Written by Chris Canada, Gatorsfirst.com Co-Founder
The long and dull offseason is finally coming to a close. Anticipation has never been higher in Gainesville, as last year's BCS champions are looking to do what no team in the BCS era has been able to accomplish: win a second consecutive championship.
With all of the players from last year's team coming back to defend their title, introductions are probably not needed. However, the Gatorsfirst.com team will give you the positional breakdowns you deserve to be fully ready for the 2009 season. We wrap up the defensive preview with our defensive backs.
Remember the 2007 season when we basically only had Tony Joiner at safety flanked by a bunch of freshmen and sophomores? Opposing quarterbacks salivated at the thought of playing against the young and inexperienced secondary. Fortunately, that young nucleus grew up real quick. They put it all together last season and became a dominant force, making game-changing interceptions and helmet-rattling hits. Here is the DB preview...
Joe Haden (Jr., No.5, CB, 5'11'', 190lbs) was the first true freshman to ever start opening day at the cornerback position in Florida Gator history. It was a rough start as he continually got beaten by speedy receivers and bit on simple routes. But by the end of the season, he was a tackling machine.
In 2008, Haden came into his own, recording 87 tackles, .5 sacks, three interceptions, 12 passes defended, and a forced fumble. He became a shut down corner and never seemed to miss a tackle. His NFL stock is rising fast, so another good season will probably mark the end of his days in Gainesville.
Janoris Jenkins (So., No.1, CB, 5'11'', 188lbs) followed in Haden’s footsteps last year by starting as a true freshman on opening day. He made the most of his time by also turning into a shut down corner, often times taking the responsibility of the opponent’s best receiver. Jenkins recorded 39 tackles, one sack, three interceptions, 11 passes defended, and one forced fumble. Aside from the tackle numbers, he had incredibly similar numbers to Haden. He switched to No. 1 this offseason, just in case you're looking for him. He'll join former star No. 1s Jack Jackson, Tony George, Keiwan Ratliff, Reggie Nelson, and Percy Harvin. Make the number proud JJ!
Haden and Jenkins were lucky to have a good set of backups. When he’s not training by chasing goats Wondy Pierre-Louis (Sr., No.4, CB, 6'1'', 185lbs) will be backing up Jenkins. Wondy has been a critical role-player for his entire stay at Florida. He lost his starting role to Jenkins last season, but he will still be an integral part to the secondary. He’ll be used a lot in nickel and dime packages, when the opposing team is looking to air it out. Last season, he had 19 tackles, one interception, and two passes defended.
Markihe Anderson (Sr., No.14, CB, 5'9'', 182lbs) is entering his senior season and will be Joe Haden’s primary backup. Last season, Anderson made 21 tackles and had three passes defended. The pressing concern with him is his durability. He’s been injured in both of the last two seasons, so we’ll have to watch to see if he can stay healthy.
Redshirt freshman Jeremy Brown has been making waves this offseason. Coming into last season, he was neck and neck with Jenkins for that starting spot, but back problems ended his season before it started. He’ll see a good deal of playing time, which is good because there will be a mass departure following this season.
Moses Jenkins will see some playing time, but not much. Hopefully we’ll get to see what we have in redshirt freshman Adrian Bushell, as he's in our future plans. Corey Henderson, Steven Bennett, Reginald Hopkins, Ean McQuay, and Miguel Carodine will probably not see any action, except as scout team members.
Major Wright (Jr., No.21, S, 6'0'', 204lbs) had another stellar season last year at free safety collecting 66 tackles, six passes defended, and four interceptions, taking one of those to the house. The thing that Wright is known for is his vicious hits. Here is a little taste. I think we all remember his hit in the national championship game last year. Those hits set the tone of the game, and get the receivers reassessing their routes. He’s been doing this since his freshman year.
The diminutive Ahmed Black (Jr., No.35, S, 5'9'', 185lbs) is an inspiration to vertically challenged people like myself. He continues to make big plays time and again. Last season at strong safety, he recorded 59 tackles and five passes defended. But the most important part of his game was his seven interceptions, which ranked 2nd in the SEC, and 7th nationally. Two of those interceptions he took back for touchdowns. He makes big hits and is always in the right place.
It’s always a good thing when you have someone talented enough to possibly supplant a star, and this is the case with both safety backups. Will Hill (So., No.10, S, 6'1'', 202lbs) will be challenging Major Wright for playing time this season. He had an incredible freshman season last year, gathering 48 tackles, two interceptions, and a pass defended. As with Wright, he makes huge hits and has a knack for the ball.
Dorian Munroe (RSr., No.20, S, 5'11'', 205lbs) was slated to start at strong season before tearing his ACL last summer, allowing Black to assume the role. All reports claim that he has excelled during spring practices, so Black needs to watch his back.
Cody Worton also tore his ACL during the 2008 season and missed the last 12 games. He’ll be used sparingly though (like fats & oils). True freshmen Dee Finley and Josh Evans will need to learn quickly, as they may have to assume the starting role next season. Finley was the 5th rated safety prospect, so I expect big things in the future.
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