Heater Not Surprised by Play of the Secondary

Eight interceptions in two games would qualify as a surprise for most secondary coaches across the country. Florida safeties coach Chuck Heater isn't one of those coaches. With the veterans playing in the secondary for the Gators, Heater expected to see a dominant unit.

"It happens because we've got some experienced guys back there who have played a lot of football," Chuck Heater said. "They see things quickly and anticipate things. I'm not totally surprised."

Within the Southeastern Conference, the Gators' eight interceptions double second-place Alabama's four. Florida has returned two interceptions for touchdowns, tied with Nebraska for the national lead.

Safety Ahmad Black leads Florida and the SEC with three interceptions and 20 tackles. Black is the active career leader in the SEC with eleven interceptions. He also leads the SEC among active players with 233 interception return yards, 88 more than Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks.

For a player once looked at as a throw in to the 2007 recruiting class, Black has become one of the most dynamic defenders in the SEC. Chris Rainey, John Brown, and Maurkice and Mike Pouncey overshadowed him in their time at Lakeland High School, likely because Black was undersized.

There isn't a player that has shown more consistency since taking a starting job in 2008. However, Heater admits to being a little skeptical of what Black could do when he first came to campus.

"Initially, we all had our eyes raised, but since then, he's turned into a really consistent player," Heater said. "He hasn't had many bad days around here. At the beginning, no one would've bought a lot of stock in him."

The Florida coaches now only get surprised when Black isn't in position. And that doesn't happen much.

It did happen Saturday against USF. Black tried to jump a route in the second half for an interception. He couldn't deflect the ball, and it resulted in a big play for USF that set up a touchdown.

"He could've had another pick Saturday on that long pass," Heater said. "I'm not sure how that ball got through there on that one play. If that play happens 100 times, he's going to make it 99. That was the one time."

Black's play in the pass defense won't be as important starting this weekend. The Gators expect to get free safety Will Hill back. The junior had a great offseason and drew praise from coaches and players. Now the team just wants to get him on the field, and it looks like that will happen in Knoxville.

"Yeah," Heater replied about Hill playing. "He's heading in that direction. Yeah."

Hill's teammates spoke all offseason about seeing a renewed commitment in the safety. Now that he has been suspended for the first two games, some questions have started to arise.

Heater isn't worried about Hill. They know the type of player he is, and the team is just excited to get him back.

"Those things happen," Heater said. "It's a long season. A month from now, no one will remember those first two weeks. You move forward, just like everything in life. That's what the plan and anticipation is now."

Hill came to campus dripping with potential. Reggie Nelson patrolled the secondary until 2006, covering the back third of the field. The Gators struggled to find a similar threat in 2007, and Hill was expected to be that guy as a freshman in 2008. He struggled to make an impact early, but Major Wright and Black settled into the starting roles.

This season, Hill will try to live up to the players who have lined up there in recent memory.

"That position here has high expectations," Heater said. "You're compared to Reggie Nelson and Major Wright."

Josh Evans started at free safety when Hill was out. The sophomore made mistakes, but he played well in his first significant playing time at safety.

"He did a nice job," Heater said. "He went in there and got us through. We always say you're one play away from playing all the time. He took coaching and got better. He functioned real well."
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