Here are some of the young players I’m going to be checking out this spring:
* Gerald Christian — This true freshman has a chance to win the starting role at tight end. He’s a very good athlete who runs well and has extremely good hands. And the position is wide open with the early departure of Aaron Hernandez. Another young guy to watch here is Jordan Reed, who is making the transition from quarterback to tight end. This is an athletic quarterback who has the chance to morph into a very good tight end in time.
* Trey Burton — He’s the No. 2 quarterback and he’s going to get a ton of reps. This true freshman has a lot of athletic ability and can make a lot of things happen with his legs. He needs to improve dramatically as a passer and will be getting lots of attention from quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, who has only two scholarship quarterbacks to work with this spring.
* Joshua Shaw — This high school All-American from California has a chance to take over the cornerback slot vacated by Joe Haden. The competition is wide open, and he’s got the size and athletic ability to make a run at the staring role.
* Josh Evans — He did a lot of good things at strong safety as a true freshman last season. With the Gators suddenly a little thin at the safety positions, Evans should get extended playing time behind senior Ahmad Black next season.
*Stephen Alli — Wide receiver David Nelson loved this guy last season, saying he came close to playing as a true freshman. He has freakish athletic ability (and great size), and with openings in the wide receiver corps, he has a chance to earn a spot in the playing rotation with a good spring.
* Matt Elam — Speaking of young safeties, this true freshman looks physically ready to see playing time behind No. 1 free safety Will Hill. Urban Meyer has also said he would like to see the ball in his hands on offense on occasion. He looked like a big-time tailback prospect the way he ran in the state championship game for West Palm Beach Dwyer.
* William Green — He’s not that young anymore (a true junior), but he’s a great prospect with a huge motor who has a chance to be a stater at defensive end. He has a chance to be one of the better pass-rushers the Gators have had in recent years — and that’s saying something.
* Kyle Koehne — I saw this redshirt freshman offensive lineman the other day and was very impressed by how he’s changed his body since he’s been here. He looks much stronger than he did in the fall. He looks like a veteran college offensive lineman now.
* Jon Halapio — Here’s another young offensive lineman that the coaches really like. He’s a big nasty, and has a chance to see a lot of playing time this season in a backup role.
* Jeremy Brown — If he’s healthy (and it’s a big if), Brown has a chance to become a big-time cornerback with his ability to cover. The problem is his chronic bad back has kept him sidelined. He’ll try again this spring.
*Jelani Jenkins — This high school stud disappeared last season. That’s what happens when you’re injured and redshirted. But this guy has a huge upside and could be a major player at outside linebacker if he has a good spring.
Here are some older guys who I think have a chance to be emerge as late-bloomers this spring: Outside linebacker Lorenzo Edwards, wide receiver Justin Williams, tailback Emmanuel Moody and cornerback Moses Jenkins.