Looking for a Starter at Corner

In 2009 picking a starting defense for the Florida Gators was easy. All 11 starters returned from 2008 and except for an injury or two all 11 started again in 2009. While the defense returns several starters, one noticeable missing person is Joe Haden, who started at cornerback for three years. Haden is gone to the NFL and so are the two top backups. Cornerback will be scrutinized this spring.

Joe Haden provided a great deal of security at one of the corner positions for the last three seasons. Janoris Jenkins (JR, 5-11, 188) has done that for the last two but had a better freshman year than sophomore season. Jenkins is supposed to move back to his boundary corner spot that he played as a freshman after he and Haden switched last season. The boundary will allow Jenkins to use his strength, which is his aggressive play and help cover up his true lack of speed by not having to cover more of the field like the Field Corner position requires. Jenkins will be looking to leave for NFL riches after this season so look for him to really buckle down and be in top form this season.

The lone senior corner on the roster is Moses Jenkins (SR, 6-2, 184). Jenkins is the tallest cornerback on campus and really came on big on special teams last season before sustaining a concussion and missing most of the last several games of the season. Jenkins also made strides at the position last spring and would have played more except he has been behind a lot more experienced group. He also brings tough, physical play to the field and has good but not great speed.

Jeremy Brown (SO, 5-10, 182). Brown has never seen the field of play for the Gators after a back injury set him back as a freshman and reoccurred last spring after one practice. Brown is healthy now, but we won't really know until he has contact. Brown was actually ahead of Janoris Jenkins in the spring of their freshmen year when both arrived at college early from high school. He is more built for speed than Jenkins, but has grown and gained a lot of strength as well. It will be a big boost to the position if Brown is healthy and can go this spring.

A month or so ago my projected starter opposite Janoris would have been Adrian Bushell (SO, 5-10, 180). Since then, Fightin' Gators has learned that Bushell is one of those players that stays in the coaches' dog house. So, until that changes or we hear otherwise, we can't project him as the other starter. Bushell plays the game extremely aggressive and is an in-your-face defender with strength and speed. He got burned a couple of times in the Florida State game because of that aggressiveness Nevertheless, it is what you look for in a young corner.

Two true freshmen will don the spring roster and push for the starting spot and a spot high on the depth chart. Both Jaylen Watkins (FR. 6-0, 185) and Joshua Shaw (FR, 6-1, 190) have great size for the position. Shaw is a little taller and thicker and most likely more physical than Watkins and his size and strength could lead him among the most physical corners on the squad.

Watkins has that great agility that you look for when asking a corner to cover man-to-man and on the open field. Before a ball is snapped this spring, Watkins or a health Jeremy Brown are the players that I would project to start opposite Jenkins because of their physical abilities and unique skill sets.

The fall will see additions of Cody Riggs (Fr.) 5-10, 170 and Travon Van (Fr.) 5-10, 190. Both come in with great physical ability, especially in the speed and agility departments. Don't count either of them out as a possibility to get on the field as freshmen.

In all, it is a promising group of players that the Gators have at cornerback. Janoris brings a ton of experience and ability, while the entire group would be considered tall by most team's standards and have great size overall and tremendous athletic ability.

New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will also be coaching the cornerbacks and so we can expect some transition as the players and coach get used to each other. One thing for sure, he has a lot of material to work with.

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