Gator secondary gets talent infusion

Free safety Will Hill of St. Peter's Prep in New Jersey leads a talented freshman class, ranked among the best in the nation.

Dylan Wilson/The Jersey Journal
Published: Saturday, March 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 29, 2008 at 10:26 p.m.

At Utah, Urban Meyer's defenses were aggressive in nature, with the defensive backs manning up and getting in the face of opposing wide receivers.


Spring practices

Begin: March 19
Orange & Blue Debut: April 12, 1 p.m.

The Meyer defense at Florida has been a little different, a little more on the passive side, with the Gators playing more zone coverages in the secondary, which has limited blitzing opportunities.

That may be about to change.

For the first time since Meyer has been at Florida, the Gators appear to have the numbers in the secondary, especially at cornerback, that would allow UF to play more man-to-man and a more aggressive style of defense.

"Our numbers were really down when we got here," cornerbacks coach Chuck Heater said. "I think we've finally caught up.

"We've got some guys who can play a little bit and now we've got some guys coming in who we think can play. We like our numbers now. We've got a chance to be two-deep at every spot, which would allow us to do the things you want to do (on defense)."

The secondary is getting a considerable infusion of talent from a secondary recruiting class that is considered one of the strongest in the nation, led by All-America free safety Will Hill.

The Gators signed a complete secondary, plus one a free safety, a strong safety and three cornerbacks.

"We got three of the top five guys we had evaluated at cornerback (Janoris Jenkins, Jeremy Brown and Adrian Bushell) and the top two safeties we had evaluated (Hill and Dee Finley)," Heater said. "We feel good about that, and we've already got two of them on campus (Jenkins and Brown), which is great.

"I'm excited about developing the guys here and adding to the pool of people we have to work with. There is going to be competition at all spots."

Here is Heater's take on the five incoming freshmen defensive backs:

Will Hill: "He's a dominant high school athlete who played quarterback and safety. He's a really athletic guy, a rangy guy, a big guy. He's a good-looking guy in his uniform. I think he's got good football instincts and he's a talented guy. We're eager to see him when he gets here. We saw him play a couple of times. Coming out of his junior year, we knew he was a tremendous player and he's continued to improve. A lot of other people felt the same way about him."

Dee Finley: "We recruited him as a strong safety. Sometimes these guys get bigger and can end up at (outside linebacker). Clearly, we look at him as a safety. He's also a big-hitting kind of guy and very athletic. Both those safeties are big guys, which is a good thing. On paper, right now, Hill is a free safety and Finley is a strong safety. We'll wait and see how it unfolds when they get here. We'll evaluate those things then."

Janoris Jenkins: "We had him in camp (last summer) and were really impressed with him. He's a great cover guy at cornerback. Watching him in the state championship game, he's a tremendous player, a great cover corner. We talked to a few other people who had him in camp and they saw the same thing. We've got a really good cover guy there. He's already in school and if he keeps developing, he has a chance to get on the field and play for us (as a true freshman). No question, being in the winter program and going through spring football should benefit him. On all levels (of football), when you've got guys who can cover outside (man-to-man), it allows you to do a lot of other things. Everyone is looking for those kind of corners. They are at a premium. He is a cover guy."

Jeremy Brown: "He's a kid we saw early on tape and we really loved him. We saw him in the spring and again in the fall and we were real impressed. He's another cover-oriented guy at cornerback. He's done a nice job since he's been here (as an early enrollee). We're excited about him. He seems to have competitive instincts. Some young guys are better than others when you put them in a competitive situation. For some guys, it takes some growing up before they learn how to compete. He seems like a competitive guy. He needs to keep developing. We're excited about his prospects."

Adrian Bushell: "He's really a talented guy. From a pure physical standpoint, he's probably the most talented guy we recruited. He played several positions and he has great track times. He was a really good player at Miami Pace through his junior year and then he went to DeSoto (Texas), which has a great football program, and he went right in there and started. He's got real talent. He was not quite as strong on the radar as some other guys and we didn't talk much about him, but he was heavily recruited. He had some inclination to come back to Florida and that's where we came in. He's a guy who can really cover. All three (of the incoming freshmen cornerbacks) are very similar guys. They're athletic guys who are quick and can cover."

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