Kan Li / Scout

Burning questions about Gators’ defensive backs

We put it to the members of our community at Fightin’ Gators to come up with the hard hitting questions they want answers to when it comes to this 2016 Florida football team. This is a look at the Florida defensive backs which has a blend of all-star veterans and very talented newcomers.

Fightin’ Gators Question: What position does Chauncey Gardner play the most at this year… CB, NB, or safety?

He is set to play all three. I think safety will be the most he plays. But do believe he will be the first NICKEL behind Duke Dawson. Gardner is going to be a very good one for the Gators and watching home grow in this defense will be very fun.


Fightin’ Gators Question: Who starts at safety opposite Marcus Maye?

I have said since the start of spring ball that Nick Washington is likely to start opposite of Marcus Maye at safety and I will stick with that. I will say that Marcell Harris has had a really good fall camp and they won’t be afraid to put him out there. Washington had a really nice close to the season in 2015 and he is a very heady player on the back end of the defense. The staff really loves what this guy is all about.


Fightin’ Gators Question: How is Joseph Putu progressing?

Putu has been hurting people in practice. He is a hard hitter that brings everything on a tackle. After he spent time with the media this week it does seem like he’s going to take a while to really learn the game at this level. In junior college he was asked to play man defense all the time and not a guy that understands a lot of the techniques with the corner position at this point. He is all-in when it comes to staying tuned in and it seems he will learn quickly. He will play. They didn’t bring him in from junior college not to play this year and they need him.


Fightin’ Gators Question: Who is the hardest hitter?

I just mentioned Putu and he is one of them. I could go Quincy Wilson, but I will go with Marcus Maye. He made some big plays a year ago and some of those came on big hits.


Fightin’ Gators Question: Is Chauncey Gardner the next household name at DBU?

As mentioned I believe Gardner will be a really good one. He’s intelligent and he is tenacious. He is very sure of himself and so he doesn’t worry about making mistakes and that means he plays at a very fast pace.

Kan Li / Scout

Fightin’ Gators Question: What have you heard about the non-starters like McArthur Burnett? How have their fall camps been? Should the Gators be able to depend on them for some quality minutes early in the season?

Burnett has struggled to learn what they are doing. If you asked Burnett to play a man defense every down, he would be out there a lot. But, this defense requires communication with the safeties and techniques that mean you have to be on the ball. Their numbers are too low for him not to get some reps, but I think he will be limited.

Chris Williamson is a sophomore that should play a lot and is performing well. A year ago he was timid at the position, but he seems to have gotten over that. They are looking for Williamson to play a lot this year.


Fightin’ Gators Question: Is there a better starting DB unit in the SEC than UF?

I do believe the secondary is the best in the SEC. You will have a very hard time finding a trio of corners that will start as good as Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson, and Duke Dawson. Marcus Maye had a quiet All-American season a year ago, if that is possible and that last spot will be taken by Washington or Harris and both have the ability to have a really good year.

The numbers and experience are low behind those guys, but that is a really good group to throw out there.


Fightin’ Gators Question: How big of an impact will Marcel Harris have this year?

As mentioned, I believe Harris is on the upswing. He’s had a really good fall that followed an improving type spring. He is very comfortable in the defense now and has an elite look to him. 


Fightin’ Gators Question: Do the coaches expect Williamson to be a factor this year?

They need him to be a factor this year. He needs to be a factor so he can compete for a starting spot in 2017. I think he will have a good year and play a lot.


Fightin’ Gators Question: Who is the biggest surprise and the biggest disappointment up to this point?

I think the biggest surprise is Jeawon Taylor. He’s bigger than expected and he’s also more athletic than expected. He’s athletic enough to play NICKEL and maybe a little corner.  I know he was a 4-star prospect, but think he was underrated if that is possible.

Hard to say disappointment but I guess I will go with Burnett because I believe it is going to take him a little longer to get on the field. He showed up in January six months before he should have, but things aren’t coming at him quite as fast. I will say that it is encouraging that he has already gotten to the middle 180’s weight wise as he came in about 157 pounds back in January.


Fightin’ Gators Question: Was C.J. McWilliams looking like he would contribute this year prior to his injury? 

I think McWilliams was further ahead than Putu and Burnett, which means he was definitely going to get on the field. I have heard that the staff thought he had the best high school film of any DB they signed, but there was concern about him putting on weight on a narrow frame. Regardless, he was playing well until hurt early in fall drills.


Fightin’ Gators Question: How stacked are we really at this position?

I don’t think stacked is the right word. This is a very top heavy unit for the Gators with the starters being as good as anyone. But, beyond that the lack of experience is pretty frightening. There is some talent in the youth, but they have a lot to prove.


Fightin’ Gators Question: What are the guys saying about Coach Gray? Is Grays influence and ability already showing up in the play of these guys?

I am one that liked Kirk Callahan and I know that Mac thought Callahan was a good coach. The parting of ways had everything to do with recruiting issues and not coaching. However, I do think it is easier for Torrian Gray to relate to the players and that has showed already when you watch them work in practice.

He rides the kids hard, but they respect him when he does it. That is all you can ask for.


Fightin’ Gators Question: Who is the best DB you've seen in your years at UF?

I like these questions. They make me flash back to my years at Florida which goes back to 1985. 

When I think of hardest hitter I think of Lawrence Wright or one of my all-time favs in Jarvis Williams (Melvin Bratton is still hearing footsteps).  

When I think of guys just playing the position, two guys come to mind. The first may surprise, but I would go with Janoris Jenkins.  The way he played as a true freshman was pretty incredible His entire three years on campus he played at an extremely high level and not many played as aggressive and physical as he did. He’s the second highest paid cornerback in the NFL for good reason.

The other would be Reggie ‘Freakin’ Nelson. He only spent two years on campus, but ‘The Eraser’ earned a lot of nicknames in those two years and took away so much of the field that he allowed the Florida defense back then play very aggressive and get after it. The very first play of the 2006 Tennessee game, where he intercepted Eric Ainge at the sideline while actually playing the middle of the field in a Cover-1 defense, was absolutely an incredible feat. We saw a lot of big plays from Nelson when he was here. 


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