Florida position breakdown: Secondary

Safety Matt Elam came on strong in the second half of the 2011 season and is one of UF's biggest defensive playmakers.

Matt Stamey/ Staff photographer/ FILE
Published: Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 11:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 11:46 p.m.


Probable depth chart


5-Marcus Roberson

14-Jaylen Watkins

27-Willie Bailey


15-Loucheiz Purifoy

31-Cody Riggs

8-Jeremy Brown

--Brian Poole


22-Matt Elam

21-Jabari Gorman

10-Valdez Showers

--Marcus Maye


9-Josh Evans

26-De'Ante Saunders

--Rhaheim Ledbetter

The upside

With plenty of depth and experience, this secondary should be a team strength — and has the potential to be one of the elite secondaries in college football. Safety Matt Elam came on strong in the second half of the 2011 season and is one of UF's biggest defensive playmakers. He's a versatile athlete who can be a run-stopper and cover receivers one-on-one. He has emerged as a team leader. Fellow safeties Josh Evans and De'Ante Saunders also bring experience to the safety positions. Evans started eight games last season and had 11 tackles in the South Carolina game. Saunders, who also can play cornerback, started nine games last season as a true freshman. The Gators appear to be a solid two-deep at cornerback. Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy figure to be the starters. Roberson stepped right into the starting lineup as a true freshman last season and was one of UF's best defensive players by the end of the season. Purifoy came on over the course of the season and won a starting job this spring. Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs also have starting experience.

The downside

The biggest negative is the season-ending neck injury Roberson sustained in the South Carolina game in the 10th game of the year. He underwent surgery and was able to return in the spring on a limited basis, with no contact. He's expected to be cleared for full contact for the start of fall camp, but sometimes neck injuries are difficult to overcome mentally. How he handles the mental aspect is crucial to the secondary. Also, despite the solid overall play last season, the secondary intercepted only six passes. This is a group that will be counted on to make considerably more big plays in 2012.

Young guy to watch

True sophomore safety Jabari Gorman kind of came out of nowhere and had a great spring game, making plays all over the field. A special teams starter in 2011, he's a big hitter who seems to have a knack for being around the ball. The Gators are pretty deep at safety, but Gorman is going to have a chance to get into the playing rotation after his performance in the spring.

Ranking the SEC secondaries

1. LSU

2. Florida

3. Alabama

4. Georgia

5. South Carolina

6. Arkansas

7. Mississippi State

8. Tennessee

9. Auburn

10. Texas A&M

11. Missouri

12. Kentucky

13. Mississippi

14. Vanderbilt

Next Sunday: Receivers

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