FILE: Hornsby's film session pays dividends

Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 12:24 a.m.

Jamar Hornsby disappeared late last season, banished to the Land of the Forgotten, a sad and hopeless place where promising careers go to die.

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Florida safety Jamar Hornsby waits to run a drill during practice Monday.

JARRETT BAKER/Special to The Sun

He earned the trip by selling his complimentary football tickets, an NCAA no-no that resulted in a five-game suspension by the University of Florida.

UF sped things up, but the redshirt sophomore safety from Jacksonville will be the first to tell you he was probably already headed in that direction any way.

The former high school All-America's career seemed to be drifting aimlessly. Before the suspension, his only role on the team was on special teams, and he wasn't giving anyone, not even himself, any indication that that might change in the foreseeable future.

The No. 3 safety prospect in the nation coming out of Sandalwood High School had "bust" written all over him.

After returning for the Capital One Bowl (to play on special teams), Hornsby took stock of his situation in the offseason and decided it was time to make a move.

His first step was into the film room.

"The train is going and time is slipping," Hornsby said. "I've been here almost three years now and I really haven't touched the field on defense yet.

"I had to get into that film room and get to playing."

If last Saturday's scrimmage is any indication, his plan has a chance. He appears to be moving back from the Land of the Forgotten.

On the final two plays, Hornsby produced two of the day's biggest defensive highlights a monster hit on tight end Tate Casey, followed by a scrimmage-ending interception.

Granted, it's only two plays in one spring scrimmage, but it's a start.

Hornsby is suddenly feeling good about himself (and his UF career) again.

"I'm speechless, really," he said. "It's just the film room. That's really where it's at. If you know what you're doing, the game is a lot easier.

"Studying film makes a huge difference. Last year, I was out there running around, not really knowing what i was doing. Now, I know exactly what my assignments are and I'm getting in a position to make plays. I'm playing with a lot of confidence now."

The coaches have noticed.

"Jamar Hornsby has done some good things," safeties coach Chuck Heater said Monday. "He had that big hit Saturday. Everybody notices those big hits. That was a good thing. That was the most positive thing in that scrimmage.

"He's definitely improved."

Hornsby said he's hoping his more dedicated approach will lead to possible playing time on defense in the fall. It would be his first significant playing time (other than special teams) in the three years he's been here.

Hornsby's UF career got off to a tough start even before he arrived on campus. He injured his knee in his senior season at Sandalwood and had reconstructive surgery after signing with with the Gators.

He said the effects of the injury lingered through a redshirt season in 2006 and even into last season.

"The knee injury was a real big setback," he said. "I came out of high school real heavy. I came here and lost a lot of weight, almost 30 pounds. I had to gain all that back, and I had to get my speed back. I was depressed for a long time because I wasn't playing."

The low point came last fall when he was suspended from the Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Florida Atlantic and Florida State games for selling his comp tickets earlier in the season. He had to make restitution to UF.

As bad as things seemed, Hornsby said he was determined to stick it out at Florida.

"I was upset, but I never considered leaving," he said. "Last year was tough, just playing special teams and seeing the other guys out there playing.

"I definitely have matured a lot. I've got my head on straight now, and I think I'm really ready to play now."

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