Florida’s Jekyll and Hyde

When talking of Florida sophomore sensation Vernon Hargreaves, you think about a football player that has taken his fan base by storm, along with a lot of the SEC and the country. Three interceptions in his first four games he played as a true freshman got Hargreaves career off to a huge start and he's headed only up after finishing with freshman All-American honors. It’s just part of his story.

So, is Vernon Hargreaves the uber-confident guy he appears to be on the football field or is he the polished student athlete that is like the kid next door with his humility and unassuming personality. The answer is yes.

It appears that Florida’s All-American sophomore cornerback has somewhat of an internal dichotomy that can be changed from one phase t another depending on whether his current focus is football or not.

Hargreaves is a quality student and a guy that likes to be around people period. They don’t have to be stars on the football field or the cheerleaders, he is just a people person, a quality that is hard to find sometimes in someone with his stature.

Florida junior quarterback Jeff Driskel hasn’t seen many like him in his three plus years on campus. He was quick to point out the different ‘phases’ of Hargreaves to the media gathered for SEC Media Days on Monday in Hoover (Ala.).

"When you have a true freshman who knows the defense better than anybody else on the defensive side of the ball, you know you’ve got something,” Driskel started. “He’s got all the mental tools and obviously all the physical tools to be the best corner in college football. He has a different level of confidence where you don’t recognize the confidence walking down the street. On the field, his body language. He just knows how to play the game and it’s obvious. He’s wise beyond his years."

He’s just an altogether different animal of a football prospect. Vernon Hargreaves is the son of a college football coach and he plays the game like he’s been doing it for 10 years at the college level. But, there was still some trepidation when he was able to take the field early in his freshman year. He came to Florida knowing and expecting his playing time as a freshman might be limited because of two juniors that were NFL bound, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Especially after defensive backs’ coach Travaris Robinson got him in camp.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Hargreaves said about his arrival at Florida. “I didn’t know how well I was going to adjust to the game. I just went with it. Coming in I didn’t think I would do that well because I had Marcus and Loucheiz in front of me. But, T-Rob told me he was going to give me a chance and I got my chance.

By my second start against Kentucky I felt comfortable and knew what I could do. Marcus and Loucheiz were telling me I was good enough to play. My coaches were telling me. From there I just built my own confidence.”

That confidence was going to happen and it is paramount according to Hargreaves.

“Just playing corner, you have to be confident in yourself and your abilities,” he said. “That is just the person I am.”

Now his early playing time, confidence and overall ability has thrust him into a leadership role. He is nly 12 games out of high school and he is the unabashed leader in a secondary that loses three other starters. Hargreaves is ready for it.

“I feel like it is my responsibility to take them under my wing and show them the ropes,” he said of the less experienced guys in the secondary. “They are young and have to play, so it is definitely my responsibility to get them to play.

“I just help them and talk to them, get them in the play book. They are young, I need to get them up to speed and am taking responsibility for that. It doesn’t matter if I am ready, I have to do it.”

So far the young guys on campus have been listening and that bodes well for 2014.

“They are all coming along,” Hargreaves said. “We are all in the playbooks and being what we can be.”

One newcomer is true freshman Jalen Tabor. The cornerback from Washington D.C. started the entire spring at the position and is expected to be in that sot when the season starts. Hargreaves knows Tabor has some talent.

“I love Jalen, he is a great player and has great confidence already,” Hargreaves said. “He understands he has to play and I am excited to see him. He’s real rangy, understands the game and wants to play.”

This is a huge season for Florida. The Gators are coming off a 4-8 season, they have an embattled head coach, and attention seems to be on them for a lot of the wrong reasons. Hargreaves says the boys are just preparing to play the games as usual.

“I don’t think there is that much of a change,” he said. “We just know what is at stake, know what we have to do, and have to take care of business. We are focusing on this year and being the best we can be.”

The cool, calm, and collected sophomore that turns into a Tasmanian devil on the football field is as poised as ever in the eyes of the storm that is the 2014 season.

“For me it is just about getting better,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

Fightin Gators Top Stories