GAINESVILLE -- Intense battles for several starting positions will be the focus for well-informed Gators fans when camp begins on Thursday morning. Be informed ...
BATTLE FOR CORNERBACK
All-American Joe Haden and his keen fashion sense are gone. Replacing Haden will be a priority this preseason. There are options. Senior Moses Jenkins (6-2, 188 pounds) is the veteran. He'll be pushed by redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown, who is immensely talented if only his troubled back will cooperate. Brown (5-10, 182 pounds) has been on the mend for a few seasons after injuring his back his freshman season. Consider true freshmen Josh Shaw (6-0, 189 pounds) and Jaylen Watkins (5-11, 180 pounds) legitimate contenders. Both players enrolled at UF in January and performed well in the spring. Greenhorn Cody Riggs (5-10, 165 pounds) of St. Thomas Aquinas will likely have some catching up to do.
BATTLE FOR MIDDLE LINEBACKER
We're prefacing our analysis of the battle for middle linebacker under the assumption that A.J. Jones and Brandon Hicks will be manning the outside-linebacker positions. Jones will likely start at strong-side linebacker while Hicks is currently in the best position to start at weak-side linebacker. That leaves Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins left to battle for the coveted middle-linebacker spot. Jenkins is fast and smart. Bostic is strong and smart.
BATTLE FOR DEFENSIVE END
Justin Trattou appears to be the heir apparent to Jermaine Cunningham at one defensive end position but who will replace Carlos Dunlap at the other end spot? Duke Lemmens sits atop the depth chart entering fall camp but William Green should be ready to make a move. How does true freshman Ronald Powell work into the plans?
BATTLE FOR TIGHT END
Tight end is a major concern for offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. There is no one with experience to replace tight end Aaron Hernandez. Redshirt freshman Jordan Reed appeared to have the leg up on the back end of spring practice. I don't think that means much. We'll see. True freshman Gerald Christian is a man-child and will get a look. Ronald Powell could potentially be moved to tight end in a pinch. Desmond Parks is the redshirt freshman who's returning from a knee injury. Fullback Steven Wilks could be used in place of a tight end if it seems like a better option. True freshman Michael McFarland will likely need a year to get used to the speed of the SEC.
BATTLE FOR SLOT RECEIVER
Chris Rainey or Andre Dubose? Wow, there's not much else to say other than that. This battle will be interesting. Rainey moved from running back to try his hand at the Percy Position. Dubose is returning from a hamstring injury and is apparently looking pretty good.
BATTLE FOR PRIMARY RECEIVER
UF has had some pretty good players at this position over the last three seasons. First there was Bubba Caldwell, then Louis Murphy and then Riley Cooper. Deonte Thompson is next in line but he was inconsistent last season. (Really, so was Riley Cooper.) Omarius Hines will be pushing Thompson for playing time, it's now or never for Carl Moore and host of new faces with plenty of talent will be vying for playing time as well. Frankie Hammond Jr. will be playing catch up after his offseason arrest.