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April 6, 2012
Take Five: O&B Debut Edition
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MORE FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING: Florida expecting over 20 Rivals250 members this weekend | Floyd prefers inside, but getting comfortable outside | Final chance for James Wilson | Rivals250 defensive end visited UF again | O&B Debut - What to Watch For II | Spring Practice Headquarters
Call it a spring game or a scrimmage or four quarters of drills.
Whatever it is the Gators will be doing on Saturday inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will for be open to the public, and these days that's about as newsworthy as it gets.
It will be the final day of live action for Florida's football team for a while and with that in mind, we pass along some food for thought heading into the Orange and Blue Debut.
Five Orange and Blue Debut questions
1. Which quarterback will step up? Finally in the public eye, Florida's coaches and players won't be able to hide behind saying Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel are even if one clearly outshines the other, By no means will an eventual starter be decided on Sunday, but that doesn't mean the two don't have an opportunity to fuel discussions that will stretch into the fall.
2. Has the offensive line improved? One benefit the chosen game format will have is the fact that fans will get to see more match-ups between first-team players. This is especially crucial along the line where offensive players will have to block the likes of Sharrif Floyd and Ronald Powell. If the line is not as improved as everyone has been saying it is, the Gators have a couple of defensive linemen who will expose it.
3. Will the defensive linemen step up? Leon Orr and Damien Jacobs were both given major opportunities to prove their respective worth this spring as Dominique Easley was limited while recovering from knee surgery. But according to Will Muschamp, both defensive tackles have been inconsistent to this point. Jacobs especially needs to start turning things around if he's going to make the most of his junior college transfer.
4. Who is the second starting cornerback? It's a given that Marcus Roberson will be Florida's premier cornerback when he returns to full action in the fall. However, his lack of physical opportunities this spring give extra reps to guys looking to start opposite Roberson in September. Cody Riggs, Loucheiz Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins are all names being discussed for the spot, and they'll have to make a big impression before freshman Brian Poole arrives this summer.
5. Does Florida have true offensive playmakers? After the quarterbacks, it's the question most will want to know. Gainesville is starved for guys who bring electricity to the field. Andre Debose will be the primary suspect at wide receiver, but this can also carry over to Mike Gillislee at running back and Quinton Dunbar back at wide out. Florida is in major need of excitement.
Five position battles to watch
1. Quarterback: This is kind of a given. Little will be decided between Brissett and Driskel before the team breaks spring camp, but expect this game to be discussed in depth until a pick is made in August or September.
2. Cornerback: It's the deepest position on Florida's roster which could make it the most exciting battle. Add onto that that a legitimate starter candidate will be on campus soon, and the urgency is high for Purifoy, Riggs and Watkins.
3. Sam linebacker: Darrin Kitchens was slated to start at strongside when spring began. However, slated behind stalwarts Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins are upstarts Antonio Morrison and Michael Taylor, two players who have drawn rave reviews this spring and could be willing to give Kitchens' spot a test.
4. Right tackle: The Gators currently plan on alternating sophomore Chaz Green and junior Matt Patchan at the spot. Green is a physical specimen but apparently hasn't been able to separate himself this spring quite as much as Xavier Nixon has done on the left side.
5. Running back: This is more about who will pan out behind Gillislee than it is the actual starting job. Omarius Hines, Chris Johnson, Mack Brown, Trey Burton and Hunter Joyer will all be vying for carries since Gillislee appears to be pleasing coaches with his possibilities as a feature back.
Five veteran players to watch
1. Xavier Nixon: A year ago, he was one of the glaring weak links on Florida's offensive line. This spring he appears to be in better shape and will be vital at left tackle.
2. Andre Debose: It's been one excuse after another for Debose during his time at Florida. Those times are gone and Debose will be expected to live up to his billing as the Gators' best offensive weapon.
3. Ronald Powell: Muschamp and Dan Quinn have had nothing but good to say about Powell this spring after a shaky fall. If he has absorbed what it takes to play buck, he could become the team's most dangerous defensive player.
4. Sharrif Floyd: He is likely the Gators' best overall defensive lineman. The question will be how much more comfortable he has gotten with the end role he has been forced into because of depth.
5. Mike Gillislee: If he can live up to the billing, Gillislee will likely get a chance to be Florida's first true feature running back in a long time.
Five early enrollees to watch
1. Latroy Pittman: He wasn't Florida's most heralded recruit, but Pittman may just be forcing his way into a No. 3 spot at wide receiver.
2. D.J. Humphries: If Nixon falls back on any of his old habits, the nation's No. 2 overall high school prospect in the class of 2012 will be pushing for playing time.
3. Antonio Morrison: At the least, the physical linebacker from Illinois is going to get a chance to shine on special teams this year. At best, he could challenger for serios playing time at linebacker.
4. Damien Jacobs: The junior college transfer has added experience but has yet to show Muschamp and Co. what they need to see before he becomes a major contributor.
5. Jessamen Dunker: As long as sixth-year senior James Wilson is able to stay healthy, Dunker's chances of starting are limited but he has shown promise this spring.
Five with the most to gain
1. Quinton Dunbar: This spring the hype is on Debose, but it is Dunbar who could provide the complement that sets off the UF wide receiver corps if he is ready.
2. Loucheiz Purifoy: In 2011, Purifoy played with a fiery passion on special teams, which now has him in position to compete for a more serious role at cornerback.
3. Brent Pease: Florida's new offensive coordinator probably won't show much of his work on Saturday. However, if he can keep UF fans from groaning Saturday, he will be off to a better start than Charlie Weis had.
4. Michael Taylor: After forcing his name into plenty of situational spots last year, Taylor is looking to sneak into a starting role in 2012.
5. James Wilson: Quite simply, if it doesn't happen for him now, it never will. Wilson has been clear about his dreams of being a guard in the National football league. That would require a bid senior year for the injury-plagued veteran.