While the defensive coordinator at Michigan, Florida safeties coach Ron English went up against a talented group of receivers every day in practice. But that challenge doesn’t quite compare to the one the UF defensive backs are facing in preseason camp, English said.
The Gator receivers are striving to become the No. 1 group in college football. English sounds like he’s ready to give them his vote now.
“(At Michigan) we had Braylon Edwards, (Laterryal) Savoy, who played a great game for Philly, (Steve) Breaston, who I think is still the return yardage leader in Rose Bowl history,” English said. “Those were three really good players, but the depth of these guys, I think they’re the best in the country.”
English said the stiff competition is making both the receivers and the defensive backs better.
“I told the guys, ‘Look, they’re going to make their plays, we better make ours. We’re the best in the country too, so let’s go out here (and compete),’ ” English said. “It’s a competitive deal. I want to make plays and I want to win the day.”
Lots of stars
With sophomore John Huggins, the backup at the star defensive back position, still a no-show at preseason camp while he deals with a family issue, several players from other positions are getting reps at the star spot.
“We’ve got a lot of guys,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “You look, obviously Trey (Dean) is there, C.J (McWilliams) is there, Amari Burney is there, Jeremiah Moon can be there. Quincy Lenton can be there. Mohamoud (Diabate) can be there. Really, a lot of guys.”
Burney is an inside linebacker, while Moon and Diabate are at the buck end position. McWilliams is a backup at corner and Lenton is a safety.
Grantham said the defensive scheme doesn’t change regardless of who is at the star position.
“It doesn’t change anything we’ve got,” Grantham said. “We just run our same package.”
The Wright stuff
The latest addition to what is becoming a deep running back room is true freshman Nay’Quan Wright, a four-star prospect out of Miami Gardens. He’s fourth on the depth chart but getting reps in practice.
“Going to be a good player,” running backs coach Greg Knox said. “It’s the early phase, got to get him out of the high school mode and then get him to a point where he’s reacting and not thinking so much.
“We throw a lot at them in the first four days, so he’s got a lot on his mind right now and he’s trying to digest it all, but he’s going to be a good player.”
While Wright could be considered the unknown running back, sophomore Malik Davis might be the forgotten one after missing most of last season with an injured foot.
But Davis is back and looking impressive, Knox said.
“I’m excited (about him),” he said. “I go back to the spring. He had a healthy spring. He actually went through all of spring ball, stayed healthy, went through all the drills. Summer camp, still healthy again. He’s bigger, he’s stronger and the fact he’s staying healthy, that’s the big key.
“He’s got the same ability as (Lamical) Perine. He’s got great hands. He can play out in space, and he can beat you inside. He’s a quality back. He can accelerate like (Jordan) Scarlett. Scarlett was a quick accelerator. In five yards he could be at top speed.”
McDowell back competing
Redshirt freshman center Griffin McDowell is one of those three-star prospects Dan Mullen and his staff have a way of developing into productive players.
But his development went into a standstill when he missed the entire spring after injuring himself in a scooter accident. Now, McDowell is back to 100% and ready for the development to continue.
“It was tough (missing the spring),” he said. “I know I messed up getting in a scooter accident. It was tough seeing guys take multiple reps that I could have been taking. And them taking extra reps, I know it was tough on them.
“I’m glad to have this opportunity.”
McDowell’s mental development continued while he was out in the spring.
“I just studied my plays and really took rehab on and made sure I could get back before football camp,” he said. “I just listen to the trainers as they told me to take steps. Everything like that I was able to do.”