2010 Roster Breakdown: Secondary

Not many defensive secondaries could lose a top-ten pick and a third round pick in the previous NFL Draft and still be one of the best in the SEC. However, the Florida Gators are planning on accomplishing that this fall with three potential stars in the secondary and a few talented newcomers behind them. The next few weeks will go along way in determining the success of the defensive backfield.

Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins gave Florida the top cornerback duo in the country last season. The Cleveland Browns selected Haden with the seventh overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, but Jenkins returns looking for the bounce back year that Haden experienced as a junior.

Jenkins will move from the field cornerback to the boundary cornerback, covering the short side of the field. This same move gave Haden the standout season in 2009 that elevated him to the top cornerback taken in the draft. Jenkins played the boundary cornerback as a freshman and recorded 39 tackles, 11 pass breakups and three interceptions. He recorded 38 tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions from the field cornerback as a sophomore, but his production seemed to fade because of lack of opportunity.

The move back to the boundary position should force Jenkins' name among the top cornerbacks in this college game this fall. He has trimmed his weight down from last season in effort to become quicker and make more plays on the ball. He made plenty of plays in the spring, and the weight loss seems to already be paying dividends.

The battle for second cornerback will be one of the more interesting position battles of fall camp. The expectation is for Moses Jenkins or Jeremy Brown to win the job.

Jenkins was the number two cornerback to start spring practice. He has the height advantage, standing at 6-2 and four inches over Brown. The issue is cover skills.

Jenkins, the senior, wasn't great against wide receivers in the spring. He held his own, but he didn't make the number of plays that Brown did. Jenkins has always been a key cog in the kickoff coverage unit, and the group struggled last year when he missed time with a concussion.

It will be difficult to keep Brown from winning the spot. His history of back injuries kept him off the field for the first two seasons on campus, but the coaches know he can play. Head coach Urban Meyer even said during Brown's first spring on campus that he was further ahead than fellow freshman Janoris Jenkins was at the time.

Brown is the ideal player for the second cornerback position because he is a playmaker. He won't just hold his own and merely get by. If the spring is any indication, he will make plays.

Jaylen Watkins and Joshua Shaw both enrolled early to participate in spring football. They had their eyes on winning the job vacated by Haden's departure, but it doesn't look like that will happen this fall.

Both freshmen had their ups and downs in the spring. The talent was there, as was the youth and inexperience. They each figure to play a role in special teams and will provide depth to the cornerback positions. Watkins and Shaw are in prime position to battle for Janoris Jenkins' position if he leaves for the NFL after the season.

Cody Riggs has turned heads since getting to campus this summer. He is only 5-8 but plays aggressive and bigger than his size.

SAFETY: The three-man rotation at safety last season shrunk to two when Major Wright left school early, and the Chicago Bears selected him in the third round. Ahmad Black and Will Hill are now firmly entrenched as the starters.

The two players compliment each other well. Black thrives while playing against the run in the box because of his strength as a tackler. He is a classic example of an instinctual player. The senior is only 5-9, 190 pounds, but he is one of the biggest hitters on the team and always in position.

Hill has shown glimpses of being the ball hawk free safety for the defense. The 2006 defense was dominant because Reggie Nelson covered the back one-third of the field by himself. If Hill can show consistency getting sideline-to-sideline as the one high safety, it would allow Black to play closer to the line of scrimmage and even blitz to help get pressure on the quarterback.

Matt Elam was so impressive during the spring that Coach Meyer wasted no time announcing he would play this fall. He heads into fall camp as the likely starter at nickel back where he will get plenty of experience before taking over for Black as the strong safety in 2011.

Josh Evans was expected to see plenty of playing time this season before a knee injury ended his spring during the early part of it. The 6-1, 195-pound defensive back will likely serve as the backup free safety behind Hill. He was running around at the Gator Charity Challenge and didn't show any limitations.

Jonathan Dowling is an ideal free safety because of his height and speed, but he isn't likely to see the field outside of special teams because of weight. Dowling is listed at a generous 184 pounds, but he looked like a twig at the Gator Charity Challenge.

Jordan Haden could switch between safety and linebacker depending on the need. He could also see the field on special teams this year.

BREAKOUT PLAYER: This will be the year Jeremy Brown becomes a consistent player and takes the second cornerback position. Of course, it all depends on his health.

Matt Elam will leave no doubt he is ready to start in 2011. His skills against the pass and run were solid in the spring, and he will solidify a starting position for next season with his play in the nickel.

ON POINT WITH BOB REDMAN: The secondary should be a strong position for Florida in 2010 returning two players (Will Hill and Janoris Jenkins) that are already up for the Jim Thorpe Award for the nation's best defensive back. While Will Hill has the best playmaking athletic skills in the secondary, Ahmad Black has been the best playmaker in the group in the last two years. Look for that to continue and Hill's presence on the field on a more full time basis should help him as well.

Urban Meyer stated after the spring that the cornerback spot opposite Janoris Jenkins is the biggest worry on the entire team right now. He also said that even though Jeremy Brown didn't play in the spring game, he was slightly ahead of Moses Jenkins to start in that spot. I agree with Cody that Jeremy will likely get that starting spot and he is a much different corner than Janoris.

I liken the way Brown plays to Ryan Smith who had eight interceptions for the gators in 2006. He plays off the receiver and then breaks on the ball and more likely to intercept than Janoris who hand fights the receiver and doesn't allow him into his route. It is a great combo at the position.

The youth is scary behind Moses Jenkins, but very talented. They will have to grow up fast and the Gators need the top three guys to stay healthy.
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