The first team cornerbacks on Thursday were Vernon Hargreaves III and Brian Poole. The coaches are using the fall as a chance for Poole to prove he can handle an outside cornerback spots after spending the previous two years at nickel.
Nothing is set in stone yet, and if the coaches ultimately decide Poole should move back to nickel, it would open up a starting job for a freshman cornerback. Even if Poole does win the job, multiple freshmen will still play in the secondary this fall.
There’s just uncertainty about who it will be.
Every practice day seems to have a different freshman cornerback standing out. On Thursday, it was Jalen Tabor. On Wednesday, it was J.C. Jackson. Earlier in the week, Quincy Wilson looked like the best one of the group. And in the spring, it was Duke Dawson standing out, but he has missed time in camp with a shoulder injury.
“We've had great competition,” Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “Competition makes everyone better, and they're battling really good. Quincy, J.C., Jalen Tabor, Duke Dawson, all those guys out there -- Deiondre Porter as well -- they've all had days where you could say this guy is better than the other. But the good news is they're all competing and playing well. They're going to help us."
Each practice gives the Florida coaches a chance to break old habits for the freshmen. They’ve come to Gainesville with different high school backgrounds and techniques they used at the high school level. Because of their talent, the freshmen didn’t always need to have flawless technique to succeed at the high school level.
That changes now. If they want to play and make an impact during their first season on campus, they have to learn the way the Florida coaches want them to work and cover.
"The biggest thing with guys coming out of high school is breaking some habits they may have of things they were doing and got away with in high school technique-wise that we've got to break,” Durkin said. “They're doing a good job with it. They're taking coaching well and getting rid of those habits.”
That’s especially the case with all of the man-press Florida plays with its cornerbacks.
“We play a lot of press technique so the way we play is probably different than most,” Durkin said. “The way they played in high school is probably different from what we did. When you do something over and over it becomes habit. We've got to break that habit and get with the technique we play."
Dawson hasn’t practiced this week because of his shoulder injury, but Durkin downplayed that decreasing his chances of making an impact this year. His spring was important, and he developed throughout that period of time. The coaches tried him at safety before the injury, and he’ll be used all over the field when he returns.
“We’re trying to find out best mix and so we’re trying a bunch of different things,” Durkin said. “That’s what training camp is for. Figure out what our best groupings are because we play a lot of personnel groups, so we’re trying to kick some things around and see where guys fit.”