Two of the biggest questions on the Florida defense are: Who will replace Joe Haden at cornerback and who takes over for Brandon Spikes at middle linebacker?
At this early stage in preseason camp, the competition is too close to call.
At middle linebacker, redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins finished the spring as the No. 1 guy. But sophomore Jon Bostic was right there with him all the way, and the two have carried their close battle over into fall practice.
“Right now, I don’t know of anybody leading,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “Jelani and Jon are both doing well in there. Both are going to play for us. Who starts is still to be determined. I think both of those guys are going to be very good players for us.”
They both bring something different to the position, Austin said.
“Jelani, you look at his speed, his absolutely flat out speed,” Austin said. “He sees the ball and he goes and gets it.
“Jon brings some speed, but he’s also a thumper. He gives you that big body who can sit down on some guards and fullback and get that (inside) stuff. They’re different type players. Each type can get the job done the way we want it. It’s just a matter of how it shakes out at the end.”
At Haden’s old cornerback spot, sophomore Jeremy Brown is considered the leading contender. But he’s battled back issues in the past, and he’ll have to fend off senior Moses Jenkins and three talented true freshmen — Cody Riggs, Joshua Shaw andJaylen Watkins. Shaw and Watkins went through spring practice as early enrollees.
“Yes, (Brown had a good summer),” Austin said. “Right now, it’s full speed ahead for Jeremy. We’re real pleased with where he is. He’s a great kid and he works his tail off. We’re going to keep our fingers crossed and hope he comes out of camp OK.”
The competition is wide open, Austin said.
“Jeremy Brown and Moses Jenkins are involved in that position, in addition to any of our freshmen,” Austin said. “We know Janoris (Jenkins) is one corner. What we’re trying to do is develop who is our next corner.
“What we’ll do as we get going through the next two weeks is we’ll determine who our second-best corner is. If it happens to be a guy that’s in the boundary, we’ll move him to the field (corner). If it happens to be that guy that’s out there (on the boundary), we’re going to move ahead and go full speed.
“We’re going to put our best players on the field. We owe it to our team.”
On the defensive line, Austin said highly rated true freshmen Sharrif Floyd and Ronald Powell are doing OK, but still have a long way to go.
“The big thing they’ve got to get used to is the speed of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” Austin said. “I think they’ll adjust. They both have ability to be pretty good players.”