Gators’ youthful secondary growing up fast

Florida linebacker Cristian Garcia (43) blocks as cornerback CJ Henderson (5) returns an interception for a touchdown Saturday against Michigan in the first half in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Playing alongside three true freshmen, fifth-year senior safety Nick Washington is the old man in the Florida secondary. UF coach Jim McElwain revealed Wednesday how Washington got the three freshmen ready for last Saturday’s game in Dallas.

“He actually put their diapers on before the game,” joked McElwain.

Cornerbacks Marco Wilson and C.J. Henderson and safety Shawn Davis are young, but not quite that young. And, for the most part, they didn’t play like kids just out of high school in the loss to Michigan. There were some mishaps, including a blown coverage by Davis that resulted in a 46-yard touchdown pass, but the three freshmen received a passing grade.

“They’re going to be picked on,” McElwain said. “They were challenged in this last game. I thought they responded. There were a couple miscues just from not necessarily what do I do, but the communication of what I’m doing to each other.

“Nick’s done an outstanding job as did Duke (Dawson) and Chauncey in the game, of making sure that those guys echoed any of the calls and were all on the same page.”

The three other freshmen defensive backs — Brian Edwards, Brad Stewart and Donovan Stiner — saw playing time on special teams and are in a position to possibly play on defense this season.

The six freshmen give new secondary coach Corey Bell a lot of young but promising talent to work with.


Who: Northern Colorado (1-0) vs. No. 22 Florida (0-1)

When: Noon

Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field

Online: SEC Network +, Watch ESPN and the ESPN App

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850  

“I’m very excited about it,” Bell said. “You get a chance to mold it, mold that young talent and put them in position so they can continue to grow and learn. Not only from their mistakes but from their successes. So it’s a very unique situation for me, for us, and for the young guys. But it’s just about them going out there and executing and having fun. They need to have fun playing the game.”

Bell was asked what he said to Davis after he was beaten on the touchdown pass.

“The one thing I tell them, ‘Bad eyes tell lies.’ So if our eyes are not in the right place, then it’s telling a lie,” he said. “So it’s just about putting our eyes in the right place. When we do that, now we’re playing solid football. So those are things you just try and encourage him to do, and all of them to do moving forward.”

Black is back

Former safety Ahmad Black, now a student-coach, is having a positive influence on the young DBs, Bell said. Black was a standout on the 2006 national championship team.

“He won a national championship here,” Bell said. “The guys have been real receptive to him. He’s great to have around because he has an eagerness and willingness. He wants to learn the game on this side of the ball in terms of the coaching aspect. Just like them, I’ve encourage him to ask questions in regards to that.”