Florida football may look thin at safety, but Rashad Torrence see potential in his teammates
Following Florida's first closed scrimmage of spring camp, coach Billy Napier described the team’s safety room as “thin” from a sheer numbers standpoint, as injuries had left the program shorthanded at the position.
The depth in the room aside, the safety position is an outlier in the building — with Trey Dean III and Rashad Torrence back, the Gators return both starters from last season at the safety spot.
It’s a desirable situation, considering that the Gators are tasked with replacing multiple defensive starters at other positions in Napier’s inaugural season, namely at defensive tackle and cornerback.
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Rashad Torrence and Trey Dean bring experience
As the Gators emphasize the need to continue building depth behind the pair, Torrence and Dean, the incumbent starters tasked with providing the defense protection over the top, believe their experience will help accelerate the development of the underclassmen in the room.
“Me and Trey Dean, our chemistry and our bond increases every day. Just being back with him is kind of a blessing. Just knowing that he has my back and I have his every down is kind of a blessing,” Torrence said. “Just having that experience back there with some of the younger guys coming in, it’s great to have that experience.”
Both Dean and Torrence were thrust into action during their freshman seasons as a result of injuries to starters, forcing the two to develop in-game as the public scrutinized their every move.
It wasn’t perfect — far from it — but it was a necessity at the time. Injuries remain, but the hope is the Gators are more prepared for the possibility despite the depth concerns.
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Injuries a factor for safety' depth
Jadarrius Perkins’ absence due to an unknown injury has allowed redshirt freshman Corey Collier, one of the program’s top signees in the 2021 recruiting class, to see the field more frequently through 11 spring practice sessions.
As a prospect out of Miami Palmetto, Collier was ranked the No. 6 overall safety in the 247Sports composite rankings prior to signing with the Gators, though he didn’t have much of an opportunity to see the field as a true freshman despite joining the program as an early enrollee.
Now in his second spring in Gainesville, Collier’s football IQ has been increasingly evident as he’s stepped into a larger role.
“He’s coming along great,” Torrence said of Collier. “This spring I feel like he’s tuned into his playbook a lot more. And he’s tuned into being a better safety first, and learning the plays. I feel like that’s benefited him a lot.”
Collier’s strides don’t negate the loss of Perkins, a senior who was expected to play a considerable role in the defensive backfield this season.
“We need everybody we can to be a great football team,” Torrence said, “and not having Perk out there is a blow, just because you want everybody to learn the defense as quickly as possible so that we can all contribute to a great season.”
Perkins isn’t the only ailing safety either, as true freshman Kamari Wilson continues to practice in an orange no-contact jersey as he deals with an unknown ailment.
Injury aside, Wilson, UF’s highest-rated signee of the 2022 recruiting class, has made his presence felt in his brief time in Gainesville, whether he’s on the field or in the film room.
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The signee from IMG Academy is clearly aware of the unit’s recent use of true freshmen, so he can’t prepare as if Dean and Torrence will be mainstays on the field when the regular season arrives.
“He’s coming along great. I mean, he’s very explosive, very strong, interacts in every film meeting,” Torrence said of Wilson. “It will be great to see how he performs next Thursday.”
UF sees potential in Kamar Wilcoxson and Donovan McMillon
When it comes to the team’s safeties set to make a leap, the Gators are high on the potential of redshirt sophomore Kamar Wilcoxson and sophomore Donovan McMillon.
Wilcoxson enters his third season at UF after initially joining the program as a 17-year-old following his reclassification as a high school prospect. He suffered a knee injury prior to the 2021 season opener, however, meaning he’s made just one appearance in nearly two full years with the program.
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Meanwhile, McMillon saw the field in all 13 games last season as a true freshman, including the season opener against Florida Atlantic.
In the words of their head coach, the Gators may be thin at the position, but the safety room has starting experience, in addition to players with potential in Napier’s first spring with the program.
“Those are guys who have a chance to come in and contribute greatly to the defense,” Torrence said of Wilcoxson and McMillon. “Kamar came back from that injury last year and he’s kind of had something to prove. But I feel like he’s definitely doing a great job this spring in trying to prove himself and show that he’s worthy of being a Gator.”