When the Gators rolled into the 2006 season, there were some question marks at certain positions on their rosters, but not at the safety position. Now, with the loss of a potential starter in Avery Atkins, it caused a ripple effect with Reggie Nelson moving to cornerback, thus opening up a gap in the safeties slot.
The Gators are now looking to a veteran player to return to form from his excellent freshman season.
Kyle Jackson should start the season at free safety joined by Tony Joiner at strong safety. The cast of characters behind them is talented but young.
The safeties coach at Florida, John “Doc” Holliday, certainly would like have Nelson back in the fold. He knows he has a few good players that can fill a void if Nelson is forced to remain at the cornerback position.
“Right now I think we are going to start (Nelson) out at corner,” Holliday said. “We can always move him back if one of the young guys (at corner) steps up.”
Holliday has some veteran players that have played football that will start despite the loss of Nelson. He also has some talent behind them in case something were to happen to his starters.
“Kyle Jackson (6-1, 200, Jr.) has played a lot of football for us and he is our free safety,” Holliday said. “He can have a big year. Tony Joiner (5-11, 208, Jr.) is the starting strong safety. We have John Curtis (6-2, 200, So.), Dorian Munroe (6-0, 200, Fr.), Nick Brooks (6-0, 207, Sr.), and of course Bryan Thomas (6-2, 193, Fr.) in the mix. We just have to get started and see how it works out. I like all of those guys. They all have great work ethic and great attitudes, I am anxious to get started.”
Shaking the rust of the old guys and getting reps for the younger ones is something that the pre-season is for. Holliday understands pretty well what his starters bring to the table and is really anticipating the younger guys and all the backups getting their feet wet this fall.
“We are excited about them,” Holliday said. “We know about Kyle and Tony, but John Curtis had a broken hand all spring and a bad knee. Nick Brooks had a great off-season. Dorian Munroe being a young guy, he has a chance to grow up an awful lot. We are all excited about “B.T.” (Thomas). Chuck Heater and I talk about it all the time. We don’t have a lot of time and we have to get out there and work with them and get ready to roll.”
Munroe is a guy he got to work with this spring and Holliday likes what he sees from the young Miami native. Munroe is someone he plans on pushing this fall into a bigger role.
“Dorian needs to be more consistent,” Holliday said. “He has to help us on special teams. He has some athletic ability but I am anxious to see how much he helps us. I want to see how much he grew up over the summer. I want to see Sunday just where he is.”
What Holliday needs most is leadership from the more senior guys that have been there. He expects them to lead the younger and less experienced guys at the safety position and the entire defense on game day. As a result, Jackson and Joiner are expected to play a big part of a successful season in 2006.
“The safeties need to be leaders on the defense,” Holliday said. “We have challenged both of them to be that. Tony has accepted that challenge and both of them have to step up and do that. I expect it to happen with both.”
Redman Reaction: If Kyle Jackson can play like he did as a true freshman, Reggie Nelson can stay at cornerback and this will be a blockbuster defense. Tony Joiner is made for this defense as he will play in the box and he is an undersized quick linebacker playing the strong safety position anyway. The athleticism at the position as a whole is great and some of the best the Gators have had at the position in years. Look out for Bryan Thomas as a special teams weapon and one that will be hard to keep off the field.