Predicting position battle winners

Predicting position battle winners

The Gators hit the practice field on August 4 for the opening of fall camp. The focus will be on the continued installation of the offense under first-year coordinator, but there are plenty of position battles to be decided on both sides of the ball.

Both safety spots: Florida heads into the fall needing to replace both safeties for the second straight fall camp. Last year, Marcus Maye went into the season as a starter, but that only lasted two games. Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins took over as the starters are didn’t let go of the jobs. Now, there is a lot of talent and inexperience at the position.

Jabari Gorman is the veteran as the only senior on the group. Maye is physically impressive and does have the starting experience from last season. They both make sense as starters, but there are plenty of other options.

Keanu Neal has long been the talk of the coaching staff. He was a star on special teams last year and seems like a safe bet to be a starter this year. Marcell Harris was healthy for the first time in the spring, and after knocking the rust off, he looked the part to be an impact safety. The two starters will likely come from the four players listed here.

PREDICTION: Marcus Maye and Keanu Neal.

Second cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves III is locked into a starting job without any questions. There are three candidates on the rest of the roster that are the most likely to win the other cornerback job.

Brian Poole is the oldest scholarship cornerback on the roster. He has seen most of his work at nickel in the last two seasons but is capable of moving outside to fill the second cornerback job if the Gators need him to do that.

Most eyes are on the freshmen, especially the two that enrolled early. Duke Dawson and Jalen Tabor both had strong springs and put themselves squarely in the mix to win the job. Dawson is physical and has advanced strength at the line of scrimmage for a freshman. Tabor makes plays because of his length and showed off his ball skills during practices.

PREDICTION: Jalen Tabor.

Punter: The Gators have two great options here. Kyle Christy was the starter to begin last season, coming off a year that put him as a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. He struggled during the year and looked like a shell of himself, forcing the coaches to pull the redshirt on Johnny Townsend.

Townsend took over and had a good freshman year, averaging 42 yards per punt. The coaches let both punters battle it out during the spring, and both looked really good.

The job will be finalized during fall camp. I lean towards Christy winning the job. If he can continue to produce like he did in the spring, it might not be much of a contest, but it also helps the future on the Florida roster. In that scenario, Townsend would redshirt this year -- as he was supposed to last year -- and would have three more years to punt at Florida after Christy graduates this fall.

PREDICTION: Kyle Christy.

Backup quarterback: Will Muschamp made it clear that he will get a backup quarterback ready to play this year. That wasn’t the case last season, as Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg weren’t ready, and the entire team suffered.

Mornhinweg looked much better in the spring. He was more confident throwing the football and was especially more accurate when throwing the ball down the field. If the Gators don’t feel comfortable with a freshman as the backup, Mornhinweg could get the nod.

However, the two freshmen are more talented players with higher upsides. Will Grier had an impressive spring and was accurate throwing the deep ball. Treon Harris enrolled in the summer and has only fall camp to show that he’s ready for a role. If one of the freshmen wins the starting job, the other will likely redshirt.

Grier said at times during the recruiting process that he preferred to redshirt, and Harris could handle a smaller package that includes plays to utilize his athleticism. For that to happen, Harris has to show he’s capable of handling the role in fall camp.

PREDICTION: Treon Harris.

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