a huge advantage over Brantley when he was able to enroll in January and participate in spring drills. After a mighty struggle early, Newton came on strong at the end of the spring and had an excellent Orange and Blue Game. From what we’re hearing, he’s quickly regained that form over the past week and has been getting numerous reps with the No. 2 offense. Our prediction: Newton win the No. 2 role and will be a factor this season, much like Tebow was a year ago.
Free safety: Senior Kyle Jackson is facing some really stiff competition for the starting role from redshirt freshman Jamar Hornsby and true freshman Major Wright. Of the three, Jackson has the most experience, Hornsby is the fastest and Wright is the most intimidating with big-time hitting ability. Prediction: Jackson will open the season as the starter, but Hornsby and Wright are going to play. If Jackson falters even slightly, the Gators will have other options and they’ll go to them.
And the kickers are. …: The battle for the place-kicking job has been a tight one since the spring between Joey Iijas and Jonathan Phillips. Iijas has a stronger leg, but Phillip’s has appeared a little more accurate. Phillips has been nursing a hyerextended knee, which has given Iijas a little bit of an edge down the stretch. At punter, true freshman Chas Henry and walk-on Bobby Cain have been going at it for the starting role. Henry is an excellent athlete who also played quarterback in high school, and he was booming punts during the first week of practice. Cain has also been impressive at times. Prediction: Iijas will start the season as the No. 1 kicker. He’s got a strong leg and pretty phenomenal range, but Phillips will keep competing and this could go back and forth. At punter, Henry edges out Cain. Henry’s athletic ability is a huge plus for a team known to fake a punt or two.