Even after losing Joe Haden and Major Wright to the NFL draft, the Florida Gators secondary will be one of the best in the nation.
The Gators secondary is led by senior Ahmad Black, who led the country in interceptions his sophomore season. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Will Hill are two other players who will help anchor this defense in the upcoming season. Both Jenkins and Hill were named to the Jim Thorpe Award pre-season watch list, which is an award that has been rewarded to the top defensive back in college football since 1986.
Black, Jenkins, and Hill will be a major part of the Gators defense this year. If these three perform according to what their potential shows, than this defensive squad could be just as good as last year's.
"I have to go out now and put everything on the table, I'm trying to be the best corner," Jenkins told the Orlando Sentinel. Jenkins has the dedication and skill level of a NFL player. ESPN has ranked him as the No. 10 draft prospect for the 2011 draft.
Jenkins is expected to be a very physical shutdown corner this year, showing some Darrelle Revis-type abilities.
His high school coach, Blaze Thompson, told the Palm Beach Post that, "He(Janoris) is one of those guys that doesn't accept the backseat and isn't intimidated by many people. The NFL is his dream. If by the end of the year he's slated as a first-round pick, I would say Florida's losing a corner. It's hard to pass up that money"
Being that Jenkins is already scouted as a top 10 prospect in the NFL, this adds supreme confidence to his game along with intimidating opposing players. Although the Gators will most likely only have him for one more year, Jenkins will definitely have a memorable '10-'11 season.
Joining the Florida Gators as a heavily recruited five-star player, Hill knew it was going to take a hardworking process to be a starter at this historic University. He first earned a reputation on this team as a hard-hitter on special teams his freshman season.
The 6'1", 207-pound Hill enters this season as Florida's starting free safety, replacing Wright who declared for the NFL Draft early.
"We still have Black and Janoris, and with us three and our wisdom at the secondary just giving it off to Jeremy Brown and the other guys, they can come along faster," Hill told the Gainesville Sun. "We should be the same, if not better, secondary than last year."
As a senior, Black takes his leadership role very seriously. Black told Ledger.com:
"I am trying to step up. I have to. I am one of the few seniors that we have on defense and one of the guys that has been there for a while. It is my job to help these young guys and help them do what they are supposed to do."
At 5'9" and 190 pounds, Black will be one of the premiere safety's in the SEC this year.
"I'm ready to get the season on the road," said an eager Ahmad Black. "It's my last one. I'm trying to cherish it. As a freshman, I thought it was going to be handed to me and it wasn't. I just had to learn to go hard and show that I really belong here."
This mental toughness is something that spreads through the Gators defense.
The reason the Gators have been so successful on defense year in and year out is because of the confidence and dedication that each Gator player possesses when they strap on their University of Florida football helmet. Even with some questions at the cornerback spots behind Jenkins, the Florida Gators secondary will be one of the best that the SEC has ever seen.