QB Chris Leak

2003 Statistics

Coach: Ron Zook
16-10, 2 years
2003 Record: 8-5
at Miami FL LOST 33-38
at Kentucky WON 24-21
at Louisiana State WON 19-7
at Arkansas WON 33-28
Georgia WON 16-13
at South Carolina WON 24-22
Iowa LOST 17-37

2003 Final Rankings
AP-24, Coaches-25, BCS-15

2004 Outlook

Now we can talk about head coach Ron Zook. The Florida fan base has unfortunately made Zook, not the team and its play, the focus now for two seasons. Losing to Iowa in the bowl game spawned another off-season of Zook-bashing. But by beating eventual-BCS champ LSU 19-7 and then-#4 Georgia 16-13 (both teams that went to the SEC Championship), as well as coming back from its largest point-deficit on the road (18 at Kentucky), Zook sold many of us outer-circle critics on his need to stay. Winning all of his SEC away games is another stripe he earned, along with being the first Gator head coach to get three consecutive wins against ranked opponents in three consecutive games. And now, with Spurrier available, Zook's nay-sayers will point with conviction (especially if he produces yet another 8-5 result) at his impending exit.

This whole Zook thing has allowed for Ron's recruits (especially Leak) to develop in an atmosphere ironically lacking much pressure on them. When 18-22 year old kids are highly scrutinized, they often panic and falter. But Zook takes all the pressure off these phenoms so they can progress as needed. The coach has poignantly fostered such, and earned the respect of all who play under him - the win-loss results will soon reflect this.

All efforts have to go into their SEC games. Georgia and LSU will be heavily armed and looking for payback. Other in-conference foes have marginal QBs who are waiting for the UF game to open up their arsenals. Stunts, blitzes, and other QB-pressure-causing tactics will have to work for the secondary not to be exploited.

A few more points will come in, but the offense can offset this easily. Fewer losses will be a result, and don't be surprised to see Florida right there near the top in the SEC East final standings. And if the secondary can help U of F eventually rank within the upper third of all I-A teams in pass defenses, Gainesville will again be a Top 10 town for fashionable fall football fun.

Now, if they could just stop throwing full beers at opposing fans…Go Gators.

Projected 2004 record: 7-4
QB - 4 DL - 2.5
RB - 4 LB - 3.5
WR - 3 DB - 2
OL - 4 ..

Passing: Chris Leak, 320-190-11, 2435 yds., 16 TD

Rushing: Ciatrick Fason, 84 att., 583 yds., 3 TD

Receiving: O.J. Small, 35 rec., 379 yds., 1 TD

Scoring: Matt Leach, 21-27 FG, 41-41 PAT, 104 pts.

Punting: Eric Wilbur, 66 punts, 44.8 avg.

Matt Leach, 21-27 FG, 41-41 PAT, 50 long.

Tackles: Channing Crowder, 106 tot., 65 solo, 5 TFL

Sacks: Ray McDonald, 4 sacks

Interceptions: Cory Bailey, 2 for 34 yds.

Kickoff Returns:
Andre Caldwell, 22 ret., 20.6 avg.

Punt Returns: Vernell Brown, 7 ret., 13.6 avg.


KR Andre Caldwell
OFFENSE: Ran Carthon-RB, Kelvin Kight-WR, Carlos Perez-WR, Ben Troupe-TE, Max Starks-OT, Shannon Snell-OG
DEFENSE: Darrell Lee-DE, Bobby McCray-DE, Matt Farrior-SLB, Reid Fleming-WLB, Keiwan Ratliff-CB, Johnny Lamar-CB, Guss Scott-SS, Daryl Dixon-FS

The potential of this position is unpredictable, but in a good way. When Chris Leak started nine games in '03, the expectations were fair - the "Gator Nation" only wanted to see marginally strong play from the then-true freshman. What followed was a 6-3 starting record and both SEC and Florida freshman records galore. By surpassing the early performance levels of former record-holder Danny Wuerffel, '04's fan-base has set for its squad a much higher bar. Leak was the second leading true-freshman in pass-efficiency for the entire nation (39th overall in I-A), so his own expectations will be higher, too, and this can often lead to the classic "sophomore slump". But this possibility is easily hedged by knowing that Leak makes few mistakes, a rarity for a true freshman. Expectations for backup Gavin Dickey are just as high. Coming out of two state championships and being named Florida's "Gatorade Player of the Year" (2001) as a prep senior, this natural runner was consistently placed near the top of most QB rankings. His limited showings, especially against Miami, prove that nothing will be lost if Leak goes down. Dickey lined up against San Jose State as a wide-out, so keep your eyes on this position and how it is utilized, for you may see some new dimensions and tact as the Gators go into '04.

Running Back
Here is a strong dimension many Gator fans will tout as possibly the strongest since the Emmitt Smith-era. Really, Florida RBs have never dropped off, but this crop is especially strong. Junior Ciatrick Fason leapt over both now-departed Ran Carthon and redshirted sophomore speedster DeShawn Wynn to become the #1 RB by the FSU game with his 6.9 yards-per-rush average. There is no drop-off with DeShawn, though. Both are similar in their medium size as well as in their great power-speed combination. Either runs both inside and out, and each is a threat if uncovered out of the backfield. The one-back sets Florida employs often freeze spying LBs and rovers, so expect more of the same with regards to play-action and draw calls, early and often. FBs exist in Billy Latsko and Joe Cohen (although Cohen is likely to be switched over to the defense to yield more playing time), but a combined five '03 touches tells you how often you will see their impact(s).

Wide Receivers
This is an area that will need someone to step into the Orange and Blue limelight. Talent is there, but relatively undeveloped. To size it up for you, the top three receivers tapped for '04 starting positions finished first, second and third on the '03 depth charts. The field-elasticator who will make safeties back-peddle will be junior big-man Dallas Baker. He will be a key in keeping defenses from crowding eight men into the box. Senior O.J. Small is a possession/underneath guy with hands of glue and size that makes tagging him a dangerous prospect for defenders. Rivals.com named true sophomore Andre Caldwell the best senior prep receiver in the nation, but he was only plugged into enough schemes to average less than ten yards per grab in '03. Look for Caldwell to blossom as both a deep and underneath threat as Zook realizes Andre's potential and sets him loose on opposing DBs. Expectations are based on this group's deep potential and vertical ability. Leak will be able to throw to each so that only his receiver will get to the throws. Really, these "long-armed Larrys" will allow either QB to aim at proverbial barn-sides and still make completions.

Tight End
Philadelphia-native David Kenner gives good reason for the arm-clappers to have hope as all-American Ben Troupe departs. Kenner brings his track attributes (all-public shot put champ and on winning 4x100 team as a prep junior) and multi-dimensioned football experiences (also a prep safety, LB, HB, and DE) to the post. This is a highly utilized position for all offensive elements - the TE intermittently winds up in the Florida backfield, so instincts for pass-protection and lead-blocking need to be available when readily called upon as plays change and defenses stunt. Kenner has Troupes' size, the kind of size you need that other-senior TE Darrell Carpenter doesn't possess. Little drop off here should be the expectation, but adjustments to starting roles will occur.

Offensive Line
This is a marginal call. Shannon Snell was the guts and glue of this line. But he, as anyone, is replaceable. Enter juco-transfer Anthony Guerrero, a two-way prep star, who is a tireless big man with the footwork that made him an All-American first teamer at Cerritos C.C. A bit of a drop off will be noticed going from Snell to Guerrero, but not that much difference by mid-season. Looking into spring, senior Jonathan Colon will be moved from his backing tackle spot on the right side to be the starting LT. With these two new starters on the left side, Leak will have to watch his blindside early - last campaign's 27-sack total is likely repeated. The right side and center positions are securely in the hands of 2003's starters. Juniors Hand, Butler, and Degory will be heavily utilized as things begin, especially as pulling/stunting reinforcements for some ground ventures on that other side. Overall, the unit will improve by the last game to be one of the tops in the nation.

Leak will again impress beyond even the highest expectations, but he will need to mature as a leader just as much, something that will truly reflect the team's overall fate more than any other Gator dimension besides the secondary. The running game will explode as the line catches up and makes a dynamic ground attack unstoppable by the FSU tilt. Passing should follow suite as opponents won't know which offensive facet to try and stop more. These receivers will surely achieve. The TE and RBs out of the backfield will be sure-fire weapons as over-pursuit incurs and seams open. Eventually, all of the Gators find opposing end-zones even more frequently than in '03 (team had 21 rushing, 20 passing TDs).


C Mike Degory


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Chris Leak-So (6-0, 200) Justin Midgett-Fr (6-3, 199)
Gavin Dickey-So (5-10, 195)
RB Ciatrick Fason-Jr (6-0, 212) DeShawn Wynn-So (5-11, 224)
Billy Latsko-So (5-11, 223) (FB)
WR Andre Caldwell-So (6-1, 190) Reggie Lewis-So (5-10, 193)
WR O.J. Small-Sr (6-1, 232) Dallas Baker-Jr (6-3, 194)
WR Chad Jackson-So (6-1, 205) Jemalle Cornelius-So (5-11, 177)
TE David Kenner-Sr (6-3, 246) Markell Thompson-Jr (6-7, 310)
OT Jonathan Colon-Sr (6-7, 316) Tavares Washington-Sr (6-3, 3070
OG Lance Butler-Jr (6-7, 311) Anthony Guerrero-Sr (6-1, 334)
C Mike Degory-Jr (6-5, 314) Billy Griffin-Sr (6-3, 290)
OG Mo Mitchell-Sr (6-6, 367) Steve Rissler-So (6-3, 302)
OT Randy Hand-Jr (6-6, 305) Carlton Medder-Fr (6-5, 330)
K Matt Leach-Sr (6-1, 190) ..
Ciatrick Fason....see-at-rick face-in
David Kenner....KEN-er
Jonathan Colon....ca-loan
Mike Degory....dah-GORE-ee
DeShawn Wynn....win
Jemalle Cornelius....ja-MALL
Tavares Washington....ta-VAR-us
Anthony Guerrero....gurr-arrow
Carlton Medder....MED-er



Defensive Line
The line revamps, but should, like their offensive counterparts, be O.K. by season's mid-stretch. Smallish senior end Travis Harris brings speedy containment as he resides next to insiders Kenny Parker and soph. standout Ray McDonald (in '03, was only freshman in school history to start 12 games on the D-line). The tackles were a starting tandem by the end of '03, so expect solid play and constant penetration from these two and the depth behind them. But redshirted sophomore Steven Harris will need to step up quick. He could again be a second-teamer depending on developments in spring ball. This position will develop and we will let you know what product Zook and Co. produce for the last end spot.

All but one starting LB graduated, and there are multiple sophomores (that were '03 backups) to flood into the void left. Lone-returner Channing Crowder will again excel as he did in his freshman explosion that made him the second best Gator tackler. Crowder is quick and instinctive, and has to rely on such with his smaller stature. But it works for him, and he is a grounding force who is rarely out of position. He did start as a redshirted freshman, so expect even more as the entire corps develops. Earl Everett is slated to be on the strong side, but his even-smaller frame means teams may have this side to bulldoze for ground success. But Everett, too, has played larger than his size, so we will just have to see if the large lines of the SEC have their way or not with this fleet group. Surely, the unit will excel at taking away underneath routes as they did in '03 to only allow opponents 6.6 yards per pass attempt.

Defensive Back
This area could cost the Gators their entire team effort. There is promise here…so we want to say that right off to save any chest-grabbing by the "Orange'n'Bluedom". Senior Cory Bailey is a ball-hawk at free safety, and will give the leadership cornerstone for any teamwork that may insue. But the entire starting crew departed, that's all four seniors, so expect little and be surprised if it ever jells back here. There are players who have logged real-game battle scars, just not enough to give promise for this area. Hope that Leak can give them enough seasoning in first-team battles this spring and summer. Things have to be clicking in the secondary as they get to Knoxville September 18th, or it will be time to check out www.fireRonZook.com again for the latest scourge.

This side of the ball is simple. When the back-seven, especially the secondary, doesn't take command and stop big plays (15+ yards) from happening, it will equal disaster. The entire defense really is undersized for major I-A competition, so this fast crew will have their work cut out for them to finish anywhere near 51st again for total defense (and they will not even be close to 28th in scoring defense). Keeping the play in front of them will be the challenge. This approach is the only way, for an overly aggressive tact would ultimately lead to youthful over-pursuit and foes exploiting the defense's over-matched secondary.


LB Channing Crowder


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Tranell Morant-Fr (6-5, 256) Joe Cohen-So (6-2, 266)
DT Marcus Thomas-So (6-3, 274) Eric Holcombe-Sr (6-2, 304)
DT Ray McDonald-So (6-3, 280) Kenny Parker-Jr (6-2, 306)
DE Steven Harris-So (6-4, 267) Jeremy Mincey-Jr (6-3, 258)
SLB Travis Harris-Sr (6-2, 251) Todd McCullough-Jr (6-5, 229)
MLB Channing Crowder-So (6-2, 241) Taurean Charles-So (6-1, 234)
WLB Earl Everett-So (6-2, 223) Howard Lingard-So (6-2, 210)
CB Dee Webb-So (5-11, 187) Jermaine McCollum-So (5-8, 184)
Vernell Brown-Jr (5-8, 155)
CB Reynaldo Hill-Sr (5-11, 185) DeShawn Carter-Jr (6-0, 210)
Tremaine McCollum-So (5-8, 170)
SS Cory Bailey-Sr (5-11, 190) Terrence Holmes-So (5-10, 195
FS Jarvis Herring-Jr (5-11, 198) Zephrin Augustine-Sr (5-10, 188)
P Eric Wilbur-So (6-1, 195) ..
Tranell Morant....MORE-ant Eric Holcombe....hole-come
Taurean Charles....TOUR-ee-ann
Zephrin Augustine....zef-rihn augus-teen




Sophomore Eric Wilbur will again be a big boost for those field position battles. The Florida coverage teams have to match his stellar performance levels, unlike last year when Florida ranked 45th in net punting while Wilbur ranked 8th in average distance. Defensive speed says this can happen, but the trends in the area say otherwise.

This area is a plus for Florida with senior Matt Leach coming back after converting 77%. Three-year returning kickoff specialist Matt Piotrowicz is unconventional in two ways - he kicks straight on (averages KOs to the 6) and is a leading special team's tackler, too. Coverage here too has to follow Matt's lead or risk putting an already-suspect defense in that many more proverbial holes.

Return Game
Andre Caldwell will be the focus here. His spring results will be reported, especially as to whether or not he inherits the punt runbacks also. Caldwell's marginal '03 KO results need not be a concern. But with so many speedsters in their corral, Ron Zook and Co. will give this area time.


Once again, the Gator offense will be dubbed 'explosive'. Under new offensive coordinator Larry Fedora's tutelage, Chris Leak threw for 335 yards in the spring game, averaging 22 yards per completion. Dallas Baker proved to be Leak's favorite target; the two hooked up three times for 176 yards. Reggie Lewis opened some eyes as well. The run game was also in high gear, with Ciatrick Fason galloping for 141 yards on 16 carries with three TDs. Back to Fedora, he comes over from Middle Tennessee State, where in the last three years, the Blue Raiders averaged 424 yards total offense and 31 points per game. We're telling you right now, this will be one of the best offenses in the country. One of the intangibles that will make this squad better is the fact that they are better conditioned and quicker than last year. Keep that in mind. Zook also feels the progress of his offensive line has come as expected and sincerely believes this group is a guaranteed improvement.

RSF DE Tranell Morant started staking his claim as the next dominating UF defensive lineman, nabbing two sacks in the final scrimmage, which put the finishing touches on a pleasant spring. Zook encouraged the QBs and receivers to pick on soph CB Dee Webb, in order to get him as much work and exposure as possible. He responded well and will be a key. Backup SS Terrence Holmes made the move from WR, a move that has worked well for both sides of the Gatorskin. He is a hitter in the secondary and does a great job at flying to the football. Look for incoming freshman DB Kyle Jackson to get some face time - he has been compared to former Gator standout Keiwan Ratliff.

DE Tranell Morant (rsf)
DE Brandon Daniel (fr)