Henderson, Wilson preparing for increased workload in Florida’s secondary

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Florida defensive back Marco Wilson (3) makes a play during practice. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

After head-turning freshman campaigns, it would appear the future is nothing but bright for UF defensive backs CJ Henderson and Marco Wilson.

However, as sophomores, they are prepared to be tested even further this season.

Florida intends to place more responsibility on the shoulders of the defensive backs in coordinator Todd Grantham’s system, with Henderson and Wilson poised to receive much of the workload as the likely starters come Sept. 1 against Charleston Southern.

“We play a lot of man coverage, but we’ve got a lot of schemes we’re playing. It’s very important,” Wilson said. “We have big roles on this defense. We’re going to handle that how we should.”

Florida isn’t boosting the responsibility of the promising underclassmen-laden secondary for no reason. UF has placed an increased emphasis on forcing and recovering turnovers in 2018, after the Gators tied for No. 81 in the country last season with 17 turnovers recovered. Henderson accounted for four interceptions last season, returning two for touchdowns, while Wilson graded out as Pro Football Focus’ second-best freshman on defense in the SEC as he recorded a team-high 10 pass-breakups.

For a defense that found itself exhausted and stuck on the field at times due to the ineptitude of the offense, Wilson said Florida has emphasized in preseason camp the importance of forcing more turnovers, in turn giving the defense a breather.

“(Turnovers are) just really important on defense, other than playing as hard as you can, and I think that’s the most important thing on defense is you want to get the offense back out there, and you want to have their offense on the field as little as possible,” Wilson said. “We’re working on punching the ball out and just, when you play, you see the ball, go get the ball.”

With Duke Dawson and Marcell Harris having graduated from UF, the secondary is full of fresh faces and relatively inexperienced outside of Wilson, Henderson and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, meaning the sophomores are expected to fill leadership roles in Florida’s locker room and on the field.

“We have to step up as leaders, me and Marco. We play a big role in this defense,” Henderson said. “I think all of our guys took a big jump.”

Wilson concurred that the entire unit has stepped up to fill the lack of depth in the secondary, especially when it comes to his personal development.

“I’m a lot smarter. Also, I’m a lot bigger from last year. I’m more excited about the smarter part and the defense is also different,” Wilson said. “It’s not a simple defense where I’m only doing one or two different things the whole game. It gives me more opportunities to make plays.”

40 COMMENTS

  1. The old super sophs never we’re allowed to play as freshman and now it’s a little tougher for the second year guys because there is a lot of tape on them. So I will have even more respect when these guys keep the dbu tradition rolling!

  2. I would think they need to be in better condition as well. Sure we want our O on the field for most of the game, but when they are not the D needs to be deep enough and well conditioned enough to pick up the team.

  3. All of that defensive backfield stuff is nice, but equally important is that G-6 work on his metaphors and similes. Maybe a more general approach might be called for i.e., a general study of figures of speech.

    He might want to let us know about his progress from time to time; we might be able to give him a hand. (What kind of figure of speech did I use in that last sentence, G-6? Huh? You don’t know, do you? Why don’t you ax TampaGator?)

  4. DBU has to be earned back. You guys can do it. Show us what Gator DB’s do. Take the ball, score, cover like a wet blanket (without interference). Going after the ball like wide receivers. I’d say boo yah hits but that is days off yore.

  5. The great thing about this site is, we are all gators for the most part and we are not required to have majored in English or Journalism … I was a great math student but not that great in English …fortunately, we are all allowed to express our opinions in a manner in which, we choose… I’m more interested in the gators, rather than comment spelling, metaphors, similes and double negatives…remember, we are all gators, at least most of us !

  6. Herbie on his ESPN preseason awards show picked the Florida Gators as his surprise team of the year. At least someone in the media has been paying attention to what Mullen has been doing in Gainesville since he arrived with the very talented roster he has, including these two outstanding corners. Go Gators.

    • I actually don’t mind the media ignoring and expecting little of us. It makes every win all the sweeter in my mind. That’s of course assuming we win a lot of games this season. Otherwise it just sucks.

      BTW – Gene Chitzik (albeit a Gator himself) has also been very optimistic about our potential and Phil Steele has us as his come back (or something like that) team of the year.

  7. Gator 6
    All stations this net. Sit Rep follows. 6 days to game day. Retirement proper viewing location. Swamp, Sports Bar, Man cave, living room. Required equipment HD monitor of 48″minimum. You may request an upgrade from the proper S4 authority. Rations must be planned for and appropriate for age and generation of Gator. GT is 1930 all must be at their assigned location NLT 1900. DVR is permissible for those working or emergency health reasons. Missing the game sure to improper scheduling is not acceptable. I.e. Friend who made daughter reschedule wedding until after season. Borderline sacrilege. Further changes will be issued via frago. Monitor this net for updates. Gator65 out. 🐊 🐊 🐊 🐊 🐊 🐊 JUST DO IT, GATOR STORM IS COMING! GO GATORS!

  8. When in the course of Florida Football History it becomes necessary for Gator Fans to dissolve themselves from the football bands that connect them with FSU and to assume, among the power football schools of Florida, the separate and above equal station to which the laws of talent and the laws of coaching entitle them. A little respect (or none) for the opinions of FSU fans requires that Gator fans inform them of the causes that declare them to be more than equal to FSU and why their rein as tops in Florida is OVER.

    This was my speech in history class in 2005. Somehow, it got lost during the Muschump-McElwain era. I have heard that it has been found in Gainesville by Mullen and the staff. History will provide us with the answer to their understanding of the laws of football and of football in the State of Florida.
    Just having a little fun–and predictions–for the new era at U of F. And PLEASE will a QB get up and write his name as big as JOHN HANCOCK?

  9. Anyone see Brandon Powell take it to the house on an eighty-yard punt return last night vs. Tampa Bay? He was afraid to catch and return punts under McElwain at Florida, nor was Powell allowed to go deep with all that speed he has. What a waste of Florida Gators roster talent it was under McElwain, Nussmeier, and Shannon. How clear that is now. It will not be that way under Mullen, Johnson, Gonzalez, and Grantham. Go Gators.

      • Rog they didn’t know how to coach. We wasted so much talent and missed so much opportunity. We could have had all twenty*’s it wouldn’t have mattered. Play call- you wander over here some where, you go here, you stand here, you run here… You don’t have to block and you don’t have to catch. You don’t have to score.

  10. I don’t know what I like better. The Gator articles or the comical comments by the Gator brothers here who respond. Once the season starts I’m sure everything on site will get more intense. I can’t wait for our beloved Gators get on the field and show marketed improvement each and every week and become championship material once again. As always – Go Gators!!