Kan Li / Scout

Florida Gators’ Duke Dawson upbeat after disappointing season

The 2015 season didn’t go the way Duke Dawson was expecting.

As a freshman, Dawson played in 11 games and even started one while helping the secondary with his versatility. The versatility was still there heading into the 2015 season, but Dawson wasn’t involved much with the Florida defense to start the year.

Dawson’s involvement with the defense was basically nothing through the first few games of the year, causing his mother to post on social media about her frustrations. Dawson downplayed the incident, saying his mother is just very supportive of her children. The sophomore also said he wasn’t mad about the post.

“All players get frustrated if they don't see all the field that they want to see,” Dawson said. “At first, I didn't really the post until one of my teammates came up to me and I was, 'man.' But she took it down, though. She apologized and talked to the coaches and everything, so it's squashed."

Dawson heads into the bowl game with just 10 tackles and one forced fumble on the season. While struggling to see the field in the first half of the year, that changed during the second half. Dawson started to see time at nickel and safety, moving around the secondary and trying to get on the field in whatever way possible.

The season will end on a higher note than it started for Dawson, but the early season struggles will push him through the offseason.

“The season I had wasn't the season I really wanted,” Dawson said. “That's why I'm working harder to help the team better, more than I did this year. I feel like I was trying to know too much instead of focusing on the things I need to focus on. This year I really limited all the things I have to do and just focus on my key. That's really helping me out."

The focus now turns to next season. Florida safeties Marcus Maye and Keanu Neal could leave early and enter the NFL Draft. If they do, the coaches told Dawson that he’ll be playing nickel and safety. If Maye and Neal return to school, Dawson will be playing cornerback and nickel.

Players have until the middle of next month to decide whether or not they’ll leave early, but Dawson is prepared for whatever position he needs to fill to help the Gators.

“I feel like I can do it,” Dawson said. “But no pressure on me. I feel like I can handle anything.”

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