He was a consensus five-star prospect from Wharton high school in Tampa, Florida, co-MVP at the Under Armour All-American Game, was named the defensive player of the year at the 58th annual Touchdown Club of Columbus Awards, was named the MVP of the IMG 7-v-7 National Championship and was the Class 8A defensive player of the year in Florida.
However, like all freshmen when they arrive to college, all of those high school stats, awards and accolades are thrown out of the window. Freshmen go from being the big man on campus one year to the low man on the totem poll the next.
For some, it’s an adjustment that takes time. Getting used to doing things like laundry, cooking for yourself and living on your own take time to get used to and no matter what classes you take in high school, college courses are a whole different ball game. Freshmen also need to learn how to be responsible. Mom and dad aren’t sitting in your dorm room to make sure you go to bed on time and take care of all of your schoolwork. When freshmen can successfully juggle and balance all of that, they’re then tasked with playing a game that is significantly faster than they have ever played before.
Some sink, some tread water and some swim but not many come out of the gates like Vernon Hargreaves III has done in just his first two games.
Even the most casual of Gator fans knew who Hargreaves was even before he put on his blue jersey and ran out onto Florida Field against Toledo. The expectations were sky high, unfair and impossible to meet. That is, until he met and exceeded them.
“The first thing is he’s really smart,” Will Muschamp said of Hargreaves. “He’s a guy that really works at the game. He comes in and watches a lot of tape. There’s a reason why he’s playing well. God’s blessed him with a lot of athleticism, but he works at the mental side of the game, where a lot of young players, it’s very hard to. They’ve been so much better than everyone else, so it really doesn’t matter. And they think their athleticism, they’re just gonna beat the opponent because they’ve always been better. And that’s not how he has approached it.”
Muschamp is dead on with that statement. For a player like Hargreaves, he’s always been athletically gifted and more talented than most of the people he has played with or against. It’s easy to rest on your athleticism, especially when that is enough to get the job done in high school. It’s hard, especially for a young player, to realize that skill and athleticism will only take you so far. Being the son of a college coach has helped Hargreaves in this aspect. He knows how to watch film and has instincts on the field that you simply can’t teach.
Hargreaves has not only impressed his head coach and the fans, but he’s made an impression on his teammates as well.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a freshman come in their first two games and get an interception,” Senior Jaylen Watkins said. “Big-time plays, too. We’re very proud of him and fortunate to have him.”
Watkins can’t remember a freshman getting interceptions in their first two games because it hasn’t happened in record books dating back to 2006. Hargreaves is the first true freshmen to start his career with interceptions in his first two games and the first player — player, not freshmen — to start the season off with at least one interception in the first two games of the season since Ahmad Black did in 2012 — his senior season. Hargreaves has only played in two games, hasn’t started one, but already leads the team in interceptions.
Speaking about Hargreaves on Monday, Muschamp again noted how Hargreaves never asked him about the depth chart while he was being recruited. That made a big impression on the head ball coach. Muschamp said that Hargreaves has the confidence you need to be successful and play cornerback.
“He had a lot of confidence in his abilities to come in here and play right away,” Msuchamp said. “That’s a great thing. I think it shows you his confidence. In order to play corner, especially the way we play, you better be a confident guy. And it shows confidence in his ability. He’s very comfortable with who he is and with his ability.”
In the new depth chart released on Monday for the Tennessee week, Hargreaves is listed as the backup at both cornerback positions as well as the back up nickel back. Despite not being listed as a starter, Hargreaves role on the team will continue to grow if he keeps performing the way he has through the first two games.
“We’ll play freshman when they’re ready. And this guy is ready, that’s bottom line. He’s been productive in practice. He’s been productive in games,” Muschamp said of Hargreaves. “I’m young but I am old-fashioned that it doesn’t just snap on game day and all the sudden it happens and the guy plays really good. He produces in practice every single day, going back to camp from Day 1 all the way through until he was injured. Then he came back off his injury and he was productive again. Then he does it on game day. That’s why he is playing and really a guy that is going to be in the rotation as far as starting.”