Our pre-spring position by position previews for the Gators’ roster concludes this afternoon with the secondary:
Synopsis: Vernon Hargreaves, dearly departed, has left a gaping hole in the defensive backfield of Defensive Back University. But Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson appear to be more than capable of filling his shoes at the two corner spots. Elsewhere, Marcus Maye returns to patrol the backfield at his safety spot, and the search is on to find the replacement for fellow safety Keanu Neal.
What to watch for: This unit was shredded in both the SEC Championship Game and in the Citrus Bowl. You can bet they’ll hear about both those games from the coaches. But with Hargreaves- who was responsible for many of the blunders in those games- gone, it’s up to Jalen Tabor and Marcus Maye to become the new leaders. This isn’t so much of a question mark as it is me taking the title of this section literally: I can’t wait to see how they do as leaders of the prestigious secondary at the University of Florida.
Dark horse: Duke Dawson recorded a pick six in his first game as a Gator; since then, he’s more or less faded into the backs of our minds. But he packs quite a punch and could lay you out if you lose track of him. The question is where he’ll play, not if. His range and big hit ability make him ideal for safety, and that’s where he’ll likely play on day one. That is, of course, assuming incoming freshman Chauncey Gardner is ready to play nickel back upon arrival. If not, the nickel back spot will be Dawson’s.
Projected starters: CB1: Jalen Tabor, CB2: Quincy Wilson, SS: Marcus Maye, FS: Nick Washington, Nickel: Duke Dawson. I have little doubt that Gardner will see playing time immediately, if only in certain situations. The good news is, Florida’s deep enough back here to play some sort of unheard of fourteen man rotation and they’d be fine. Tabor, Wilson and Maye appear to be locked into their respective positions, but in regards to the nickel and free safety spots, nothing would surprise me.
Summary: Florida. Is. Just. Loaded. As many as eight DB’s on the 2016 roster could find themselves on NFL rosters someday* (listed below) and though some of them are young, it just goes to show how deep the Gators are back here. Then again, Florida was just as talented in the secondary last year, and had their DBU status seriously threatened with a few bad performances. New DB coach Torrian Gray certainly got a playpen filled with toys. Now let’s see just what he can built with it.
*Tabor, Wilson, Washington, Maye, Dawson, Gardner, Marcell Harris, and Quincy Lenton.