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Safeties should lead the defense

A year ago, Florida headed into the football season knowing that their linebackers not only were going to make plays for them, but be the leaders on the defense. Now that Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone have moved on as high draft picks in the NFL, there will be a change. With the youth at linebacker, the senior safeties look to take the reins in terms of leadership.

The talent loss was huge but guys like David Reese, Vosean Joseph, Jeremiah Moon, and Kylan Johnson lead a group of young linebackers that should play prominent roles on the defense and guys that the staff is very secure in what they bring to the table.

“We lost some talented guys, but actually kind of lost them in the middle of the year,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said via SEC Coaches’ Teleconference on Monday. “We were able to find out what David Reese and Vosean Joseph could do. Obviously Kylan Johnson had played a ton for us there, so we’re very young and yet some guys got thrown to the fire and that’s a good thing.

With Davis and Anzalone gone, the staff would like to turn to some players with a little more experience on the field and so senior safeties Marcell Harris and Nick Washington will assume that role.

“Our leadership there… that was the strength of our leadership piece,” McElwain said of the linebackers. “I think that has shifted to safety from our leadership point and the communication from there to help everybody on the defense. I’m excited for that shift.”

The linebackers and safeties both have new coaches at their positions, on top of that Randy Shannon was promoted to defensive coordinator after Geoff Collins moved on to the head coach at Temple in the offseason.

“I have to tell you how excited I am for Geoff Collins and that opportunity,” McElwain said. “We had five guys on this staff that I got calls on about opportunities for head coaching jobs. I just think that’s awesome. You know you hate to lose them, but at the same time, the recognition for what we’ve been able to do, I’m excited about that.”

McElwain thinks it will be a pretty seamless transition by promoting Shannon.

“Just being able to have a guy on staff and just move them into that role, we didn’t have to change all the terminology, get to know guys, and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “Yet, Randy will bring his own flare to it, he’ll fit into the pieces we have in. Just having a guy on staff, to be able to do that, it’s been real good. 

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