Spring Outlook: Safety

The Florida Gators have some holes to fill on defense and are missing key players at all levels of a very stingy defense. Major Wright decided left school early and his attitude and experience will be absent at safety. Two veterans do return along with a redshirt freshman that didn't do a lot and a couple of freshmen that enrolled for spring ball. Here is a quick look at the safety position.

When a player leaves early because of the NFL draft, usually there is a huge hole to fill. Major Wright was a great player for the Florida Gators, but Florida returns two veteran safeties, both playmakers in their own right. The players behind them are very inexperienced, but the youth has talent at the safety position for Florida.

Starting at the strong safety position will be Ahmad Black (SR. 5-9, 180) and he now enters the spring as a definite team leader on defense per Justin Trattou a few weeks ago. Black had a huge sophomore season leading the nation in interceptions with seven and scoring on two of those. He had one as a junior, but is back for a senior season as a leader and will likely be refocused. Black finished second on the team in tackles in 2009.

At free safety Will Hill (JR. 6-2, 210) will start and get a lot more action than he has. Hill has played a lot and has played a great deal in the nickel spot because of his overall cover skills and physical ability against bigger receivers. Hill is instinctual and hard nosed...he loves to tackle and finished sixth on the team in tackles in 2009. He has the size and speed to be a legitimate NFL safety some day.

Josh Evans (SO. 6-2, 195) Evans played as a freshman in 2009 and was brought in as a cornerback. He doesn't quite have the coverage skills of a corner, but he has enough to play the nickel and contribute there a lot this year. He is a blazer with excellent potential that has yet to be realized and we should see a lot from him this spring.

The top safety prospect in the recruiting class and my personal top prospect in the entire south from the 2010 class was Matt Elam (FR. 6-0, 205). Elam enrolled early and has a chance to be a special player. He has all the athletic ability in the world and the nickel coverage skills may be right up his alley to get him on the field very early on. I see no way Elam doesn't play a ton of football as a true freshman.

Jordan Haden (FR. 6-0, 200) also enrolled early out of high school and is ready to go this spring. Haden is the youngest of three Haden brothers (Joe and Josh) and brings the same type of athleticism as his older brothers on a bit bigger body. He missed all or most of his senior year to injury and so was out of the spotlight, but he is a good athlete that will compete for playing time this spring.

The summer will bring Jonathan Dowling (FR. 6-4, 195) to Gainesville and it is the thinking right now he will start at safety instead of receiver. That remains to be seen, but either way, Dowling won't be on campus this spring to participate.

The safety position will be improved athletically from a year ago and also has a great deal of experience in the two starters and better talented but inexperienced depth. All but one will be on hand this spring and that bodes well for the fall.


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