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April 8, 2011
Many spring game stars went on to stellar UF careers
What to watch for (part II) | Temper your expectations for spring game | UF hosting many top visitors this weekend | O&B Debut: What to watch for (part I) | Orange & Blue News | New staff expecting positional flexibility among players | Powell committed to UF, will take visits | Top wide out Dunkley suspended | Rivals250 Black visits Florida, again | Commitment No. 9 - Gators steal one from Miami | Williams is finding out he fits in | ITG Recruiting Roundtable | Go Inside the War Room - Recruiting TidbitsFlorida Football & Recruiting:
It seems like it happens every year.
Someone comes from out of nowhere to have a huge spring game.
When the Orange and Blue Debut finishes Saturday afternoon, it's possible a few of the players will have had career days in a game that doesn't count.
But not every superior spring game showing should be disregarded as nothing more than an impressive scrimmage performance.
Often, it's a sign of future things to come.
Here's a look at the 10 best spring-game performances over the last 10 years of Florida football and whether the single-game spring showings proved to be a flash in the pan, or a flash of the future.
Spring Game Star: Jermaine Cunningham - 2007
Stat line: Four tackles, three sacks.
Verdict: Flash of the future. Cunningham was coming off a freshman season where he barely played and recorded just two tackles. After a huge spring game, he went on to a stellar sophomore campaign as one of the bright spots on an inconsistent 2007 unit. Cunningham became a three-year starter at defensive end and recorded 18 sacks over his final three seasons as a Gator.
Spring Game Star: Emmanuel Moody - 2008
Stat line: 14 carries, 111 yards, one touchdown.
Verdict: Flash in the pan. Moody's debut in Orange and Blue couldn't have went better. The Southern California transfer broke the century mark in his first game after sitting out the 2007 season, but it wasn't a sign of things to come. Plagued by injuries and fumble issues, the running back would never top the 459-yard mark he posted as a freshman at USC in any of his three seasons as a Gator. Moody recorded big yards per carry numbers his sophomore and junior seasons (7.2 and 6.5), before regressing as a senior (4.0). He scored just four touchdowns for Florida.
Spring Game Star: Frankie Hammond Jr. - 2009
Stat line: Four catches, 131 yards, two touchdowns. One rush, nine yards.
Verdict: To be determined. Hammond posted the same amount of catches (four) during his 2009 redshirt freshman season as he did in that impressive 2009 spring game. Still, he caught 22 passes for 276 yards last year and is a likely opening day starter this year. The verdict is still out on Hammond.
Spring Game Star: Carlos Dunlap - 2008
Stat line: Six tackles, four sacks.
Verdict: Flash of the future. Like Cunningham, Dunlap was coming off a quiet freshman season before his spring breakout. The 6-foot-6 defensive end logged back-to-back nine-sack seasons before leaving early for the NFL Draft.
Spring Game Star: Dallas Baker - 2005
Stat line: Six catches, 134 yards, three touchdowns.
Verdict: Flash of the future. The Touchdown Maker already had a nice 26-catch, 410-yard season in the books before his monster 2005 spring game. (It's also worth noting that Baker recorded three catches for 176 yards the previous spring game.) And after a solid junior season, Baker hauled in 60 catches for 920 yards and 10 touchdowns as the best receiving threat on the 2006 national championship team as a senior. And it all started with his spring success.
Spring Game Star: Trey Burton - 2010
Stat line: 10 carries, 123 yards, two rushing touchdowns. 12-for-18 passing, 120 yards, one passing touchdown, one interception.
Verdict: Flash of the future. Regardless of what happens in the final three seasons of Burton's career, as a true freshman the three-star recruit notched just short of 600 total yards from scrimmage while scoring 12 touchdowns. There's a chance Burton never has another season as good statistically, but it would be hard to call him a bust considering how much he's already exceeded expectations.
Spring Game Star: Chris Leak - 2005
Stat line: 14-for-20 passing, 221 yards, four touchdowns.
Verdict: Flash of the future. Leak already had two full seasons as the starter under his belt before his big 2005 spring game, so it's hard to compare him to the other players on this list because he was well established. The four-year starter earned a lot of criticism for never living up to his recruiting buzz. But he went on to quarterback a national championship team. What more can anyone really ask for?
Spring Game Star: Ciatrick Fason - 2004
Stat line: 16 carries, 141 yards, three touchdowns. Two catches, 11 yards.
Verdict: Flash of the future. C4 had a nice year in 2003 in the running-back rotation, rushing for 583 yards and catching for another 142. But his incredible 2004 spring game was the beginning of a great junior season for Fason. As the primary back, he rushed for 1,267 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 22 passes for 266 yards and two more scores. He declared for the NFL Draft after that season and remains the last Gator to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season.
Spring Game Star: Josh Portis - 2005
Stat line: 20-for-30 passing, 253 yards, four touchdowns, one interception. Eight carries, 39 yards.
Verdict: Flash in the pan. Portis, a highly touted high school prospect, played his only season at Florida as a backup in 2005 before transferring to Maryland for the 2006 season. At Maryland, he sat out a year under transfer rules, sat out the following year as a result of a suspension and then spent 2008 as a backup before transferring yet again. This time to California University of Pennsylvania, a Division II school. Portis went on to set school records at his final destination before once again being suspended for off-the-field behavior. He's hoping to hear his name called on draft day this year. Regardless of whether he makes it to the NFL, Portis obviously never panned out as a Gator.
Spring Game Star: John Brantley - 2009
Stat line: 20-for-26 passing, 265 yards, three passing touchdowns, one interception. Nine carries, 23 yards, two rushing touchdowns.
Verdict: To be determined. Had Brantley decided not to return to Florida for his senior season, his UF career undoubtedly would've been seen as a disappointment. After his huge 2009 spring game, he backed up Tim Tebow for another season before finally becoming the starter as a junior last year. Brantley posted a 116.35 quarterback rating in 2010 and threw more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (nine). Brantley's legacy as a Gator will be determined by how he performs in his final season under new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Will his incredible 2009 spring game prove to be a flash in the pan or a flash of the future? Like everyone else on this list, time will tell.
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