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March 18, 2008

Florida Gators
Head coach: Urban Meyer
Last season: 9-4 overall, 5-3 in SEC; lost 41-35 to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl.
Spring practice: March 19-April 12..

Florida had the Heisman Trophy winner last season, but ultimately the season was a bit of a disappointment. Despite not having a consistent tailback, the offense was fine; it was the defense that struggled. Rebuilding the defensive line and finding out if USC transfer Emmanuel Moody is the answer at tailback will make spring football interesting in Gainesville. Here's a look at the Gators as they prepare to open spring drills.

FLORIDA GATORS
Could Tim Tebow win a second Heisman Trophy?

RETURNING STARTERS
EARLY ENROLLEES
LB Brendan Beal (from high school), CB Jeremy Brown (high school), DT Troy Epps (junior college transfer), CB Janoris Jenkins (high school), WR Carl Moore (junior college transfer), DE Earl Okine (high school), OT Matt Patchan (high school), K Caleb Sturgis (high school).

POSITIONS OF STRENGTH

Tebow and Harvin give Florida two of the nation's best players at quarterback and wide receiver. Harvin is so explosive that he could emerge as the biggest obstacle in Tebow's quest to win a second consecutive Heisman Trophy.

HELP IS NEEDED

Derrick Harvey's decision to turn pro leaves Florida searching for a dominant defensive end. Florida also has never found a dominant tailback during the Urban Meyer era, though the arrival of USC transfer Emmanuel Moody could change that. The Gators also could use help at defensive tackle, which was a weak spot last season.

KEEP AN EYE ON

DE Carlos Dunlap: The Gators need to find a pass rusher, and Dunlap a sophomore who is a former five-star prospect probably has more pure talent than any of the other candidates. Dunlap struggled to adapt to the college game last season, but he could make a big difference if he has gotten over the learning curve.

RB Emmanuel Moody: Perhaps no player in the nation will be scrutinized this spring quite as much as Moody, a USC transfer who could develop into the elite tailback that has been missing from Florida's arsenal throughout Urban Meyer's tenure. Moody will be competing with Moore and Mon Williams, among others.

WR Deonte Thompson: This redshirt freshman could make as much of an impact as any of Florida's first-year players. Florida coaches have raved about his work ethic during offseason training.

HIS TIME IS NOW

The departure of SS Tony Joiner opens up a starting spot for junior Dorian Munroe, who has played sparingly in his career. Munroe will have to hold off a challenge from Jamar Hornsby and others in the spring, then perhaps from five-star prospect Will Hill in the fall.

THE BUZZ

Moody's progress will garner much of the attention in Gainesville this spring, but the Gators also have other issues to address. Now that Florida's young defensive players have gained a year of experience, are they willing to show the toughness that was missing on that side of the ball last season? Cameron Newton and John Brantley also should have a spirited competition for the right to back up Tebow at quarterback.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.



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