The Florida coaches say it’s too soon in preseason football practice to judge the Gators, but we are offering up some early opinions based on what we’ve seen:
True sophomore cornerback Joe Haden is a much different player than he was last season ” and even last spring. He’s strong, quick and playing with as much confidence as any player on the field, including Tim Tebow. He’s been all over the receivers and breaking on the ball. During Tuesday’s practice, he made a great play on the ball to intercept a Tebow pass. He also broke up several other passes. He appears to be emerging as a leader in the secondary.
Once true freshman Will Hill learns the defense, he’s going to be a player, maybe even a starter at strong safety. Freshman cornerback Jeremy Brown said he can’t wait to see Hill play because he’s going to be a big-time playmaker this season.
Even though Cameron Newton has been running with the No. 2 offense, there does not appear to be an early leader for the backup role behind Tebow. Newton and Brantley are both doing some nice things. It appears Newton has done a lot of work on his passing motion over the summer. He appears to have a little better touch, also.
After talking to Urban Meyer on Monday, it’s obvious the coaching staff isn’t the least bit worried about the tailback position. Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Moody have brought a lot of speed and playmaking ability to the position, and both look like they’re play a major role this season.
True freshman William Green looks a little light (he’s listed at 215 in the media guide), but he’s getting a lot of work with the second-team defense and it looks like he’ll have a chance to possibly get in the playing rotation at end.
Junior college All-America wide receiver Carl Moore looks like he’s worked a lot on his quickness this summer. He appears to be getting off the line faster and gaining more separation in the secondary than he did in the spring.
Meyer said the coaches have been contemplating moving true freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins to safety, but at this point it looks like he will be staying at corner. That could change if Hill, Ahmad Black and T.J. Lawrence struggle at the safety positions.
Here’s a prediction: junior college transfer Troy Epps is going to win one of the starting roles at defensive tackle. He’s gotten off to a strong start.
The Gators may have the fastest linebacking corps in school history. Those guys have been all over the place, making plays.
Wide receiver Riley Cooper is showing no rust after playing summer league baseball. He looks fluid ” and healthy. He caught several passes in Tuesday’s practice and looks more polished than a year ago.
Brandon Antwine has not been at practice yet, so I’m assuming he has a great deal more rehabbing to do before he’s ready to contribute. He had a lower back issue that sidelined him last season.
Jim Barrie and Marcus Gilbert have been getting practice time at both offensive guard and tackle, and bring some versatility to a deep and experienced offensive front.