Spring Recap: The Secondary
Over the past week, ITG has looked back at spring camp by examining how each position group fared over 15 practices. Today, we wrap the recap up by inspecting the defensive backs.
OVERVIEW: The reality right now in Florida's secondary is that there is Vernon Hargreaves III and then there is everyone else. In a way, it's only natural given Hargreaves' freshman season in which he took home a slew of awards and emerged as arguably the Gators' best player. That's not to say there isn't plenty of ability around him. It just means almost everything other than "CB 1" is wide open.
In a strange way, Hargreaves is something of a veteran heading into his second year. Competing for a starting job opposite him are two freshmen. The five players who competed for playing time at safety this spring have started a combined seven college games.
As could be expected, little was solved in a spring there were plenty of impressive plays but also a surplus of confusion, tackling issues and Will Muschamp tongue lashings. Florida left spring practice without defining a single starting position in the secondary aside from Hargreaves as the No. 1 corner.
Jabari Gorman and Keanu Neal seem to be favorites at safety, but Neal's sample size is small after missing much of spring with a hamstring injury. Brian Poole's natural role is at nickel in Muschamp's defense but he didn't do enough to run away with a starting job this spring.
THE STANDOUT: Enjoy Hargreaves while he's here, Gators fans. Barring some dramatic change in play or unfortunate incident, you'll get two more seasons of him. Hargreaves will be expected to be one of the premier cornerbacks in college football in 2014 and he looked like he's ready for the task during spring camp. I can count on two fingers the amount of big plays he gave up and neither came in 11-on-11 action. He was rewarded for his superiority by not having to play in the Orange & Blue Debut.
THE SURPRISE: Not many people talked about Duke Dawson, the early enrollee cornerback from Cross City, heading into spring. He left held in just as high of regard as five-star Under Armour All-American Jalen Tabor by the coaching staff. Dawson looked the part from day one and most importantly was a quick learner of the defense. Muschamp and Travaris Robinson spent extensive time working individually with Dawson, a sign of how much potential they feel he has. Dawson will at the very least see significant playing time in the fall. At best, he could compete for a starting job opposite Hargreaves.
DISAPPOINTING: Neal was a pleasant bright spot late in camp after returning from injury, but for the majority of 15 practices, safety play was average at best. Gorman - the lone senior - was the only player who seemed to truly grasp the numerous communication responsibilities Muschamp puts on the position he coaches closest. The good news is there is plenty of time for improvement and by the end of spring, players like Marcell Harris and Nick Washington seemed to be taking major strides.