The Florida Gators were dealt a blow on Wednesday when Dan Mullen announced that redshirt sophomore safety Quincy Lenton would miss the entire season due to a torn Achilles tendon.
The Gators aren’t just without Lenton right now either. Safety Jeawon Taylor missed the spring with a shoulder injury and, while he has been at practice this fall, has been held out of contact drills. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was in a non-contact jersey Wednesday and cornerback C.J. McWilliams was in a walking boot and crutches at practice as well. Safety Shawn Davis was not at practice either.
It leaves the Gators very thin in the secondary and caused freshman running back Iverson Clement to make a move, temporarily, to the defensive backfield.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys kind of banged up,” Mullen said of the positions. “That’s a place where we don’t have a lot of depth. Great for him. He’s a running back still. He’s just a great team guy who is going to take some reps so we can get through all the reps we need in practice. I think it’s really unselfish in his part to go over there and help the team out and fill in. We just don’t have enough bodies right now.”
Florida could afford to move the freshman from running back to safety. Running back is arguably the deepest position on the field next to pass rushers. Clement would have had a hard time stealing reps away from Jordan Scarlett, who should be a workhorse this year, Lamical Perine, Malik Davis and Dameon Pierce. He’s much more needed in the secondary, especially now with two more weeks left of fall camp.
Clement isn’t new to the position. He played cornerback in high school and some schools around the country were actually recruiting him to play defensive back, including Ohio State.
The front line looks great with sophomores Marco Wilson and C.J. Henderson taking either spot on the outside and Gardner-Johnson playing nickel. Freshman Trey Dean has been a bright spot and would be the third cornerback on the depth chart as of now. Taylor should be back for the season and would presumably fill in at one of the safety spots with sophomore Brad Stewart next to him. After that it’s thin and could be a cause for concern, especially now, in the middle of fall camp.
Wednesday Mullen was asked about depth at receiver but his answer is certainly applicable for where the secondary is right now.
“Depth is important also because you get into depth and you say, oh, someone gets hurt and another guy is ready because you have depth,” he said. “Well depth allows you to prevent guys from getting hurt in the first place because you can roll more players through and they have to play less plays and they get to stay healthy.”
Right now the cornerbacks and safeties are getting more reps than they know what to do with based on sheer numbers.