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Pre-Spring Practice Madness

There's a March Madness of a different kind nearly upon us in Gainesville in the form of Spring Practice for the defending national champion football team.  As we all know, this may be a year of transition in 2007, as a cast of players responsible for bringing the program its second national title have moved on to the next level -- including starting quarterback Chris Leak.

Today coach Urban Meyer held a press conference to clear the air on his feelings towards certain issues pertaining to this year's Spring Practice.

Today we found out a few things about the status of the Gators football team, including what Meyer's plans are for the quarterback position next season and how he feels about Tim Tebow as the go-to signal caller.  We also learned Meyer's thoughts on a few of the position battles coming into Spring including those in the secondary and at running back.

First off, it looks like we may see some of the same in 2007 in terms of quarterback as the Gators may once again use a dual-QB system.  Last year the this system worked wonders for the Gators offense, as Tebow complimented Leak nearly-perfect.

"I'd like two quarterbacks. Dan (Mullen) and I have talked about it. In this conference with the style of offense we play and the styles of defense the quarterback will get hit. We've always wanted to play two, but we've never had the luxury like we did last year to have a backup with the quality presence that Tim Tebow had.

So the search for a second quarterback would be underway for this coaching staff, as they have a pretty good group of quarterbacks coming in:  John Brantley, Cameron Newton and Bryan Waggener.  The third on that list, Waggener, played a couple of seasons at junior college, so he may have a head-start on the two incoming freshman.
"We had three tremendous guys sign. Two are here on campus and you'll get to watch them in the spring. I'm hoping to play to play two during the season, but they've got to earn that. I made the comment before that Tim Tebow would play and how much he would play is dependent on Tim not me."

This will be something to look forward to keeping an eye on in the Spring, as we could easily see a guy like Brantley or Newton stepping in -- two guys who were top-notch recruits and will bring great talent to Gainesville.

Not only will there be a position battle for who will play the role of the dual-quarterback next season, as battles at cornerback and running back will be key things to watch.

On the cornerback front, a position in which lost both starters in Ryan Smith and Reggie Lewis, will be up in the air between a few young guys as well as a few who are making a switch.

"We have three returning guys (Markihe Anderson, Wondy Pierre-Louis and Jacques Rickerson). Of the three, I'd say Markihe and Wondy are a little bit ahead. Jacques had a knee injury that set him back. He will be fine for spring. They scoped him, but it wasn't a tear."

"We are going to look at Markus Manson and Joe Haden at that position. We are short on numbers there. The next couple of years recruiting or else movement of players will be critical at that spot."

The cornerback position, as well as the secondary as a whole, could be the biggest question mark coming into the Spring.  It is very tough to replace a trio like Lewis, Smith and potential first-rounder Reggie Nelson, so finding the right guys to fill in will be a big task for this coaching staff.

At running back it is now looking like there will not be one particular guy to fill in for the loss of DeShawn Wynn.  The Gators have a group of guys in Kestahn Moore, Mon Williams, Brandon James and incoming freshman Chris Rainey and Bo Williams -- all guys who will be fighting for time and touches in 2007.  Plus you can throw in Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell and perhaps even Jarred Fayson to the list of guys who could run the ball a lot next season.

"I am excited about the guys we have. I don't know about Bo (Williams) because he hurt his shoulder, but I like him. I'm real excited about the kid from Lakeland (Chris Rainey). He can do a lot of stuff. He can do what Percy Harvin did for us last year and that gives you a little bit of balance. If you ever got a guy at running back watch out. That's what everyone is dreaming of because our perimeter right now is pretty good."

No word on Moore, Williams and James and how they will be used, but I think it would be safe to say they could share a majority of the touches next season.  James could get bumped out (relegated to only special teams returns) for a guy like Rainey.  It all depends on how things shape up this Spring.

Meyer and his Gators will hold their annual Orange and Blue game on April 14th at 1:00 pm.

Go Gators!