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August 19, 2010

Reviewing 10 pre-camp Gator predictions

FALL FOOTBALL PRACTICE: Wednesday Practice Tidbits | Debose ready for action | Carl Moore Q&A | Meyer Tuesday Notebook | Henry gears up for senior season | Monday's Ten Gator practice tidbits | Drayton discusses younger backs | Monday Notebook: Jenkins leading in the middle? | Green breaks down defensive line | Football first for speedy Demps | Gillislee: Are the lights coming on? | Pain free Brown guns for starting spot | Loeffler talks UF quarterbacks | Scrimmage news and notes | Offensive line shuffling around, building depth | Alli emerging as a play maker | Brantley sports old school look | Elam: Lean & Mean | Player hospitalized | Meyer Friday Q&A | Antwine anxious for healthy finale | Dozens of more updates...

Before fall practice began earlier this month for the Florida Gators, I made 10 predictions as to what I thought might happen during camp. As we hit the midway point of preseason practice, here's a peek back of those predictions and a look at whether I was in the ballpark or not. Because practices are closed much of this, however, is still speculation.

MY PREDICTION -- Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens will be UF's opening-day starters at defensive end: Trattou seems to be a lock for one spot. Lemmens, who ended the spring No.1 at the other end spot, isn't. There are two reasons for that. 1. He has had a decent, but certainly not special, college career; 2. Lots of people think five-star incoming freshman Ronald Powell will take the position from him. Here's why he'll end up with the first string: For starters, Lemmens was a different player in the spring, one who was driven to succeed and played with incredible energy. That's the best way to win over your coaches and teammates. Also, Powell, as good as he might be, probably will need a little time to adjust to the college game.
THE LATEST: Both Trattou and Lemmens remain with the first team. And while head coach Urban Meyer said this week he's concerned about the team's pass russ, defensive line coach Dan McCarney continues to praise both players. As for Powell? Well, just as I predicted, it has taken some time for him to grasp things and play at the level coaches want. Don't get me wrong: McCarney is high on Powell, but I get the feeling he's not ready to press for a starting spot. Yet.

MY PREDICTION -- Carl Moore will pick up where he left off in the spring: Moore did little in 2008, and even less in 2009, when he was redshirted because of injuries. This spring, Moore was off and on, and even vanished from practice a few days for unexplained reasons. When he returned, he looked like a different player. Then, he was one of the stars of the spring game. With this being Moore's final season, he should be more driven than ever to succeed. The talent certainly is not a question.
THE LATEST: Nailed it. By all accounts, Moore is having a great camp and has developed into the type of playmaker the Gators need. Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni seems to be becoming more of a fan of Moore's every day. If Moore can continue to stay healthy, he could be primed for a pretty big season.

MY PREDICTION -- Andre Debose will emerge as the Gators' No. 4 receiver: Debose was redshirted last fall because of a lingering hamstring injury. In the spring, he finally was cleared to go all out the final week of practice and the former five-star recruit didn't disappoint. Debose isn't just fast; he has ridiculous moves and isn't afraid to stretch out for a catch. He has the ability to become the Gators' most dangerous playmaker. Yes, he's that talented.
THE LATEST: Tough to say. I think Debose is the Gators' No. 4 guy, but coaches haven't mentioned him all that much, other than to say he still has room for improvement. Meyer said Tuesday he thought Debose had tired legs. A day later, Debose said he felt great. When all is said and done, I say he has 25-plus catches and even runs the ball out of the backfield some. But right now, the jury is still out.

MY PREDICTION -- Emmanuel Moody will solidify his spot as the No. 2 tailback: In the spring, Moody was on the field one day and off it the next because of injuries and dings. Basically, that's kind of his Florida career in a nutshell. That said, he is an immensely talented player who not only has some shake and bake in him but can push his way through for the tough yards. Luck hasn't been on his side thus far in Gainesville. The guess here is things will begin to turn around for Moody this week and he will emerge as a dependable player.
THE LATEST: On the mark. Not only has Moody stayed healthy, but he has shined in camp, coaches and teammates say. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins said Moody is the toughest running back on the team to tackle. Moody is a complete back, who appears ready to finally showcase all of his talents. It doesn't look like he'll be losing any carries to Mike Gillislee.

MY PREDICTION -- Matt Patchan will work his way back into the O. line rotation: After sustaining a torn ACL last season, Patchan is back and, quite frankly, has never looked better physically. He was limited in the spring as he recovered from the injury but it appears as if he'll be ready to go once practice begins. When spotted at the Gator Charity Challenge last week, Patchan looked as though he had added several pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-6 frame. He is too good of a player to not see significant action. And really, it wouldn't be a shock if he became a starter.
THE LATEST: This was the prediction that got some of you talking. And what you said was that I was dead wrong. I'll be waiting by the computer for my apology. When practice began word came out that Patchan was splitting time with the first team at left tackle with Xavier Nixon. A week later, Patchan broke his wrist, but he should be back soon. He'll definitely play a ton; the only question is this: Can he beat out Nixon? I'd say it's 50-50 based on what I'm hearing.

MY PREDICTION -- Jeremy Brown will edge out Moses Jenkins at one cornerback spot: Jenkins has been a good soldier for the Gators, but Brown -- when healthy -- simply is a better option. In Brown's two years at Florida, he has yet to play in a game because of lingering back problems. If that is not an issue in August, the job should be his. He's a superior athlete with solid coverage ability.
THE LATEST: Until last weekend, I was positive Brown would start. Now, I'm not so sure. First, Jenkins shined in the team's first scrimmage. Then, he sounded awfully confident when talking to the media Wednesday. So now, I'm starting to think Florida may go with Jenkins, a 6-foot-2 senior who seems to be having a breakout camp.

MY PREDICTION -- Lawrence Marsh will re-emerge as a first-teamer:After a solid spring from Omar Hunter, he might be the favorite to earn one first-string spot at defensive tackle. But the word is that Marsh, who missed the spring after having hip surgery, is back to 100 percent and he should push Hunter. In 2008, a healthy Marsh started 13 games for a national championship defense. Having him back at full strength would be a huge plus for the Florida defense.
THE LATEST: Can I take this one back? Marsh is a terrific player. No doubt about it. But he's again having injury issues. It doesn't sound like they're serious, but if he's not at 100 percent (or even practicing), it's doubtful he'll beat out Hunter, who started coming into his own this spring.

MY PREDICTION -- Deonte Thompson will emerge as John Brantley's go-to receiver: Thompson and Brantley seemed to have great chemistry in the spring and that should continue. Both juniors, they came into the program together and have played pitch and catch for quite awhile now. Thompson's hands were a question mark in the past, but this spring he caught everything in sight during the final three weeks of practice. Based on that effort, Brantley likely feels as if he can trust Thompson, whether on deep passes, throws in the flat or plays over the middle.
THE LATEST: This was such an easy prediction I probably shouldn't get any credit for it. By all accounts -- and I mean all -- Thomas has far and away been Florida's No. 1 receiver. Rarely does a day go by that someone on the team doesn't mention how great he looks.

MY PREDICTION -- Gerald Christian will challenge for the starting role at tight end: Converted quarterback Jordan Reed showed great potential at tight end and worked with the first team for much of the spring. Christian, on the other hand, was relatively quiet. But as an early enrollee that was to be expected. Christian appears to have beefed up in recent months and he should now have a better grasp of the offense.
THE LATEST: During the first week of practice, we heard little about Christian. But now the word from the coaching staff is that Christian is "coming on strong." It is difficult to tell exactly what that means since practices are closed, but he clearly is doing something right. From what I understand, Christian has made some pretty nice catch-and-runs.

MY PREDICTION -- Jelani Jenkins will beat out Jon Bostic at MLB: According to UF's roster, Jenkins and Bostic are both 6-foot-1. Bostic weighs 15 pounds more but Jenkins was the faster player in the spring and was rewarded for his play by getting more first-team reps. Some believe Jenkins will be moved outside, clearing the way for Bostic to start in the middle. But Jenkins' terrific sideline-to-sideline ability makes him a tempting option.
THE LATEST: Bingo! According to defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Jenkins has edged ahead of Bostic. Both Austin and linebackers coach D.J. Durkin seem enamored with everything about Jenkins' play, particularly his speed. Even after the spring, many thought Jenkins would end up back outside. But it certainly doesn't appear like that will happen.



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