SPRING: Avery Atkins has come a long way

A year ago Avery Atkins was taking classes as a senior at Daytona Beach Mainland. His first practice with Florida football team was last August. Fast forward to seven months later and you have Atkins returning as the Gators' most gifted cornerback.

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Initially, Atkins saw limited action during the first month of the season, but his playing time skyrocketed as a result from constant improvement on the field, Gator injuries, and increased confidence in him from the coaches.

He smiled when asked about the learning curve since he enrolled at Florida. Atkins was well prepared during his days in Buccaneers secondary by coaches Maronto and Ogelsby. In that respect, he had a slight edge coming into Gainesville.

"Probably the most difficult things I've had to learn the past year has been the speed and getting the techniques down," Atkins said. "I had heard about the speed when I was in high school, and I thought that I'd prepared for it, but it still surprised me coming in here. There isn't much that you can do. You just have to experience it at this level."

Personally, I don't think the 2005 signing class had a more important signee for the Florida program. Atkins represents the one percent of the one percent that Coach Urban Meyer hopes to fill the Florida roster.

"I've spent a lot of time one-on-one with Coach (Chuck) Heater," he recalled. "I've watched a lot of film. You can see everything that you're doing on film. I have to work on everything. I really do. I have to work everyday. That will never stop. I've worked really hard and I'm pumped up about this season. I'm just real excited about it."

Atkins was flat out impressive today. Playing opposite Reggie Lewis, there were several times that Atkins blanketed receivers. I noted coverage that he had on Kenneth Tookes, twice where Tookes had no chance on the ball. The only time a receiver he was matched up against in coverage caught a ball was when Mike McIntosh slid over and hauled in a pass when the Gators were in zone coverage. It was a play where he was in position.

"We were in cover two and I was expecting some help," Atkins stated. "He (the linebacker) didn't get over and I cheated over to try and help out, but he got the ball inside."

Keep an eye on Avery Atkins this spring and as the Gators wrap things up with the Orange and Blue game. You'll see one of the fast emerging stars of this talented defense.

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