Now for the fun one!!! When Frost and his staff got here in December of 2017, they identified two position groups that needed immediate upgrades not only in talent but in depth. Wide Receiver and Defensive Back were the two they circled. In fact, our head man would mock people saying we needed to keep Keith Williams and Donte Williams due to their ability to recruit, when those two position groups were exactly the ones circled that they needed to upgrade and make better. Now, let’s be fair, Donte Williams was here for less than a year and the one guy he recruited didn’t even make it to campus. But you get my point.
Travis Fisher is our best coach in my opinion. If any of you read my stuff on the other site, I used to talk about the mark of a good coach is if he can make football players better at football. Getting “his players” would just make him that much better of a coach. I always got so mad when I would hear that phrase “he just needs his players”, while I agree that’s what will give us the highest ceiling, in the meantime we don’t need to be worse than we should be. Fisher made guys that weren’t “his” like Dicaprio Bootle and Lamar Jackson into all-conference players. He also recruited guys like Cam Taylor-Britt and has already made him an all-conference player.
In fact, the sorcery that Fisher pulled with Lamar Jackson was something I’m not sure i’ve seen before. If you remember, Fisher actively called out Jackson in an interview saying “we don’t need any more entitled four stars, I already have one of those.” Couldn’t believe it when I read it, I also remember him sitting Jackson down for a bit and starting someone else. With kids transferring to where they can play earlier, I was sure this would backfire. But he turned Lamar Jackson into an all-conference player with his tactics. Which led to me being all in on this dude.
Further, you have to take a look at the job he does on the recruiting trail. While I understand his 2020 crop really floundered, he is getting lowly ranked guys like CTB to sign with him, and highly ranked players to sign with him. And quite frankly, I don’t even look much at rankings or film with kids coming here to play DB for us, if Fisher likes them that’s just fine with me. Lastly, much like Held in the JUCO ranks, Fishers relationships in Florida are the deepest of anyones. Don’t forget, he got us four star linebacker Keyshawn Greene (I know, he’s gone), and Yant in the RB room. My apologies for the rant…
So what do we have. Let’s start with Cam Taylor-Britt manning one of the corner spots coming off an All-Conference selection in 2020. You have to feel good returning a lockdown corner that also loves to hit people. So there’s not a ton to say here.
What we have to decide is who starts opposite of CTB? It’s a three horse race between Newsome coming off that broken bone last year, Clark who is coming off a shoulder and knee injury, and Johnson who is the former five star Ohio State transfer. The other cornerback spot does not have a blackshirt after them being handed out yesterday.
My edge goes to Newsome right now. I think he’s playing at a high level and knows our defense the best. If not for his injury last year I definitely think he was in the mix. I also believe that Fisher is going to lean towards a guy that’s been in the system rather than just inserting a P5 transfer that could rock the boat of the room. While he preaches competition, I don’t know if he will be willing to give a starting job just through fall camp.
That doesn’t mean that a guy like Johnson couldn’t overtake Newsome in season. It’s an ongoing competition for that other spot, and you have to like his chances. He’s just not as consistent right now as he could be, which makes sense since he’s new.
Clark was the long lean corner that actually started a game as a freshman and looked really promising, but the injury bug bit him a bit. If you saw in the spring game, he was wearing a shoulder harness and a knee brace, sometimes it just takes getting used to and confidence back for joints when playing the game.
Up at safety you have Marquel Dismuke and Deontai Williams starting for us. If they can keep the targeting down, it doesn’t get a lot better for us.
Your backup safety to both spots is going to be Myles Farmer…. the dude had a couple picks against Northwestern in his start, and if it wasn’t for this one being returned to the 3 yard line our offense wouldn’t have scored a touchdown against the Wildcats
Now, if you remember from their first score (and watch this play), Farmer is lacking a bit for speed which is really his only negative in my opinion. We are lucky he’s around to take the reigns as starter next year and also come in for the inevitable targeting penalty one of our starters get.
Pola-Gates is our 4th safety, but I could honestly see Isaac Gifford giving him a run for his money there. NPG is a great athlete, just needs a bit more time. So in that regard, i’ll be curious what they do in 2022 when we lose Domann and both safeties.
Koby Bretz is a guy to keep an eye on as well, but as a true freshman probably need to keep my hopes down a bit.
At corner you also have guys like Nadab Joseph who is going to recover from his injury and have a say in playing along with special teams. Buford unfortunately injured his knee this spring, but we also have Malik Williams and Tamon Lynum still lying around. I actually was really high on Lynum last year so let’s see if he can make me pay for waiting this long to mention him.