With the Orange and Blue Debut in the rear view, the Florida Gators football team enters the doldrums of the off-season. The team will workout together through the off season with the strength and conditioning staff but Jim McElwain and his coaching staff are solely focused on recruiting with the spring evaluation period beginning.
With that in mind Gator Country will go over where the current roster stands, what the depth chart looks like, and how the 13 incoming freshmen will fit in at their positions when they arrive on campus in June.
So far we’ve covered quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, defensive ends, defensive tackles, linebackers and tight ends. Today we head back to defense to take a look at DBU, starting with cornerbacks.
Junior — Jalen Tabor
Junior — Quincy Wilson
Junior — Duke Dawson
Sophomore — Chris Williamson
Freshman — McArthur Burnett
Questions heading into spring
Obviously the Gators are replacing a special talent in Vernon Hargreaves III, but should be in very good hands with Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor, but DBU wasn’t built on two, would there be depth?
What we learned
There isn’t depth, a question I posed to junior Quincy Wilson at face value.
“Is there any depth at cornerback, or are Jalen and yourself going to have to play more snaps this season,” I asked.
“No,” Wilson answered during spring practice. “There’s not really that much depth, so we all gotta stay healthy.”
Tabor is an All-American and Quincy Wilson can play at that level as well. Florida’s two starting cornerbacks can matchup with any other two in the country; you roll them out there every week without a second thought or concern. Duke Dawson fits into that starting group as well. Dawson, the lesser talked about cornerback from the 2014 recruiting class has come into his own as Florida’s starting nickelback. You feel as good about these three players as anybody feels about their secondary.
After those three, there’s a huge drop-off, not necessarily in talent, although certainly the younger players are not at the level of Tabor or Wilson yet, but in experience and confidence. You and I have played as many snaps as the rest of the cornerbacks put together on the roster after the three starters.
Chris Williamson really emerged this spring as the fourth best cornerback option but rotating him in won’t be like the rotation last year, when Hargreaves, Wilson and Tabor rotated. Williamson is long and strong, he did a much better job of pressing at the line and being more physical, but he was prone to get beat at times this spring.
McArthur Burnett really struggled at times this spring. He’s a very athletic player but you could tell that he was swimming this spring. Struggling with the mental part of the game led Burnett to have to think more, slowing him down on the field. He was visibly discouraged during practices when he would get beat in a rep and again during the spring game. He has a long way to go before he’s ready to be a real contributor for the defense.
It’s pretty straightforward at cornerback. You have two potential first round talents starting on either side of the field, and maybe one backup. You have a very good nickel, but there just isn’t any depth at the position. That’s what happens when you recruit well and guys leave early, losing JC Jackson and Deiondre Porter unexpectedly before last season didn’t exactly help Florida’s depth this season.
The low numbers do open up potential early playing time for Joseph Putu. It remains to be seen where Florida will play Putu, but given how new Putu is to the game of football, it may be an easier transition for him to play cornerback rather than safety.
Chris McWilliams is a developmental type of prospect. McWilliams best bet to get on the field and avoid a redshirt in 2016 is if he can make an impact on special teams, but he would benefit from a year to grow, mature and get stronger in the weight room.