The Florida Gators are less than a week away from starting maybe the most contested spring practice in recent Florida football history. With nine starters gone from the national championship defense and six players exiting on offense, the young talent on the 2007 version of the Gators is going to have a real chance to shine. Today we start with a preview of the cornerback position.
Both starting corners from 2006 may be off to the NFL as Reggie Lewis and Ryan Smith both have resumes that could get them there. The twelve interceptions between them will be missed as well as the sound defense played by back up Tremaine McCollum. To say the Gators are young at the cornerback position would be more than a mild understatement.
Cornerback may be the most important position on either side of the ball for the spring to establish the pecking order on the field. The position is supposedly not a tough one to learn under the current coaching staff, but it does require certain physical tools to make the position one of strength. There is a decent number of players to work with in forming a depth chart and Chuck Heater has his hands full doing just that.
When talking about this year’s version of cornerback, the conversation probably should begin with Markihe Anderson (5-9, 175). A true sophomore from Ft. Myers, Anderson actually gets first mention by default. He happens to be the returning cornerback with the most experience in the secondary, but that experience was very limited. Anderson saw action on defense in only a handful of games in 2006 and although he played aggressive, he was lost at times.
The aggressive nature may be what got Anderson on the field faster than most and it is something the staff has to like. With the older guys gone and all the playing time available, look for the other players at the position to step up their intensity and make Anderson work to stay ahead of them.
The second most returning experience at the position would be true sophomore Wondy Pierre-Louis (6-1, 185) of Naples. Pierre-Louis is a physical specimen and his speed and very physical play made him a big time special teams player for the Gators in 2006.
If Jacques Rickerson (5-10, 176) of St. Augustine can keep his attitude straight, he has a real chance to make something happen on the field this spring. Rickerson was at the top of the recruiting board in the class of 2006 at the cornerback position and showed a lot of great physical attributes in his first two weeks as a Gator last summer. Not conforming to team rules has set him back a bit so far, but he may have turned the corner on those problems and has a chance to compete with the rest of them for a starting spot. Rickerson has had some problems with his knee, which was drained recently. He should be 100 percent before the end of spring practice.
Ahmad Black (5-9, 185) of Lakeland brings a wining attitude and leadership ability to the field as a true freshman that enrolled early at Florida. Black played free safety in high school, but has many of the physical traits that his more highly heralded teammate Chris Rainey possesses. Black was a true leader at Lakeland and has been reported to have the same characteristic since his arrival in Gainesville. He will definitely compete for a spot in the rotation although he is slowed initially by a hamstring pull.
Markus Manson (6-0, 210) Hoover (AL) may make the move from running back to corner. The coaches are discussing the move and Manson has apparently asked about making a switch so he can get on the field. He has speed and athletic ability that may translate well to the defensive side of the ball after three frustrating years (redshirt plus freshman and sophomore years) at running back.
Joe Haden (5-11, 198) of Ft. Washington (MD) has entered discussions as an athlete capable of playing on both sides of the ball. He’s a wide receiver that has enough speed and agility to play both sides of the ball. He’s also very strong, benching 400 pounds. Don’t be surprised to see him get work on defense in the spring.
In all the Gator coaching staff has found a way to have decent numbers at the cornerback position, especially for a spring semester. The experience just doesn’t exist, but it is a very athletically talented group that has a chance to be molded into a very special one. The cornerback position will be a fun one o watch develop this spring at Florida.