DAY 2: Look For These Gators to Emerge in ‘06

Among my favorite things about college football the annual process of watching young players compete for and earn playing time. For bit players to become regulars or even stars in the span of a single season is what keeps college sports, especially football young and vibrant.

We get our first signals during spring practice, but there is so much time between the spring game and the start of the season much can change. Who go bigger, stronger, faster? Who only got bigger? Which player will see an opportunity and grab it? Who might force his way into a seemingly closed positional rotation?

With fall practice underway, we’ll start getting some of those answers, but there’s nothing wrong with being ahead of the curve. So here are the five guys I see emerging in 2006. Guys who are nowhere to be found on anyone’s all conference list but I believe will be garnering such consideration by the end of the season.

* Cornelius Ingram —– It’s not unusual for two-sport stars to struggle once they’ve given up on the idea of trying to play both. That’s particularly true when you have a player such as Ingram who also went through a major position change. But Ingram is on the verge of being a special weapon for this offense. At 6’4” 225 he is a match up nightmare for defensive backs and his speed will leave most linebackers in the dust. He’s also really motivated to make his mark after seeing the phenomenal success of the Gator Basketball team.

* Drew Miller —– Not a single Florida offensive lineman has gotten even a sniff for the first three All-SEC teams. By the end of the year that will change. Miller has the size (6’5”, 305), athleticism and feistiness to be a strong force up front. He’s made four starts in his career, but he’ll be there just about every snap this fall. It’s a shame he didn’t redshirt, but the junior from Sarasota should still give the Gators two strong seasons.

* Joe Cohen —– Ok, so he’s not a young player, Cohen is still a guy whose playing time has been somewhat limited. His ability to play both inside and out is an asset, but I love his quickness from the tackle spot. With opposing offensive lines understandably geared up to deal with Marcus Thomas, Cohen could be a major factor in one of the best defensive lines UF has put out there in years.

* Dorian Munroe —– This guy might be the most natural “hitter” at safety since Louis Oliver and Jarvis Williams were knocking people silly. With Reggie Nelson going to corner, Munroe could end up being the same kind of weapon at nickel that Nelson was. He was a corner in high school and his cover skills are better than most safeties, too.

* Nyan Boateng —– Frankly, this is guesswork among the three young receivers (David Nelson and Louis Murphy are the other two) who came in last season. Boateng and Murphy has the best builds for the multiple roles this offense likes its receivers to be able to fill. I like Boateng because he is now fully recovered from an ankle injury that hampered him for more than a year. Plus, he’s a New Yorker! Nelson could be a great weapon on the goal line and Murphy can be special if he does the right things on and off the field.

I debated putting Kestahn Moore on this list, but I’m not certain about his back. Florida would love to see Jon Demps earn his way on to this list, but I have not seen enough of him in competition to be convinced. One other guy I’m certain will emerge, but at a position most may not notice is Ronnie Wilson. He’s a terrific talent.