Notebook: Freshman cornerback growing on job for Gators

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Florida defensive back Trey Dean III tackles Georgia wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman and knocks the ball out Saturday in Jacksonville. [Lauren Bacho/Staff Photographer]

True freshman cornerback Trey Dean continues to make strides as Marco Wilson’s replacement in the starting lineup.

“Trey is a guy who has played a lot of snaps. He’s probably one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever been around,” UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “He has a passion to play the game. Has length, size for the position, has athletic ability, has a competitive edge to want to be the best at his position.

“He has continued to work to perfect his craft and has done a good job for us and has been in some situations where he’s had to make some plays out there on an island. We’re going to continue to work to develop him and make sure he continues to be productive for us.”

Some of Dean’s rapid growth might be attributable to the fact teams are throwing his way more to avoid the other corner, the more experienced and proven CJ Henderson.

Dean, who has started four games, has recorded 17 tackles and broken up four passes, tying him for second for the team lead.

O-line depth improving

Offensive line coach John Hevesy won’t name names, but he says some of the backup offensive linemen are starting to make a move toward possible playing time.

“They’re getting better,” Hevesy said. “I think one thing is you earn your right to play in practice. The ones are getting better, the twos are getting better. It’s the same thing. When opportunity comes, you’ve got to be ready. When your number’s called, be ready to go. There’s a bunch of them that are. Always, knock on wood, stay healthy. It’s just to keep working and getting better.”

Overall, the line seems to get a little bit better with each performance.

“They’re starting to adjust to the game plan Coach Mullen and the staff are putting together,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “They’re starting to practice it more intensely throughout the week. “

A new attitude

The Gators seemed to hang their heads after losses during their 4-7 run last season. It’s different now. UF has been motivated to work even harder coming off the losses to Kentucky and Georgia.

“It’s a big difference,” junior offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor said. “The way we prepare and the way we practice, it shows on the field on Saturday. I feel like the way we prepared last year wasn’t as good. This year we prepare a lot better. I feel like everything is going better.

“Just mental toughness and mental focus. Stuff like that and small things. Coach Mullen has done a great job of getting us mentally tough.”

Receptions for everyone

The offense has done a nice job spreading the ball around in the passing game. Franks has completed passes to 19 different players.

As a result, UF’s go-to receiver, Van Jefferson, has only 19 receptions through eight games. But he’s fine with that.

“You’ve just got to keep a positive mindset,” Jefferson said. “We’re all unselfish guys, so whoever eats that day eats. Whoever has the big plays has the big plays. We’re all a family unit, so we don’t care who gets the credit as long as we go out there and play.”

Homecoming for Davis

Missouri offensive line coach Brad Davis probably will be setting some Swamp record Saturday.

Davis, the UF offensive line coach last season, will be coaching at Florida Field for the fourth consecutive year with four different schools — East Carolina, North Texas, Florida and Missouri.

Davis apparently is doing a heck of a job for the Tigers. His offensive line has given up only 10 sacks this season, tied for the second fewest in the SEC with Florida and South Carolina.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Not impressed with Dean in the least. For every play he makes and then finger waves or dances, he gets burned at least 2 or 3 times for big gains. And before you remind me he is a freshman, do the names Joe Haden, Janoris Jenkins, Teez Tabor, or Vernon Hargreaves come to mind? All started as freshman and made an immediate impact on defense.

    • You can add Henderson and Wilson to that list as well. I don’t think anyone’s classifying him in the category of those guys though, but he’s clearly head and shoulders better than McWilliams. He may not be as skilled as those guys as a freshman, but he certainly has the potential to eventually become as good as them. One thing’s for certain, with the experience he’s getting along with the rest of the young guys being forced to play, that’s going to be one scary secondary next season.

    • Respectfully disagree.

      From game to game there has been steady improvement and I thought he played pretty well the last 2 games. Joe Haden DID struggle early his Freshman year, like Trey Dean, 2007, in which we got outscored in the losses (which were 4 I believe including the Citrus Bowl against Michigan)…but he learned and improved each game and by 2008 was a premier player. This was Tebow’s Heisman year and the offensive numbers were impressive with Percy and Co, but we also allowed points. 31 to Troy…24 to Olem Miss, where I think we scored 30 and Tebow destroyed them…37 to Kentucky…31 to South Cack… Now Janoris Jenkins and VH3 played well right away…but they benefited with having premier guys on the other side and were complete STUDS coming in. Jenkins had a seasoned Haden…and Hargreaves had Purifoy and Roberson. Like 2008 for Haden who was thrown to the wolves, you will see a very solid Dean in 2019 as experience is the best teacher.

        • Correct you are sir…he was a switch due to his athleticism and need at the position…so there were some growing pains. He had a bad game against Ole Miss in particular. Kentucky as well as they had a big time passing game wth Andre Woodson that year…and “I believe” they were top 10 when we played them. That was Spikes first year as a starter as well…Major Wright was also out there as a Freshman. I believe Jermaine Cunningham was starting young as well on the line. We had some guys on that Dline that were not too good like CLint McMillan and Estopinian (sp?) starting…we took our lumps.

  2. Im ready for this game.

    I have been hearing the team has responded well at practices this week, arenr down on themselves, and were extremely physical.

    Also heard the secondary will be intact again.

    Mizzou is 4 – 4 overall, and no SEC wins either I think. Most of their big offensive stats were against directional schools. They rank nationally at #20 of offense and #84 on defense.

    UF has the home field advantage in The Swamp on Homecoming, better athletes at almost every position, and have a lot of motivation to win after losong to arch-rival UGA and being embarrassed at Mizzou last year.

    We also have the better coaches.

    I kind of feel UF is now that team you don’t want to play after they’ve lost a game.

    Gators put it on Mizzou this weekend, and win 35 – 14.

  3. Just a note. If my math is right, Gators will lose only 3 of the 22 starters after this season. That’s assuming some of the juniors don’t jump to the draft. And Taylor will be back at DB. Trey Dean HAS been picked on all year.

      • And the senior starters on offense are Ivey, Jordan, Johnson, and Lewis. And Jefferson is the lone senior starter on defense, but Clark plays a lot at DT. So, yes, your math was a little wrong. And I doubt Zuinga, Polite, Reese, Scarlett, Perine, Taylor (RT) and V. Jefferson return and will likely enter the NFL draft. And maybe you were referring to Wilson, not Taylor, returning. But there is no guarantee that Wilson will be ready to play at the beginning of next year or that he will be as good as he was before his second ACL tear.

  4. The difference Mullen/staff has made has already been acknowledged over and over by most (LT – not trying to re-ignite any type of debate with you about McElwain), but that Jawaan Taylor quote is really incredible if you take it at face value, and I do.

  5. Gator1. Sly? Not LT? Sly will never get it concerning McElwain for some reason. I used to be a McElwain fan, but all the information that has come out since his dismissal has changed my view and image of him as a head coach. Not Sly, however.