Notebook: Wilson may play new position on UF defense long-term

Florida defensive back Marco Wilson (3) jumps in celebration with teammates after making an interception against Tennessee at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Sept. 21. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Cornerback Marco Wilson moved to the star position in the secondary in Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt, replacing the struggling Trey Dean. Wilson expects to remain at his new position.

 “I’m playing nickel for the rest of the season,” he said. “But if a team is running like 12 personnel or something, I’ll still be at corner.”

 Wilson saw some practice time at star in preseason camp and is quickly getting adjusted there, he said. 

 “At first, it was kind of tough, because I didn’t really practice much,” he said. “I just did like cover reps in the week. Now I’m getting more comfortable in play calls and stuff like that.

 “Learning the playbook (is the biggest adjustment), because it’s more complex than just playing outside corner. You have to read more keys and you’ve got to be more involved with things that are going on. Playing outside corner, you are on your own most of the time doing your own thing.”

 Wilson said he’s fine with playing star, saying it will only enhance his NFL draft status.

 “Yeah, it definitely helps,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to show that I can play multiple positions.”

 With Wilson at star, Dean is getting reps and playing time back at cornerback, where he started nine games last year. The coaches are trying to restore the confidence he lost at star

 True freshman Kaiir Elam has slid into Wilson’s old corner spot.

 Wilson said he’s impressed with Elam, who has started two games this season and played in all 10 games. 

 “Really how much he’s been able to pick up on what’s going on,” Wilson said. “Usually as a freshman it can be tough. Not all freshmen can go in and learn a college playbook coming out of high school and adjust to the speed of the game. He’s doing just fine.

 “He just works hard in practice and transitions to the game. When plays come for him to make, he makes them.”

Home-and-home with ASU

 The Gators continue to strengthen their future non-conference schedule. The latest addition is Arizona State, which will play a home-and-home series with Florida in 2028 and 2031.

 The Gators will travel to ASU in 2028, with the Sun Devils coming to Gainesville three years later.

 UF is moving closer to its goal of playing at least 10 Power 5 schools every season in the future. The Gators recently added home-and-home series with Colorado, Miami, Texas and Utah.

Efficient Diabate

 True freshman outside linebacker Mohamoud Diabate played only 19 plays in the Vanderbilt game, but obviously made the most of those limited snaps, recording three sacks, including a sack/fumble that was returned 80 yards for a touchdown by end Jon Greenard.

 “Huge game,” senior middle linebacker David Reese said. “I think the kid only played like 19 snaps, had three sacks. Great talent, very athletic guy. He can play any position, as far as star to linebacker. He can do it all. Excited to have him.

 “(It’s about) taking advantage of your opportunities when you do play and he did that, like 19 snaps and three sacks. That’s huge. Whenever gets his chance on the field, he expects to make a play now.”

 Diabate’s performance did not surprise defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

 “I was asked a couple of weeks ago about him and I talked about his acceleration, burst and speed and athletic ability,” Grantham said. “And said as he develops, continues to get stronger, he’s going to be a really good player. That kind of showed up in the game in the sense of he has the tools to have explosive type plays, impact kind of plays.

 “I’m just proud of the way the guy’s worked, competed, has really stepped into the fire. His first meaningful snaps came in the Georgia game and he really played well. This week he prepared as the starter and executed and did what he’s supposed to do and was productive, helped us really dominate a team.”

White gets it right

 True freshman offensive guard Evan White continues to draw praise for his performance in his starting debut last Saturday.

 “Ethan played really well. I thought he did a great job,” Mullen said. “He was able to stay relaxed and stay confident. He prepared the right way, played with confidence and I thought he played really well.”

 With junior Brett Heggie expected to return this week, White will go back to being the first lineman off the bench against Missouri.