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Friday, January 21, 2022

Spring practice is a minefield of useless information.

Maybe you like it; I usually don’t. No matter your preference, history shows there are a lot of things you think you “learn” in spring that prove to be completely false come two-a-days in the fall.

Notice I didn’t say spring practice is completely useless. For Florida fans, spring practice is a chance to get a look behind the curtain. The Gators typically only have a handful of open practices in the fall, but you can see every spring practice.

For coaches and players, springtime is key for player development. Spring is most important for depth purposes — guys are fighting for second- and third-string spots rather than starting jobs, even though UF has quite a few first-team openings.

The reasons for this are many; injuries and the absence of some freshmen are just a few. So far this spring, senior Duke Lemmens has gotten a lot of first-team reps at defensive end opposite Justin Trattou. No offense to Lemmens, but his quest for a starting job faces tall odds — perhaps as tall as 6-foot-4 Ronald Powell, Rivals.com’s top recruit who will arrive in Gainesville in August.

There is no guarantee Powell or fellow end recruit Lynden Trail will win the starting gig, but because many called this year’s defensive recruiting class one of the best ever, I give them a fighting chance.

The bottom line is we just don’t know. Spring football cannot settle these issues.

I’ll tell you one thing spring football has cemented in my brain.

John Brantley is 100 times more valuable to the 2010 team than Tim Tebow was to the 2009 Gators.

This statement is no slight of Tebow, nor is it a crowning of Brantley as the best player in college football.

I make that evaluation because of the disparity between Brantley and his current backup, Trey Burton. I’ve got nothing against Burton, but the Rivals.com three-star recruit has looked bad in spring practice so far.

During the Tebow years, the joke was always that Brantley, UF’s backup, could start for many other top-25 or Southeastern Conference teams. I doubt that kind of rhetoric will be used for Burton.

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I think his future has been laid out by a four-star quarterback recruit from the 2009 class: Jordan Reed. It became apparent even last fall that Reed was destined to switch to tight end or receiver. Voila, now he’s at tight end and is probably one of the two best on the Gators’ roster.

And while Tyler Murphy won’t arrive until fall, everything I heard is the Rivals.com two-star recruit will probably have a similar shift to tight end or receiver in his future.

I’m telling you, Gators fans, if you were worried about Tebow going down, you should be much more worried about Brantley getting hurt. (Remember: for all the running Tebow did, the biggest hit he took came in the pocket.)

Burton or Murphy taking meaningful snaps this fall is a recipe for disaster, just like believing everything you see or hear this spring.

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