Florida Gators junior linebacker Vosean Joseph has been laying hard hits like it’s his day job since he arrived on campus in 2016. But a hit for the highlight tape every few games was about all that could be expected from him.
On the rest of his plays, it was a bit more unpredictable. He would always fly around and give a great effort, but none of that mattered if he had no idea where he was going and overran the play.
Since Dan Mullen, Christian Robinson and the rest of this staff got their hands on him, he has become a student of the game. He’s watching film, taking in everything the coaches are teaching in practice and working hard to become a more consistent player.
He’s reverted to his old ways at times this season, but there is no denying the drastic improvements Joseph has made.
“I think he’s a guy that’s growing and learning about the defense,” Mullen said. “I know he’s really athletic and he plays really, really hard, plays with a reckless abandon out on the field. You see him fly around. But also, because of that, he gets himself out of position at times, too. So, I think what you’re starting to see is a guy that understands, hey, don’t lose how hard I play, don’t lose the speed I play with or the reckless abandon I play with out there on the field. But I also have to understand I need to be in the right place at the right time and execute as well.”
He displayed that against LSU on Saturday with a career best performance. Joseph finished with a team-high 14 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two of Florida’s five sacks.
That earned him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors as well as the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week.
Through six games this season, Joseph has nearly met his tackle total from a year ago (55), when he finished with the third most on a struggling Florida defense. He’s also surpassed his number of tackles for loss from 2017 (4) with 6.5 so far this season.
Now, his 42 tackles are good enough to lead a defense that seems to get better each and every week.
That may come as a surprise to some after watching him in his first two seasons with the Gators, but it is not a surprise to his teammates. As he’s become a smarter player, he’s also become a more confident player, and they have been watching that transformation take place for a while now.
“He’s always been able to move to the ball and get around to the ball,” said fellow junior linebacker David Reese. “He’s just confident in what he’s doing, so he’s able to make plays way faster and know where he’s going. Once you tell that guy what to do, he’s gonna get there probably as fast as anybody in the country.”
Mullen talked on Monday about players who were underdeveloped when he took over, and Joseph was one of those guys. He’s always had the skillset, but now that he has taken the time to develop that skillset, he is quickly becoming one of Florida’s best defensive weapons.