Wilson issues reminder as return nears: ‘I’m going to prove I’m the best in the country’

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Florida defensive back Marco Wilson answers questions Thursday from members of the media during the annual Florida Football Media Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Marco Wilson is aware of the outside perception. Now, the redshirt sophomore is looking forward to correcting the narrative — and then some.

“I know there’s a lot of people sleeping on me, just because I got hurt or something, but I’m going to be the same guy I was last — I’m going to be better than that guy was, actually,” Wilson said Thursday at UF’s Media Day. “So everyone that’s just really sleeping on me, talking ACL this, ACL that, they’re going to see when the season opener comes around.”

Wilson, who played and started in just two games last season before tearing his ACL against Kentucky, declared he’s “100 percent”. With Wilson sidelined throughout much of the season, true freshman Trey Dean was thrust into a starting role — one in which he performed admirably, in fact. After locking down the starting cornerback role opposite junior CJ Henderson, Dean is now expected to slide into the nickelback role vacated by Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who enters his rookie season with the New Orleans Saints.

Wilson is expected to pick-up right where he left off, giving the Gators a formidable trio of defensive backs looking to terrorize the opposition.

One might be inclined to believe Wilson’s ACL tear — his second in four years — could hinder him moving forward.

Yet anyone thinking he hasn’t worked extensively to return at a high level simply doesn’t know Marco Wilson.

“People don’t see the work that’s put in, especially with me being gone for a year, they definitely forgot a lot of stuff, they forgot the player I am,” Wilson said. “I’m not necessarily focused on proving anyone wrong, but me playing, I’m going to prove I’m the best in the country. They’re going to see that.

“I’m not really focused on what people are saying, I’m just here to play ball.”

He didn’t mince words when asked about the composite potential he, Dean and Henderson possess, while acknowledging their potential in the secondary this season likely isn’t as high if Dean hadn’t been thrust into action.

“We’re going to be the best in the country, no doubt about that,” Wilson proclaimed. “And we’re getting the young guys to be ready just like us, just like (Dean) did. Depth is fine, everything’s going to be good.”

Developing the newcomers wasn’t a role that necessarily came naturally to Wilson — not before being forced to the sideline, that is.

Unable to physically contribute on the field, the 6-foot native of Fort Lauderdale had to step out of his comfort zone in spring camp when it came to staying involved in the team’s development.

“Before, I was a guy who would just sit back and do what I got to do, and not really say anything,” Wilson said. “I’ve been trying to take a leadership role and talk to guys, be more vocal.”

But that was then and this is now. And now, the former All-SEC Freshman is back on the practice field, eager to show he’s in prime form as he heads into his third preseason camp — a daunting sign for opposing offenses, indeed.

“He’s ready to go. I know he’s chomping at the bit to get out there, he’s really excited,” UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said of Wilson. “He’s worked extremely hard to get back, really excited to get him to be a part of our secondary and our team.”

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