FNL Preview: Safeties

How do you replace Reggie Nelson? Simple, you do not. Nelson allowed the coaching staff to take chances knowing he could make up any mistakes that were in front of him and sometimes even behind him. Florida returns Tony Joiner who has become the vocal leader in the secondary. He will team with Kyle Jackson who will get first crack at the free safety spot. But what does the future hold?

The Gators were looking for two safeties in the class of 2007, and they landed two of the best in Major Wright and Jerimy Finch. Finch is 6-2 and 204-pounds. He is from Indianapolis (In.) Warren Central High School. As a senior, he helped lead Warren Central to its fourth-consecutive Class 5A state title. He recorded a team-high 11 tackles, returned an interception 42 yards and had a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown in the state title game his junior season.

Wright is also 6-2 and 204-pounds. He is from Miramar (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Wright helped lead St. Thomas to the state title game in 2006. He started for the East in the U.S. Army All-American game. Wright finished his senior season with 72 tackles, three interceptions, four tackles for loss and two blocked kicks. Wright is known for his ferocious hits.

Current Safeties Committed to Florida:
Dee Finley

Finley, 6-3 and 200-pounds is from Auburn (Ala.) Auburn High School. Finley is the No. 44 rated player in the country according to Scout.com's Top 100 and one of the top three safeties across the land. He has incredible football awareness and tackling ability that makes him a perfect fit at the free safety position. Finley will not be able to make it to Friday Night Lights.

The No. 5 rated overall player in the country is Will Hill. Hill is the No. 1 ranked safety in the land and plans to attend Friday Night Lights. Hill, 6-3 and 195-pounds is from Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peters Prep. Hill is a star in the making virtually everywhere he lines up on the field. He is a safety at the next level but can be very dangerous with the ball in his hands on kick returns. As a junior, he totaled more than 1,800 yards on offense from a variety of positions. At quarterback, he threw for over 700 yards while rushing for over 600 yards from both the running back and quarterback positions. He also played wide receiver where he had over 400 yards receiving. At free safety, Hill finished with 68 tackles and three interceptions. The Gators have Hill and Adams atop the safety board and look to have a great shot to land both.

It is clear that Florida has targeted two of the top safeties in the country in Will Hill and Spencer Adams. Adams was planning to attend Friday Night Lights but now plans have changed and he will not be able to attend. Adams has Florida very high on his board and will make an official visit to see the Gators play before he makes his decision. Adams is from Matthews (N.C.) David W. Butler High School. He is 6-2 and 185-pounds and runs in the 4.5 range. Butler is the No. 15 ranked safety in the land. He is looking at Florida, Clemson and North Carolina for his top three schools as well as Miami, Michigan, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech.

Two more names to keep an eye on this weekend would be D'Anton Lynn and P.J. Smith. Lynn missed substantial time last season due to ligament damage but was on target for a huge year before the injury. In six games, he totaled 578 yards of offense and on defense from his linebacker position had 57 tackles with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Lynn is 6-1 and 180-pounds and runs in the 4.5 range. He is from Celina (Texas) and is looking at Arkansas, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Texas Tech, UCLA and Southern Cal. Right now, I would say it is 50/50 on him making it in this weekend.

P.J. Smith is 6-4 and 190-pounds and is from River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian High School. Smith helped lead John Curtis to the 2A State Title last year recording 28 tackles, four interceptions and 14 pass break ups. He added over 120 yards on 10 catches and three touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball. Smith is looking at Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Mississippi and Tulane. LSU, Alabama and Florida are recruiting him the hardest.

The players that I mention in all of the Friday Night Lights previews are not set in stone but are the ones that appear headed in for the weekend. We will have more details as the camp unfolds.

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