By Nick de la Torre
In the eighth and final installment of our spring football position battles preview we take a look at safety. The loss of both Josh Evans and Matt Elam leaves a huge hole in the Gators secondary. As strong as the Gators are at cornerback, they are inexperienced and unproven at safety.
In Elam and Evans the Gators are losing 159 tackles, 16 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, 7 interceptions, 8 pass breakups and a forced fumble. And that’s just from 2012. Let’s take a look at how Florida will try to replace all that production in 2013.
Brian Poole, So.
Poole impressed the coaching staff as a freshman and cross-trained at both safety and nickel. With the huge opening at safety, Poole could make a permanent move back to safety.
Poole is an instinctive player with a nose for the ball. He’s solid against the run and a wrap-up tackler. While he didn’t fill up the stat sheet last season, he saw action in every game with the exception of Bowling Green, as a freshman.
Jabari Gorman, Jr.
Gorman is one of the more experienced players at safety. He has seen action in 25-of-26 games since he’s been on campus. Gorman recorded his first career interception last season against South Carolina.
Valdez Showers, R-So.
Showers has found a home on special teams and seen some time at safety. While he spent most of his time on special teams in 2012, Showers is an early favorite to earn one of the two starting spots in spring practice.
Marcus Maye, R-Fr.
Maye took a redshirt as a freshman but impressed the coaching staff with his play during practice, especially during bowl preparation.
Maye is behind the other players due to his inexperience, but a solid spring could go a long way towards earning him playing time next season.
While it is likely that at least one starter will come from the group above, they’re not the sexy names that Florida brought in the 2013 recruiting class. Players like Marcell Harris, Keanu Neal and Nick Washington will all enroll in the summer and if they can acclimate to college life and the speed of the game quickly, they could contend for playing time as freshmen.
Of the group listed above, Brian Poole should come away from spring practice with a starting spot. He is talented as both a run-stopper and coverage in pass protection. Expect to see Gorman start to separate himself with Poole as we get into practice but for both of them to have several freshmen pushing them during the rest of the offseason.