Florida Gators Spring Football: What To Watch For As Practice Begins

In case you missed it, ECFIVESTER put up a great poll about which unit you'd like to see the most improvement from during the spring. It's your civic duty to vote, so I suggest you should. Remember, Big Brother is always watching.

The "official" kickoff to the 2012 season is tomorrow as the Florida Gators begin spring practice. (Well, I guess that depends on what you count as official start: spring practice, the Orange and Blue Debut, fall practice or whatever.) Personally, I just want to see some pads on the shoulders, the running of routes and hey, even a little quarterback controversy.

Recently, GatorZone's Scott Carter went into extensive detail about how the coaches are preparing for the spring. I suggest you check it out, because it's not only very in-depth, but it gives the reader a great look at how the current coaching staff prepares for games, meetings and practices.

Anyway, enough with the small talk. That's probably not why you're here. We'll talk about whether or not the season will last past December 21st another day. Today, we'll take a look at the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and maybe even a defensive back or two who are vying for a starting job. You know, sort of like a primer. But a pretty horrible one at that.

Quarterback battle: Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel?

For the first time since 2003, when freshmen Chris Leak and Gavin Dickey (remember Gavin Dickey?) and sophomore Ingle Martin were in competition for the position, the Gators don't know who their starting quarterback will be for the upcoming fall. The loss of Charlie Weis to Kansas only muddies the process even more. Who will impress new offensive coordinator Brent Pease more? Will one of the two perform significantly better than the other? Will Driskel's happy feet dance continue? Will Brissett continue to arm-punt the ball just for the heck of it?

All of these questions will hopefully be answered by the end of spring practices and the Orange and Blue Debut. When it comes down to it, I doubt that they will though. I'm fairly certain that the quarterback battle will continue into the fall.

Running backs: who takes over for Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey?

Now that Demps and Rainey are finally gone (I mean that in a good way, kind of), the Gators can focus on a running back that is more suited for their system. The only problem is, aside from Matt Jones (who will be ready in the fall), there isn't one on the roster.

The Gators will be going through the spring with Mack Brown, Trey Burton and Mike Gillislee as the running backs.

Your thoughts upon reading that sentence were probably my thoughts exactly.

Wide receivers: the first wide receiver to step up wins!

From last year's unit, Deonte Thompson is really the only loss. Whether or not that actually counts as a loss is up for debate, but the fact remains that the core will be returning in 2012. Andre Debose, Quinton Dunbar, Frankie Hammond Jr. are the returnees, and Latroy Pittman and Ja'Juan Story are the new faces, and that's pretty much it. That's not a lot of production.

Can Debose become something other than just a deep threat? Was Dunbar's high water mark last year's spring game? Will Pittman and Story step up and challenge the upperclassmen?

Offensive line: are Jessamen Dunker and D.J. Humphries the real deal?

Dunker and Humphries will both be expected to step in and find immediate playing time on an offensive line that struggled mightily last season. And that's being very generous with word choice. Should Chaz Green, Kyle Koehne, Xavier Nixon and Matt Patchan be worried? I would be if I were them.

Defensive line: Damien Jacobs and Quinteze Williams add beef in the middle.

The Gators defensive line was, for the most part, stellar last season. The only thing they were missing was size. I can't wait to see Jacobs and Williams go up against Dunker and Humphries in practice. I'm tempted to give Jacobs a slight advantage because he's a JUCO player, but you just never know.

Defensive backs: can Willie Bailey steal a starting spot?

There's no denying that head coach Will Muschamp likes corners who are over six feet tall. Willie Bailey is 6'2". I'd say that he fits the bill perfectly.

I'm sure that there are more questions that will have to be answered this spring. But that's the funny thing about spring practice. It usually provides even more questions (and surprises) than it answers.

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