Forecasting the freshmen

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When it comes to which members of the 2008 recruiting class will play this season for Florida, there is zero mystery surrounding two players. Junior College transfers Carl Moore and Troy Epps are already on campus, are both at positions of need for the Gators (wide receiver and defensive tackle, respectively), and will start competing for possible starting roles this spring.

They will be playing in 2008.

Now, to the true freshmen in this class. There’s no real certainty here, but we’re going to offer some predictions on the five most likely to play and the five most likely to redshirt this season.

Most likely to play:

1. Omar Hunter “ The UF coaches considered this powerful defensive tackle to be the must-get prospect in this class. With his size, maturity and 400-pound plus bench press, Hunter will have a chance to compete for serious playing time at a position of need. Hunter will line up at nose tackle, where the Gators lacked a dominant presence last season, and could find his way into the starting lineup at some point in the season.

2. Will Hill ” He’s the best athlete in the class and he’s capable of playing multiple positions. He’ll start out at free safety, where he figures to see immediate playing time, and he’s said the coaches are also going to give him some touches on offense. Along with playing safety in high school, he was the starting quarterback (and a very productive one) in a spread offense similar to UF’s.

3. Jeffrey Demps ” The all-purpose back is one of the nation’s fastest recruits, and Urban Meyer is going to find a way to use that speed right away. He can play tailback, slot receiver and also return kicks. Imagine the speed the offense can put on the field if the Gators have Chris Rainey at tailback and line up Percy Harvin and Demps in the slots.

4. T.J. Pridemore ” Over the past two seasons, Billy Latsko and Eric Rutledge showed how important the fullback position is in this offense. The offense didn’t look quite the same when Rutledge was suspended for the Capital One Bowl. Pridemore will be the only scholarship fullback on the roster in the fall and he’ll have a chance to be the No. 1 guy. He played middle linebacker in high school and will bring that mentality to the fullback position.

5. Caleb Sturgis ” The former St. Augustine High School star will have a chance to be the starting place-kicker this season. He has a powerful leg and incredible range (he would routinely kick 60-yard field goals in practice in high school) and he’s an early enrollee who will compete with senior Jonathan Phillips for the starting role. Because of his leg strength, Sturgis figures to be the kickoff guy.

Most likely to redshirt:

1. David Young ” If this massive prospect fully recovers from two broken kneecaps (which UF doctors say he will), Young could have as much upside as anyone in this class. Young started receiving scholarship offers when he was a sophomore in high school and he was at the top of UF’s offensive tackle board coming out of his junior season. He struggled playing on two injured legs this past season. He will need a redshirt year to fully recover and mature physically. He could be a major factor in 2009 and beyond.

2. Sam Robey ” The son of former Kentucky basketball All-America Rick Robey, this kid played offensive tackle and defensive end in high school, but he’ll make the move to center at UF. At 270 pounds, he’s undersized at this point and will use a redshirt year to gain weight and strength.

3. Byran Jones ” He’s sort of the opposite of Robey in that he needs to work on keeping his weight in check. He was well over 350 pounds last summer, but dropped more than 30 pounds, a commitment that really caught the attention of the UF coaches. Jones can play defensive tackle and offensive guard. His future at UF is probably on offense. With the solid depth situation at the guard positions, Jones will have a year to mature physically.

4. Frankie Hammond, Jr. ” This wide receiver has the speed and playmaking ability the UF coaches are looking for, but he’s not physically ready to meet the blocking demands the Gators put on their wide receivers. He played at less than 160 pounds in his senior season at Hallandale.

5. Lerentee McCray ” Because of McCray’s speed and aggressive nature, the temptation will be there to play him immediately on special teams. But the outside linebacker prospect is barely pushing 200 pounds and needs to bulk up some before he’s ready for the rigors of playing in the SEC.