Poole hoping to break out

Brian Poole was always close to the field last year. He came to campus as a five-star cornerback and joined a deep secondary in Gainesville, but he was always named as a possibility to get on the field. Without as much depth at cornerback, Poole might've been on the field more. His strong bowl practice earned him a start in the Sugar Bowl, but he's expecting a bigger impact in 2013.

Things started to change in bowl preparation. It happens every year with at least one player. In bowl practices before the Gator Bowl following the 2011 season, it was Loucheiz Purifoy that took the next step. He earned the start in the bowl game and turned that into a starting position at cornerback for the 2012 season.

It was Poole's name that was tossed around in the same light before the Sugar Bowl.

It's easy to see why. He came to Gainesville as the No. 2 cornerback in the country with a five-star ranking, just needing some playing time. Once he got extended time in bowl prep as the Gators prepared for the game and the 2013 season, Poole started to take the next step.

"I was just a lot more comfortable," Brian Poole said. "I had learned the defense so I felt a lot more comfortable."

Learning the defense didn't come without some down moments. Poole had to fight through new experiences during the 2012 season, most notably being on the bench. He wasn't used to that Southeast High School in Bradenton. Poole was always on the field then, and despite the secondary depth at Florida, that's what he wanted in 2012.

It didn't go that way.

"I really got to learn a lot last year. It was tough some Saturdays. That was the biggest thing," Poole said. "I still had to learn a lot, everything like that. Now I'm ready to take off this year."

The veterans in the secondary were able to keep him grounded through the battle, especially Matt Elam.

"He really kind of took me under his wing and kept me grounded," Poole said. "He sat down and broke down film with me and told me what to look for. It helped me a lot and really kept me into it."

That wisdom is paying off this spring, as Poole is currently the starter at the nickel position in the Florida defense. It's the same spot that Elam occupied because it got him closer to the line of scrimmage.

The similarities between the two don't stop there.

Elam played at 5-10, 202 pounds during last season while Poole heads into this year at 5-10, 203 pounds. Poole is still spending some of his time in practice at cornerback, but with the added depth there and more experienced players at safety, the nickel spot is the best way to get him on the field this season.

Poole admitted that sitting behind Elam might've been the best thing for his future. He was able to watch Elam prepare in the film room and at practice while seeing how he took care of his body for the beating it took at the nickel position.

"That's the blueprint," Poole said of sitting and watching Elam's play. "You've just got to do what he did -- way easier said than done. But I feel like I can bring it. I'm a big hitter, too. I feel like we shouldn't take a step back with that."

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