Heater has Safeties Battling To Start

Don't let Urban Meyer's words over the summer about his group of safeties get lost in the shuffle this preseason. As the Gators set to repeat as national champions, the safety position couldn't be in better hands. However, whose hands they will be in isn't set yet as Meyer said he has four starters at safety. Chuck Heater coaches them up and likes the idea of the competition.

Heater who has become the assistant defensive coordinator loves the spot he is in with four guys that he could platoon if necessary. If one guy goes down or isn't playing well, there is another to step in his place. Senior Dorian Munroe and sophomore Will Hill are the guys trying to unseat juniors Ahmad Black and Major Wright. They all know they are going to have to stay on their toes, and the offseason preparation has indicated that.

"They are a more experienced and more mature group...they train like that and there is competition among them," heater said. "They all know they have to earn the right to play, so that is a good thing."

Free safety Major Wright set the tone in the national championship game with his big hit at the beginning of the game against Oklahoma. Heater love the progression of Wright.

"Major works real hard and every year he gets a little better," Heater said. "He really improved a lot between his freshman and sophomore year. We still expect an incremental improvement between his sophomore and junior year."

Maybe the biggest surprise on the whole squad last season was strong safety Ahmad Black. Black came from his cornerback position and was thrust into a starting role when Munroe went down with an injury. Despite his lack of prototypical size and speed, Black showed that he is one heck of a good football player.

"The best part of what Ahmad Black does is just play football," Heater said. "He has shown the ability to go out there and just play the game of football. He had a great spring and it will carry over to the fall."

Last year the Gators were frightfully thin at safety and moved Black and receiver Justin Williams there just to field four on game days. This season Munroe returns and gives them a former starter that has played some significant football. Throw in all the great play from the others last season and Munroe really helps make this one of the best groups in the country. Munroe is ready to get back after it.

"Dorian Munroe has a lot of experience, more than anyone else," Heater said. "I think he just wants to get out there. He has showed he can play and was our starting safety before the injury. He will try to prove to himself and everyone else that he can go out there and play championship football for us. The last time around there is always more incentive to go out there and play.

Probably the most anticipated playing time for a secondary player from the fans' standpoint is that of Will Hill. Hill just seems to be one of those guys that gets to the ball and makes plays. In limited time as a true freshman, he was able to make plays that drew big time praise from the staff and the fans alike.

"Will took a little while to adjust to the heat last year but Major taught him what he needs to do to play. He will benefit if he can play multiple positions. Last year he played the nickel spot and did a great job. He needs to play both safety spots so he has more options to play. Certainly he has earned the right to play and we need to find a way to make sure he is out there."

Oh by the way, throw in true freshman Dee Finley to the mix. The Under Armour All-American brings his prototype body and speed to the field and Heater believes it is just a matter of time and experience before Finley can make an impact.

"He will see the field on special teams," Heater said. "We have to see the football player inside the guy. If he shows us he can do great on kickoff coverage he will show us he can play. But, we are just one injury away from having issues. I am glad I have the guys I got and the bottom line is we have to put guys out there that can play championship football and I hope that is the case."

With all the experience and the different abilities of this group and really the entire defense, it appears that the Gators could throw a few new looks out there versus opponents.

"We are always doing some different things every year," Heater said. "We do a lot of film study and look for those things every year. There won't be anything dramatic, but there will be some different wrinklies I am sure."

This group is good enough and versatile enough to have all five on the field at the same time.


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