How early enrollees fit in on Florida’s depth charts

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Ocala North Marion offensive tackle Michael Tarquin signed his letter of intent with the University of Florida at Healthy Harts Fitness in Ocala last month. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner]

Florida’s cornerback situation could have turned into something much different last season if not for one thing: Trey Dean’s decision to enroll early the previous January.

Getting all kinds of reps and experience on the practice field last spring, Dean was ready when he got the call in the opening minutes of the second game to replace starting cornerback Marco Wilson, who went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Dean more than just held his own. He started nine games, got better and more confident over the course of the season and came up with a big interception in the win at Florida State.

As Dean — and the Gators — can attest, enrolling early has its advantages, for player and school.

This semester, the Gators already have nine true freshmen on campus, going through Nick Savage’s strength and conditioning program and getting a head start on the 16 other members of the 2019 recruiting class.

Among the early nine, will there be a Trey Dean-like story in the fall?

Possibly.

Maybe it will be Chris Steele, the highly rated cornerback from California. Dan Mullen has already said Steele likely will get some reps with the No. 1 defense in the spring because Dean is going to be practicing at the star position and Wilson might might be limited while still be recovering from knee surgery.

Here’s a look at Steele and the other early enrollees, and how they might fit in this spring:

Chris Steele, Cornerback

Recruiting ranking: 4 stars.

Spring ahead: Given the lack of depth at cornerback, having Steele on campus is a big deal. The reps he gets this spring will help get him ready for serious playing time in the fall, which is coming for him, according to the coaches.

Mohamoud Diabate, Linebacker

Recruiting ranking: 4 stars.

Spring ahead: He is the latest four-star prospect from Alabama to land in Gainesville, and he’ll have a chance to make an early impact at a position of need — outside linebacker, or perhaps the hybrid position Jachai Polite and Cece Jefferson played at last season. He has the potential to develop into a big-time pass rusher coming off the edge.

 

Kingsley Eguakun, Offensive line

Recruiting ranking: 3 stars.

Spring ahead: The Gators have to replace four starting offensive linemen, so the opportunity is going to be there to get reps this spring. More important, Eguakun is already deep into the offseason conditioning program, which gives him a big head start on the three freshmen offensive linemen who aren’t here yet.

 

Will Harrod, Offensive line

Recruiting ranking: 4 stars.

Spring ahead: He is the highest-rated prospect among the four freshmen offensive linemen enrolled early — and probably the most athletic. If he does a good job in the offseason conditioning program (is there really any other choice?), he could set himself for early playing time next fall with a strong spring.

 

Jaydon Hill, Cornerback

Recruiting ranking: 4 stars.

Spring ahead: This is another highly rate prospect from Alabama who could have an immediate impact at a position of need. There’s a good chance Hill, just like Steele, will get some reps with the No. 1 defense. If he shows he can hold his own, he’ll be setting himself up for playing time in the fall.

 

Jalon Jones, Quarterback

Recruiting ranking: 4 stars.

Spring ahead: Jones certainly has the skill set Mullen is looking for in a quarterback, and he’ll have a chance to show his stuff this spring. He’ll start out fourth on the depth chart (behind Feleipe Franks, Emory Jones and Kyle Trask), but the competition is wide open at the position, and Jones will get his reps and some playing time in the spring game.

 

Jesiah Pierre, Linebacker

Recruiting ranking: 3 stars.

Spring ahead: Pierre is an underrated prospect who has a chance to eventually develop into an impact player — and being here early should accelerate the process under linebackers coach Christian Robinson. The Gators lack proven depth at linebacker, which means Pierre should get plenty of meaningful reps in the spring.

 

Michael Tarquin, Offensive line

Recruiting ranking: 4 stars.

Spring ahead: Tarquin missed his senior season of high school after sustaining a torn labrum, so he has some catching up to do in terms of adding good weight and strength. He’s a highly regarded prospect who had been committed to Miami and received a late offer from Ohio State. By the start of preseason camp in August, he should be ready to compete for possible playing time on a line that lacks depth and proven experience.

 

Ethan White, Offensive line

Recruiting ranking: 3 stars.

Spring ahead: At 6-foot-5, 390 pounds, he is literally the biggest recruit in the 2019 class. That 390 figure is what White weighed in at on his official visit last fall. It would be interesting to know what he weighs now after spending almost two months with Savage and his staff. It’s definitely not 390 — maybe not even close to that. Like the other freshmen offensive linemen already on campus, he needs time to develop physically, and the early time with Savage is a good thing.

 

11 COMMENTS

  1. These guys are the (Gonna B’s”) as they are Gators just haven’t played yet. This group includes those signed but not yet on campus. Then there are the (wanna B’s). This is the group verbally committed but subject to change their minds a dozen times. Last there are the (“Are’s” or “Is’s” he is vs they are) that have played. The “Are/Is” is a good maybe excellent group with the “Gonna B’s” looking like the making of a good class and some may join the “Are/Is’s” on the field year one we are going to be in for a lot of good football. At least how I would write it if I was writing the script for the upcoming season. Go Gators!

  2. Everyone makes mistakes, the risk of the most inexperienced is that their mistakes are a little more spectacular…which is scary for offensive line in particular, and of course defensive back. Experience is in part simply trial and error, players have to have a little bit of time in the learning curve, and leadership is needed to win.
    as this years basketball team proves, young guys will break your heart on their way to becoming good. Ideally you get a situation like the 04 mens basketball, which the guys that later won two national championships all sat on the bench a year learning their craft. with the transfer rules there is even more impatience now, but if we stay patient i like our chances better.

    • “Managing” the roster holistically and individual players individually is one of the most important thing a coach does. Not to be combative, but there is no way generalize what’s ideal. Time and experience is invaluable for some. Immediate playing time absolutely deserved and virtually required for others (Trevor Lawrence? Emmitt Smith? Nick Bosa?) – especially these days when the best usually won’t be with you for four years, let alone five. And in basketball the equation has changed even more dramatically. There are always some experienced teams that make you feel them in the tourney, but more often than not these days they ultimately go down to the younger and more talented teams loaded with one and doners or sophomores. The 04’ers were special, but I’ll be surprised if we ever see that scenario unfold again – anywhere.

      • I try to be realistic in my comments because I hate to see impatience damage the program and imo it has happened a few times, although patience with a dubious choice hurt us badly with champ. My method works better when there are really good players around for the young guys to hone their craft with. However, anytime I am more negative than everyone else, I promise, I look forward to to being proven wrong.

        • Not sure how being “patient” with Muschamp hurt us. You can’t just keep firing coaches every 2-3 seasons. If you do, no coach will want to come. Muschamp had a respectable first season especially given the dumpster fire Meyer had left behind. Muschamp had a better second season. Then he had a bad year. So fire him??? Fire him after a bad season that followed a really good season??? I’m glad you aren’t the AD. There was basically no patience after that bad season because they fired him half way through the next. So I’m not really sure a whole lot of patience was displayed and really not sure how it hurt us so badly.

          • In my view, Muschamp — on paper at least — was a far superior hire to Mac. Look only at his pedigree to determine that. The problem, as I see it anyway, regardless of pedigree UF is no place to “audition” for a first time head coaching job. Especially coming off 2 NCs as the situation was. Maybe Vandy. Maybe MSU. Hell, maybe the ACC for that matter. But NOT at an elite school. So for that reason, it was a bad hire and the AD pulled the plug just in the nick of time, maybe, but only to make even a worse mistake the next time around. Mac had fatal character flaws, tho……something I don’t think anyone in their right mind could accuse Champ of. Stubborn, yes — but of solid character at least.

    • Muschamp had zero hc time coming in. He needed to get that experience as the hc in a smaller stage. He has all the skills but hasn’t and still hasn’t learned to when to use them. Having the skills and not using them properly is the same as a talented player who can’t translate those skills in performance. He may one day get there but I’m thinking he’ll plateu somewhere short of great. Mac had a hc job but the hiring party didn’t seem to grasp he was not ready for a large stage and what appeared to me a very lucky run in Colorado. I was skeptical yet hopeful I was wrong on that. My eyeball Test in the Mac games was WTF. Of course Haught is 20/20 and we are now in a much better place. Did the plug get pulled on Muschamp too soon? Possibly, but his tactics and strategy aren’t or haven’t as yet encompassed all areas of the game. The last 3 all had good starts. Buy this looks and feels different. There is now a plan. We’ll find out in the fall. My bet is there is a good team on the field.

      • Yet another first class assessment, 65.

        My take is that until Champ wins an SEC — or heaven help us, an NC — at USC, I don’t think there will be much conversation about whether or not he got fired too soon at UF. On the level of my own opinion, replete with bias since I like the guy, I’d still have to say, “No, we didn’t”. But I do have to append to that, “I wish him all the success in the world except for when it comes to against us, of course”.

        • We are in agreement that mus did NOT get fired too soon.
          I also agree with mveal that we were patient with him and it hurt us. It hurt us because we wasted another year with a bad coach who put a bad product on the field and cutting ties before the end of the season was an excellent move.
          He should have been fired after the 4 win season, probably after the GaSouthern loss. I say that in hindsight because at the time I wanted to give him another year with all the injuries we had that season. He got another chance and proceeded to have another bad season.
          It all worked out since we have Mullen now, but we wasted a lot of time

  3. Clearly and obviously early enrollees have a jump on the recruits who come to campus after spring practice, beginning with training under a professional staff and going through spring practices and the O & B game. Still I think we can expect the other 16 recruits are working a training program that will enable them to catch up when fall practice begins. If they are smart about fitness and determined to be strong and in shape, then they will compete with the early guys before the scUM game. And speaking of the Cane game, it will be interesting to see not only which freshmen play in the opener, but then seeing who plays or not against Tennessee Martin the next game, what with the new red shirt rule. I think it’s great that in either game we can throw in a Jalen Jones or a Chris Steele, maybe a couple of the new O-linemen in either or both of these games and not burn the red shirt. It’s like having your own minor league system built in to your existing program, a step above the scout team.