August 27, 2012

Looking back at ITG's 10 pre-camp predictions



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Before fall camp got underway for the Gators, I released my 10 predictions [10 pre-camp predictions] of what I thought would happen leading into this Saturday's opener against Bowling Green. Will Muschamp's team is now just a few days away from taking a new-look Florida Field for live game action. With that in mind, let's take a look at just how right - or wrong - I was back on July 24.

* Prediction: Antonio Morrison will start at Sam linebacker on opening day

THE LATEST: Maybe I should have listened to Muschamp a little more. The Sam linebacker will be sparingly used in Florida's defense, especially the first few weeks of the season given the amount of nickel and dime the Gators will play. Monday, Kitchens was named the starter at Sam. Morrison will still play a big part in this defense, possibly more than Kitchens, but it will come rotating with Jelani Jenkins at Will linebacker and possibly Jonathan Bostic at the Mike spot.

* Prediction: Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd will flip roles

THE LATEST: This was an easy one. Muschamp knows this could be the last season he gets to coach either of these players, and he's going to take advantage of it by playing them at their natural positions. Floyd, a natural three-technique lineman, is back at defensive tackle, where he will start when not taking breathers and giving way to junior college transfer Damien Jacobs. Easley will be looked at as one of Florida's premier outside pass rushers, bringing a smaller frame and different skill set than Floyd did a season ago.

* Prediction: Kent Taylor will be a regular at tight end this season

THE LATEST: Taylor might not have the size or strength to be considered a "regular" at tight end this year, but he will certainly get his share of reps. The freshman has proven to be a sure-handed receiver and a guy who can stretch the field for the Gators. He will be used for both reasons, likely more in an outside role where he will not be responsible for blocking SEC defensive linemen or linebackers. Meanwhile, Clay Burton is listed as the No. 2 tight end behind Jordan Reed. Regardless, the position is very shallow to start the year.

* Prediction: The No. 2 running back spot will be more tightly contested that one might think

THE LATEST: Mack Brown appears to have won the backup job, although the competition is still ongoing. The reasoning is a little different from my prediction. Freshman Matt Jones has impressed the coaching staff this fall and will split secondary carries with Brown in the season opener despite not being listed on the two-deep depth chart. Chris Johnson is still in the mix as well, similar to utility man Omarius Hines. However, it appears Florida's backfield will mostly go two-deep after Mike Gillislee with Brown and then Jones.

* Prediction: Loucheiz Purifoy will start at cornerback

THE LATEST: Muschamp has decided against naming starting cornerbacks, going with the reasoning that Florida will be in nickel or dime more than 90 percent during the first three games, and all four battling will see extensive playing time. I'll stick with my prediction that Purifoy and Marcus Roberson is still the Gators' best duo outside, but the only way to prove that will be when we see the team actually take the field. All cornerbacks will be tested heavily early, especially in week three against Tennessee.

* Prediction: Andre Debose will still have a long way to go

THE LATEST: How the mighty have fallen. Debose isn't going to get playing time this season just because his name is Andre Debose. Coaches are going to make him earn it. Want proof? In the latest UF depth chart, Debose is listed as battling for second-team reps with freshman Latroy Pittman behind Frankie Hammond Jr., the new starter. Gone for now is the idea of Debose and Quinton Dunbar creating a formidable receiving duo. Here is the legitimate possibility that Debose will have even less of a role this season in comparison to last season.

* Prediction: James Wilson will stay healthy and help solidify an evolving offensive line

THE LATEST: Wilson made it through fall camp healthy and is listed as the starting left guard for the opener against Bowling Green. After reporting to camp out of shape in 2011, Wilson has been praised for his strength and hunger to make his sixth season at UF worthwhile.

* Prediction: Matt Elam will still be the best football player Florida has

THE LATEST: We haven't seen a lot of Elam this fall - one practice to be exact - but talk around camp is that he is even better than he was a year ago. Of course, that is training camp talk, but with Elam, I'm actually inclined to believe it. He is set to play wherever he is needed, shifting from strong safety to nickel or dime whenever his name is called. He is being discussed as more of a leader to Florida's young defensive backs this year, something that has not generally been the case in the past.

* Prediction: Solomon Patton will return punts for the Gators

THE LATEST: Wrong. Patton is listed as the No. 2 kick returner on Florida's roster but does not to be involved in any punt return plans. He could likely factor into the punt block team, but Roberson will be the man back deep fielding punts. Insert the questions about Roberson's past neck injury here, but it appears he will be the man to turn around Florida's punt return game, which was No. 9 in the SEC in 2011.

* Prediction: There will not be a starting quarterback named before the opener against Bowling Green

THE LATEST: The saga continues. Both Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will play in the season's first game. One quarterback will play the first quarterback, the other will play the second quarter and then coaches will decided at halftime how the second half will be decided. Muschamp has assured the public he is comfortable playing both players if that is what he has to do this season to win.

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