Austin Looking for the Freshmen to Stand Out

A hyper-extended elbow for Moses Jenkins wiped out the depth Florida had at cornerback. Janoris Jenkins and Jeremy Brown have the starting spots locked down, but one of three freshmen would be the next body off the bench. It's not an ideal scenario for defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, but a tough week of practice is aiming to prepare the young players.

"The state of the freshmen address," Teryl Austin said with a grin. "We'll find out Saturday. We've been pushing them hard this week trying to find out who is going to step up."

However, no freshman has stood out through Wednesday's practice. Austin has been impressed with their week of practices, but he still isn't sure which of Cody Riggs, Joshua Shaw or Jaylen Watkins would be the first off the bench.

"Your guess is as good as mine," Austin said. "Those three young are all working hard. I've been rotating them around to get them ready to play on Saturday. It'll probably go down to game time before we decide."

Inexperience at cornerback is a recipe for disaster when facing a dual-threat quarterback like USF's B.J. Daniels. The redshirt sophomore can throw on the run or stand in the pocket and pick opposing defenses apart. The cornerbacks must stay disciplined because Daniels can extend play into big gains.

"He can do a lot of stuff," Austin said. "He's an outstanding talent. He throws the ball well and he runs. For game planning, the thing you have to try to do is limit him getting out of the pocket and into space."

Austin hasn't been forced to game plan for many dual-threat quarterbacks during his tenure in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals. Luckily for him, there are coaches at Florida who have plenty of experience with it.

"That's why I have Coach McCarney and Coach Heater," Austin said. "They've seen the best dual-threat quarterback in the country for the last four years right here. They have an idea of how to handle a guy like that, and I've really been leaning on them this week."

It would be one thing if Daniels was throwing to an average group of wide receivers. However, the Florida coaches don't see that on tape. Despite the graduation of key playmakers, the Bulls still have playmakers capable of winning one-on-one battles.

"They lost some guys, but they have some big guys who can really run," Austin said. "They have talented people. They're real similar to us on defense with young guys that have an opportunity to show what kind of players they are."

Defensive line coach Dan McCarney spoke Wednesday about the desire to get back up players in the rotation more often. With defensive ends Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmens playing just under 50 plays a game, they can't perform at a high level late in the game. Continuing to find depth is the issue.

"They're banging (on the defensive line) while the secondary guys are running around," Austin said. "It's really those guys up front because they're taking on double teams and getting cut every play. It's important to have depth and then rotate it."

Jaye Howard will be a tough player to take off the field. He gives Austin a pass rusher from the interior of the defensive line, something the Gators have struggled to find in recent seasons. His two-sack performance against Miami (OH) is only the tip of his potential.

"He had a good game," Austin said. "He played really hard and showed some of the hard work he put in in the offseason. He's a big, athletic guy. If he uses proper technique, he'll make some plays."

The back end of the defense features an undersized safety, Ahmad Black, who usually flies under the radar. That didn't happen when Austin sat down to watch film on the Florida defense after taking the job as defensive coordinator. Austin was forced to ask the rest of the defensive staff a question.

"Who's that little guy running around?" Austin said with a grin.

Austin knew immediately that he had a special player on his team. What Black lacks in size, he makes up for with his play and leadership.

"What you see on film is a guy who is a dynamite player," Austin said. "He's not the biggest guy, he's not the fastest guy, but you talk about a football player and that's what you see. He's not a height, weight and speed guy. Sometimes guys that are small play small. He's not. He's a small guy who plays big."
Follow Cody Jones on

Fightin Gators Top Stories