Tabor helping anchor Gators’ secondary

Jalen Tabor felt like he was only scratching the surface while playing as a freshman last season.

He had his big games, specifically in his first start at Tennessee when he had five tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and fumble recovery. However, he still split starts the rest of the season with Quincy Wilson as the two battled it out for the cornerback spot opposite of All-American Vernon Hargreaves III.

This fall, that battle is still going on. The two downplay it because they both know they’ll be on the field plenty of Florida this fall, and they give the Gators a loaded group of cornerbacks.

Tabor wanted to make sure he was ready for his sophomore season, knowing he’d be counted on to produce throughout the year instead of just one half of the season as he was during his freshman year. To make that happen, Tabor decided to take the weight room seriously with new strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Kent.

“Coach Kent, my favorite coach,” Jalen Tabor said. “I really just bought into his program. It’s tough but I knew that it was for the better. I really was just working with Coach Kent and the strength coaches, buying into everything he said.”

He focused on the nutritional aspect of improving his strength, but the changes had everything to do with the work in the weight room. He played at 190 pounds last season and heads into this season at 200 pounds. Despite those extra 10 pounds, Tabor feels like he actually is quicker and faster than last season.

The players have raved this fall about what Kent has brought to the team. Former strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Dillman focused on more of an Olympic style of weightlifting, but Tabor said Kent’s workouts are “more football related” and help the players feel stronger and faster on the field.

“(Kent’s) going to do more stuff that’s related to football as where Dillman was just getting you bigger, stronger, faster,” Tabor said. “Coach Kent does different types of movements and stuff; different types of lifts, different types of exercises that correlate to the game of football. I feel like other teams and fans and everybody else, when they watch us play, they’ll see the difference that Coach Kent has made in the program.”

The added weight is noticeable with the Florida secondary. See the cornerbacks walking around the field -- especially Tabor and Wilson -- and you’d think you’re watching the safeties instead of the cornerbacks. Despite the added weight, the secondary still covers well and looks poised to be one of the best units in the country.

“I feel like we get along so well off the field, we’re like brothers,” Tabor said. “We’re gonna fight. We fight sometimes, we argue, we get on each other hard and at the end of the day we all know that we’re for one another. If I make a play, Quincy or anyone in the secondary makes a play, we all made a play.

“On the field, certain stuff that might not be in the scheme, we can just tell each other, ‘look we’re gonna do this if they do this.’ We just trust each other so much that we know I got his back he got my back. Just play ball.”

As good as the unit feels going into the 2015 season, they’ve been challenged by the Florida receivers this fall more than in the past.

“Big difference – confidence,” Tabor said about the receivers. “Last year they were just guys. This year, Coach Mac, he needs his receivers. He’s making them feel like they can be somebody. They have a lot more confidence, and that’s all it was last year. The receivers are playing with a lot more confidence. They’re getting open, they’re fighting and they’re competing.

“Last year they wouldn’t compete as much so I feel like they’re competing more, and all of them are getting better. Not just D-Rob or BP (Brandon Powell), but guys like (Alvin Bailey), guys like C.J. Worton, I feel like those guys…Chris Thompson, I like the freshman Callaway, all those guys can step up and now make plays for us.”

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