Some pleasant surprises

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Now that preseason camp is officially coming to a close with the start of classes on Thursday, we offer up these camp surprises:

Jason Watkins — He’s gone from a designated blocker at tight end to the starting right tackle on offense. He’s finally bought into the tough Urban Meyer methods and has been one of the biggest surprises of the preseason. He has a huge frame, long arms and the coaches like what he’s going to be able to do in pass coverage.

Chevon Walker — The redshirt freshman tailback was completely off the radar at the start of camp, but he’s now drawing praise from Meyer and running backs coach Stan Drayton. He has a chance to work his way into the playing rotation now and he has that breakaway ability the Gators have been lacking at tailback in Dan Mullen’s offense. He could be a real factor on special teams as well.

Cameron Newton — After missing the first week of practice, the true freshman quarterback seemed to be a distant third on the depth chart behind starter Tim Tebow and true freshman John Brantley. But, boy, has he made up ground in a hurry. He’s been running with the No. 2 offense all this week and looks like he’s ready to play a role in relief of Tebow. Early last spring, his passing ability was in question. Not anymore. He’s got a strong arm and he’s been very accurate in practice, hooking up with the receivers for some long completions.

Louis Murphy — Spring stars have a way of fading in the fall at Florida. This is not the case with Murphy. He’s followed his super spring game with a great camp and gives the Gators one more playmaker at wide receiver. He’s one of the fastest players on the team and he’s a big, strong target.

Joe Haden — It looks like this true freshman is close to locking down a starting role at cornerback. He’s one of the best athletes on the team and he’s got the kind of quickness necessary to play man coverage. He came to UF as a wide receiver, but it looks like he has a chance to be a big-time cornerback in time.

Justin Trattou — The true freshman is pushing for serious playing time at defensive end.

Jamar Hornsby — After undergoing knee surgery early last season, this kid sort of disappeared. He’s finally full speed again and he’s been pushing senior Kyle Jackson for the starting job at free safety. It looks like he’ll be a major contributor this season.

Mike Pouncey — The true freshman from Lakeland has played his way into the rotation at offensive guard.

David Nelson — The redshirt sophomore has gained weight and muscle and has shown the coaches he’s ready to be a factor at wide receiver.

Riley Cooper — His name has come up often in Meyer’s post-practice comments to the media. Despite a painful foot condition, he’s made play after play at wide receiver.