Players on the rise


Spring football is primarily about teaching fundamentals and developing talent, and the Gators appeared to make progress in both areas, especially in terms of player development.

Here are five players who appear to be on the rise heading into the summer:

  1. Duke Dawson, CB/S: This talented player from Cross City made a significant move this spring and likely will be the starting nickel defensive back. Being around all that hard-working talent in the UF secondary apparently has influenced him in a positive way. Based on his focus and work ethic this spring, he seems to understand now what it takes to go from being a functional defensive back to a good one.

  2. Brandon Sandifer, OG: He used his redshirt freshman season to gain strength and lose weight, and now appears ready to play significant minutes in the fall. He brings a big, powerful presence to the interior offensive line and has a chance to be a real road-grader in the running game. He missed the spring game due to injury, but he showed the coaches enough throughout the spring that he’s ready to be a contributor on a line that continues to build depth.

  3. Jordan Cronkrite, RB: Even though no starter was named at tailback, it became apparent over the course of the spring that Cronkrite had created a little bit of distance between himself and the other three backs — Jordan Scarlett, Mark Thompson and Mark Herndon. Because of his pass-catching skills and route-running ability, Cronkrite appears to be the most versatile of the backs and the most likely to start the opener. Although he’ll likely end up sharing playing time with the other talented backs, Cronkrite has the look of an every-down back because he does not need to be subbed out in obvious passing situations.

  4. Tyler Jordan, C/G: He managed to hold his own when called upon to play as a true freshman last season even though he was a bit undersized. He looks like he’s ready to take that experience and run with it now that he’s considerably bigger and stronger after a productive offseason in the weight room. At 295 pounds now (he’s was only about 260 when he first arrived on campus), Jordan is an athletic big man who has quick feet and plays with an angry edge — a good combination for an offensive lineman. He’s a projected starter at guard, but also can play center.

  5. Dre Massey, WR: The coaching staff signed this speedy junior college athlete with the anticipation that he would bring instant playmaking ability to the passing game from the slot receiver position — and that’s exactly what happened. He made a bunch of plays in scrimmages and had a good spring game with a 19-yard TD reception in the second half. With Brandon Powell missing the spring with an injured foot, Massey got a ton of reps with the No. 1 offense, which apparently accelerated his learning curve in a new offense. He brings a home-run threat to the passing game.

Here are a few other players who appear on the rise: Safety Marcell Harris, defensive end Jordan Sherit, wide receiver C.J. Worton, linebacker Matt Rolin, linebacker Kylan Johnson, offensive tackle Kavaris Harkless, tight end C’yontai Lewis, defensive end Keivonnis Davis and defensive end Jabari Zuniga.