Who’s gone: Fifth-year senior Clint McMillan. McMillan started every game for the Gators in 2007 and recorded 23 tackles.
Spring contenders: Redshirt freshmen John Brown and Terron Sanders. Sophomore Torrey Davis (pictured). Junior transfer Troy Epps.
Frontrunners: Troy Epps and John Brown. Epps, the junior from Coffeyville (Kn.) Community College, seems to be the immediate answer. He’s getting plenty of chances this spring to win the job but he might not be making the best first impression. During Saturday’s practice, Epps made a tackle on running back Kestahn Moore and then proceeded to step over Moore in a poor attempt to showboat. Florida coach Urban Meyer didn’t like the posturing and screamed at defensive line coach Dan McCarney to correct the problem. Practiced was momentarily but on hold while McCarney scolded Epps, telling the transfer that “that kind of [nonsense] might be OK at a junior college “but not at Florida.”
The other guys: Davis, one of the state’s top prospect in 2006, hasn’t been given much of a chance so far this spring after his offseason underage drinking incident. Instead, Brown, Sanders and Lawrence Marsh have been rotating with the first-team defense during drills.
Don’t forget about Javy: Redshirt senior Javier Estopinan tore his anterior cruciate ligament against Georgia last season. It was Estopinan’s third ACL injury of his career. The Miami Southwest grad said last week that his rehabilitation is going smoothly and he should be ready to practice by two-a-days.
What coaches are looking for: Meyer would like a defensive tackle with some pass-rushing ability next season. McMillan and Estopinan were quality run stoppers but didn’t pressure many quarterbacks in 2007.
Who’s gone: Derrick Harvey. A likely first-round draft pick this April, Harvey had 49 tackles in 2007 and led the Gators with 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Spring contenders: Sophomores Carlos Dunlap, Justin Trattou, Duke Lemmens and Lawrence Marsh.
Frontrunners: Carlos Dunlap and Justin Trattou. Dunlap (6-5, 290 pounds) is the most athletically gifted of this group but Trattou is the spring’s leading contender to replace Harvey. Trattou shot up the depth chart in 2007 after performing well early in the season during mop-up time. He played in 12 games, had 20 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one interception and one pass break-up. Meanwhile, Dunlap played plenty of special teams in 2007.
The other guys: Lemmens is in the mix to be a second string defensive end. He played well in his limited role as a freshman. Marsh is splitting time at defensive tackle and defensive end this spring.
Cunningham’s time to shine: Jermaine Cunningham is the returning starter and led the defensive line in tackles in 2007. Cunningham is now the defense’s primary pass rusher.
Who’s gone: Everyone is back.
Spring contenders: Junior Wondy Pierre-Louis, junior Markihe Anderson, redshirt freshman Jacques Rickerson, sophomores Moses Jenkins and Ahmad Black and freshmen Janoris Jenkins and Jeremy Brown.
Frontrunners: There aren’t any. Joe Haden, who started every game as a freshman 2007, is a projected starter but the other cornerback position seems to be up for grabs. Pierre-Louis was the starter in 2007 but the Rickerson is making a push this spring to start. Moses Jenkins is steadily improving and Black is proving to be a punishing hitter this spring. See heavy hits against quarterback Cam Newton and receiver Paul Wilson.
The other guys: Janoris Jenkins, the celebrated freshman from Pahokee, enrolled in January in order to compete for playing time this spring. For what it’s other, Jenkins seems to be a fan favorite among spring practice’s spectators. Several of his pass break-ups have been met with healthy applause.
The skinny: Pierre-Louis isn't very good but the alternatives aren't much better. If Pierre-Louis can improve over the spring he'll keep his job. Pierre-Louis is certainly the most enthusiastic -- and athletic -- cornerback on the Gators' practice field. Personality and speed goes a long way.
Who’s gone: Everyone is back.
Spring contenders: Tim Tebow has more job security than the Pope, but the back-up quarterback position is undecided with Cameron Newton and Jonathan Brantley battling for the role.
Frontrunner: Newton was the starter in 2007 but Brantley is making a push to be Tebow’s back-up. Both quarterbacks have shown tremendous talent this spring. Newton (6-5, 240 pounds) could have the edge, considering Meyer said last season that he would like the back-up to share short-yardage duties with Tebow.
The big question: How do you keep both quarterbacks happy this fall? Both Newton and Brantley are good enough to start in the Southeastern Conference.
The skinny: Newton needs more playing time this fall to stay happy being a back-up. If he Brantly is the second-string quarterback, then Newton might transfer.
Who’s gone: Everybody is back…except for Markus Manson. Who?
Spring contenders: Kestahn Moore, Emmanuel Moody, Mon Williams and Chris Rainey
Frontrunners: Meyer continued his praise of returning starter Kestahn Moore on Monday. But can he hold onto the ball? That’s the most important thing. I fumbled an option pitch on Monday at the goal line. Not good. Moody has looked solid so far this spring and it’s safe to assume he’s the No.1 contender to win the job. Why else would he have transferred from USC, right? It’s not like Meyer sold this kid by telling him that he’d sit behind Kestahn Moore for a year.
The big question: Does Kestahn Moore fall to third on the depth chart after starting in 2007. Maybe so. Mon Williams is back from his knee injury from last spring and looking pretty good.
Second big question: Which abbreviated name sounds better? K-Mo or E-Mo?
The skinny: It's all about E-Mo this fall.