GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- What does Vernon Hargreaves III do for an encore to one of the best seasons by a true freshman in Florida football history?
He can also expect a cold shoulder from opposing quarterbacks who won't want to test the Gators' best cover corner. So the man they call VH3 has resolved to help his team in other ways.
"I just need to be a better leader," he said during spring practice. "A lot of guys are looking up to me now. ...
"That's the role I'm trying to figure out right now. Last year was easy for me to ask [older players] what to do or what to expect or what's going down. Now they're asking me. I'm still learning how to kind of take that older brother role, but it's a process."
Teammates have noticed the change.
"I feel Vernon is very different," Dante Fowler Jr. said. "Vern came in here and wanted to be a leader. He's being vocal. He's matured a lot. He's working hard in the weight room. He's taking the offseason program very seriously, and you can see it in his body. He's just a freakish cornerback."
Last year, Hargreaves recorded 38 tackles, three interceptions and 11 pass breakups, which tied Janoris Jenkins in 2008 for the most by a freshman in school history.
The No. 3 overall prospect in the nation came to Florida last summer with an air of confidence. The son of a longtime college football coach, Hargreaves also brought razor-sharp coverage instincts and good enough technique to play in all of UF's 12 games and make 10 starts.
"Obviously Vernon lived up to everything we thought as a freshman and did some great things," defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. "I think he’s still got a lot of growing to do in his game. I think he’d be the first one to tell you that. I think the unique thing about Vernon is not just his talent and his ability, it’s his understanding, an awareness of where he’s at and awareness of where the game of football is.
"Vernon’s a guy that understands you gotta get better. He’s not letting his head get too big and think, 'I’m this, I’ve arrived.' He practices really hard. He works on the finer details of his game, his technique. As long as he continues to do that, he’ll continue to do better and progress. The sky’s the limit for him."
Hargreaves has a more blunt assessment of his first season.
"Personally, I felt like I did OK," he said. "I had some things I needed to improve on. ... Just getting bigger, faster and stronger. I wasn’t really small last year, but I can get a little stronger."
Working every day in UF's conditioning program, Hargreaves did just that, which is why he is one player coach Will Muschamp doesn't worry about.
"He’s really intelligent," Muschamp said. "His biggest talent to me is his competitive edge and his thirst for being the best player he can be. Sometimes that’s hard. Guys rest on their laurels a little bit, they get patted on the back. He’s not a guy you worry about those sort of things. He handles praise and criticism very well. He’s not a guy that goes out and takes a day off. He goes out and works every day.
"He’s a great example for our younger players -- especially our younger secondary players -- of how you approach your business. I’m really proud of him in that regard."
Hargreaves had what Muschamp called "an outstanding spring." He performed so well and so consistently that the Gators held him out of their spring game, choosing to avoid exposing one of their best players to injury and instead giving extra playing time to two young cornerbacks.
Early enrollee freshmen Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson also had good springs, each attempting to follow in Hargreaves' footsteps as a starter.
Nine months ago, Hargreaves was in their shoes. Now he's taken both freshmen under his wing.
"He embraces it and does a great job bringing those guys along," Durkin said. "He’s approachable and helps those guys.
"He’s great for our defense. We’re lucky to have him."
- Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland explains how this year's defense is different than in years past.
- Tre Mason walked away with top honors at Auburn's AUSPY Awards.
- South Carolina assistant coach Everette Sands has a good problem on his hands. He has the enviable task of distributing carries to four talented tailbacks, including Mike Davis.
- Kentucky was already thin at a number of positions, and injuries at receiver have exacerbated the problem heading into the Wildcats' spring game.
- It's that time of year: transfer season. After watching Maty Mauk establish himself as the clear starter, backup quarterback Trent Hosick decided it was time for him to move on.
- Vernon Hargreaves III was as impressive a true freshman as any in the country last season. As a sophomore, the Florida cornerback wants to step up even more and lead.
- Georgia's Ray Drew "will be a factor" on defense next season. Read about that and more in some notes as the Bulldogs head into the offseason.
Starting with an open-but-refined race to replace Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, here are some of those QB battle updates and what they might mean for the 2014 season.
Texas A&M Aggies
Contenders: Kenny Hill, Kyle Allen
In the space of three weeks at A&M recently, Hill, a sophomore, had been suspended for a minor arrest, and veteran Matt Joeckel let his coaches know that he intended to transfer. Hill will eventually be reinstated, but for now that leaves Allen, a freshman, as the only true eligible option to replace Manziel.
Jake Spavital, approaching his first full season as the Aggies’ playcaller, tells me that the message for the two young quarterbacks is very different. And it remains to be seen how each receives that summer counsel and where Allen and Hill land by preseason camp in August.
For Allen, now four months into his time in college, it’s clearly a matter of education. But the staff saw enough mental and physical aptitude to know Allen is a legitimate candidate to start from day one.
“He came pretty far [during the spring],” Spavital told me Monday. “I’m telling you, he’s very mature for being 18 years old. I threw the entire offense at him. . . . We threw him in and tried to see how he learns.”
For Hill -- suspended for allegedly passing out in a flower bed outside a bar in College Station -- it’s a matter of growing up.
“Kenny’s been through it all,” Spavital said. “He’s just got to mature and be a leader. He has the tools to do it, but he has to show to the entire team that he can do it.”
Unlike Allen, Hill does at least have some experience. He played in four games last season, completing 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards and a score. Only one of the games featured an SEC opponent (Vanderbilt), and all of his snaps came in blowouts.
Still, it’s something. And Spavital said Hill has shown strides in terms of comprehension.
“He knows how to operate the whole entire [offense],” he said. “He knows what’s right and wrong. He doesn’t make as many rookie mistakes as Kyle.
“It comes down to a leadership standpoint with Kenny. Is he capable of leading the team?”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Former Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy had an arrest warrant on drug charges canceled last week when his attorney agreed to have Purifoy cooperate as an informant for the Gainesville Alachua County Drug Task Force.
Purifoy, a prospect for May's NFL draft, was reportedly caught in March by the Alachua County Sheriff's Office on March 19 with marijuana and the synthetic drug bath salts, according to The Gainesville Sun.
He was not arrested in March because he agreed to work with the police, the newspaper reported, but a bench warrant was issued on April 4 after Purifoy reportedly could not be reached by investigators. Purifoy's attorney, Stephen Stanfield, filed a motion to quash the arrest last Wednesday.
Court records show the request was granted on Thursday. The Gainesville Police Department on Monday confirmed that it is conducting an internal affairs investigation into its involvement in the quashing of the arrest.
Purifoy, who is forgoing his senior season at UF to enter the NFL draft, had 24 tackles, two sacks and an interception last season in starting seven of his 11 games. He was suspended for the first game of the season for violating team rules.
Purifoy was arrested in February 2013 for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. That charge was later dropped by the State Attorney's Office due to insufficient evidence.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Want some hard evidence for optimism inside of the Florida football offices? Look no further than two upperclassmen starting at offensive tackle.
Bookends D.J. Humphries and Chaz Green are back, and they're healthy.
Florida coach Will Muschamp puts a heavy emphasis on winning the line of scrimmage. That was harder than ever in 2013 when the Gators played the entire season without Green, the right tackle who suffered a torn labrum in preseason camp. Humphries, the left tackle, missed the final five games of last season with a sprained MCL.
Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who lines up against both tackles in practice, saw the impact of their losses.
"Chaz was having a great summer camp [in 2013]," Fowler said. "He just had that setback, and it was like a freakish accident. D.J. is kind of like the anchorman. He leads everybody, so when he went down, things kind of went down the drain from there."
Muschamp said both players came back with more determination than ever.
"[Chaz] has picked it up to another level as far as his commitment, his work ethic," the coach said. "I mean, the guy has been a great example for our entire offseason program on how he’s handled himself and how he’s worked.
"I think when something’s taken away from you, you realize how important it is to you. Not that he didn’t work hard before -- he’s always worked hard, he’s always had a great work ethic -- but even more so this time."
Muschamp said Humphries has finally gotten his weight where it needed to be. Since January, he has consistently weighed more than 290 pounds -- the first time that has happened since he arrived at Florida.
Once practice began, the two were eager to return to action. Green, a senior, and Humphries, a junior, spent much of their time butting heads with Fowler, a junior who is the team's best pass rusher.
"Me, D.J. and Chaz, we really got each other better," Fowler said. "We went at it. We just competed this whole spring. I feel like I’m a better player, and I can feel it because of them helping me."
As Florida installed its new no-huddle spread offense, the two tackles saw just how well they fit the zone-blocking scheme, which is predicated on short drops by the quarterback.
"It's kind of made for athletic tackles," Humphries said. "So it's kind of working out for me and Chaz. We're able to get on the edge a little, get on the outside shoulder of our defenders. I would say it's been kind of an easy adjustment."
The effectiveness of the tackles has had a domino effect on the rest of the line.
Junior Tyler Moore, who played much of last season at right tackle in Green's absence, has found a home at guard. Senior Trenton Brown started the spring competing with Green at right tackle before moving to right guard.
Moore and Brown have cited Green as one of Florida's most important leaders.
"He's a really hard worker, a really talented guy," Moore said. "We've just got to keep him healthy."
Staying on the field is the key for Florida's entire offensive line, which was battered by injuries last season.
Having healthy bookends in 2014 is a tantalizing thought for the Gators. There's even a chance that Green and Humphries could anchor the line for two more seasons, as Green could still get a medical hardship waiver for missing the 2013 season.
"I haven't discussed that," he said. "I think I'm going to see how this year goes, and then if I need it I'll use it. I'm just trying to get back out there, have a great year, get back to playing at the level that I know I can play at, because it's been so long that I've been hurt.
"Help the team out with my play, that's what I'm trying to do."
With all of his focus on playing this fall, Green knows he'll be overcome with emotion when he finally gets back onto Florida Field on Aug. 30.
"I'm too excited," he said. "I feel like it's been so long since I've been out there. So I'm just excited to get out there, just get back to doing what I love doing."
Teams that turn it over consistently don't win very often, and teams that force turnovers typically find ways to win.
Looking back at the SEC in the last three seasons, it's not surprising that Alabama and LSU lead the way in turnover margin. The Tigers are plus-36 and the Crimson Tide are plus-24 during that span. They've combined to win two of the last three SEC titles and played each other for the national championship in 2011.
Alabama has been especially good at not turning the ball over. The Crimson Tide haven’t turned it over 20 or more times in a season since 2007, Nick Saban’s first year in Tuscaloosa. Alabama and LSU are the only teams in the league that haven’t had a 20-turnover season at least once over the last three years. During that three-year span, Alabama has turned it over just 44 times.
By contrast, Ole Miss has turned it over 75 times during the last three seasons, which is the most in the league. Arkansas is right behind the Rebels with 74 turnovers, and the Hogs have forced the fewest turnovers in the SEC since 2011 (47). Ole Miss and Texas A&M are the only SEC teams to turn it over more than 20 times in each of the last three seasons, although Texas A&M was a member of the Big 12 in 2011.
In the last three seasons, South Carolina's defense has led the way when it comes to creating turnovers. The Gamecocks have forced 86 turnovers. LSU is second with 82. The Gamecocks have intercepted an SEC-high 52 passes in the last three seasons. Vanderbilt is second with 48 picks during that span.
Ole Miss has thrown the most interceptions (44) in the last three seasons, just one more than Tennessee (43). Alabama has thrown the fewest picks (18).
Below is the turnover margin for all 14 SEC schools in the last three seasons. Missouri and Texas A&M were in the Big 12 in 2011.
1. LSU: 82 gained, 46 lost -- plus-36
2. Alabama: 68 gained, 44 lost -- plus-24
3. Mississippi State: 78 gained, 55 lost -- plus-23
4. South Carolina: 86 gained, 64 lost -- plus-22
5. Missouri: 77 gained, 57 lost -- plus-20
6. Georgia: 77 gained, 66 lost -- plus-11
7. Vanderbilt: 77 gained, 69 lost -- plus-8
8. Florida: 62 gained, 61 lost -- plus-1
9. Kentucky: 52 gained, 55 lost -- minus-3
10. Tennessee: 60 gained, 64 lost -- minus-4
11. Ole Miss: 67 gained, 75 lost -- minus-8
12. Auburn: 55 gained, 65 lost -- minus-10
13. Texas A&M: 53 gained, 66 lost -- minus-13
14. Arkansas: 47 gained, 74 lost -- minus-27
- Ranking the SEC quarterbacks for 2014: Auburn’s Nick Marshall takes the No. 1 spot.
- Alabama running backs Kenyan Drake and Altee Tenpenny spent Thursday’s practice at the study table, a requirement if either wants to participate in the spring game.
- True freshman quarterback Rafe Peavey is climbing the depth chart at Arkansas in his first spring.
- After Thursday’s practice, the Auburn football team hosted a group of pediatric cancer patients and their families.
- Will Muschamp’s post-spring speaking tour has been part apology for last season and part promise that things will be better for his Florida team in 2014.
- Georgia wrapped up spring practice on Thursday, and the question marks on defense are as abundant as when the Bulldogs started.
- Former Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow opted to transfer earlier this week. His father knows just how painful the decision was to make.
- Missouri spring game storylines: What to watch when the Tigers take the field on Saturday.
- A day after his transfer from Texas A&M was confirmed, former Aggies quarterback Matt Joeckel found a new home at TCU.
- At Tennessee, did any of the quarterbacks emerge from the pack this spring? What impact would the newcomers make? These questions answered and more.
When you attend a school as prestigious as Cretin-Derham Hall, as No. 16-ranked recruit Jashon Cornell does, you are bound to have connections. The Minnesota school has produced its share of college and NFL players over the years, including associate dean of students Marcus Freeman, who played for Notre Dame.
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Everyone is looking at quarterback Jeff Driskel, who still has a lot to prove, but he's going to need some help in this new offense, and the Gators need a true playmaker at receiver in 2014.
With all due respect to the rest of Florida's receiving corps, Robinson has all the athleticism and talent to be a real star in this league. He could be the kind of game-changer who could really give this offense a jolt.
The 6-foot-2, 201-pound receiver didn't show much of his potential last season (five catches for 23 yards in seven games), but when you talk to people around the program you hear the same thing: A focused and determined Robinson could be a really special player for the Gators.
The key, of course, is that Robinson stays on the field. He didn't do a very good job of that last season, getting suspended twice, which hurt his development and hurt his team. From all accounts, Robinson kept his head in his playbook this spring and was able to make plenty of highlight-reel plays in practices. The former ESPN 300 prospect and U.S. Army All-American, who registered more than 1,000 receiving yard and had 15 touchdowns as a senior at Peach County High in Fort Valley, Ga., can stretch the field to be a deep threat and can make tough catches over the middle. He could also be a headache for defensive backs with his size and range.
“He has done some fantastic things in the passing game,” Florida coach Will Muschamp told reporters earlier this spring. “He’s an explosive receiver. He’s a tough matchup one-on-one because of his size, his athleticism. He’s got really good ball skills down the field."
Fans got a fun glimpse of Robinson during Florida's spring game this past Saturday with that nifty 31-yard touchdown catch when he sprinted across the field, made the catch underneath, headed upfield, made a move on a pursuing defender and then jogged into the end zone.
He's a speedster, and he's elusive. What he needs to do is continue to be consistent on and off the field because he could make Driskel's -- and Muschamp's -- life so much easier in 2014. He just has to stay on the field.
If he can do that, people might want to refrain from sleeping on Florida's new offense. Will he single-handedly make this a top-10 offense or take the Gators to Atlanta for the SEC championship game? No, but what he can do is be a major player in Florida's success. He can be that playmaker Driskel desperately needs, and a guy who can help open things up for other players in this offense.
Florida has a veteran in Quinton Dunbar and a group of other young receivers who appear to making strides, but Robinson has the potential to play on another level when he totally buys in. He'll make the tough catches and tough cuts.
Robinson isn't the overall solution to Florida's offensive troubles, but if he can play to his potential and stay focused, he could be a key cog in the Gators' attempt at a major 2014 rebound.
Easley, who is rated the draft's No. 5 prospect at DT and the No. 64 prospect overall by Scouts Inc., tore the ACL and medial meniscus in his right knee in a late September practice.
After Thursday's workout, Easley said his knee was "about 80 percent" of its full strength, but he expects to be 100 percent for summer mini-camps.
"I felt real good out there," he said. "I wanted to show them that I can move, that I still have the quickness, I still have my get-off and my tenacity in everything that I do."
Chicago Bears DL coach Paul Pasqualoni works with ex-#Gators Dominique Easley on a drill. pic.twitter.com/qMzPze4dOBFlorida head coach Will Muschamp started Easley's day with drills to show off his flexibility, lateral movement and quickness.
— Jeff Barlis (@JeffBarlisESPN) April 17, 2014
"We made the workout very difficult purposely," Muschamp said. "I got him going a little bit. The coaches finished it up. They all made comments about how when it got tough, that's when he's at his best."
It's been a long, hard road to recovery for Easley, who said he rehabbed the injury three times a day, every day.
It's also not the first time he has gone through this. He tore the ACL in his left knee in November 2011 but missed no playing time and established himself as a disruptive force playing mostly at defensive end for the Gators in the 2012 season.
"The mental part was different," he said. "I didn't know my limits [with the first injury]. With this knee, I know I'm going to be safe. I know my knee is stable, so I can push it."
Considered undersized at 6-foot-1.75 and 285 pounds, Easley has nevertheless proved most effective at defensive tackle, where he can consistently penetrate gaps with a lightning-quick first step.
Several of Easley's teammates and coaches were on hand Thursday morning to show support for the player they called the heart and soul of the team. Easley started 26 of 32 games at Florida and led the team with four sacks in 2012.
"He was very impressive," Muschamp said. "The [NFL scouts] all commented you could see what he does on tape in the workout. His competitive edge is one of his greatest talents.
"I think he's got a great ceiling. ... He would have been [a sure first-round pick]. It's unfortunate, but his best football is ahead of him. I know one thing: Nobody is going to work harder than him to get it done. He's got a great work ethic. He's got a great competitive edge. All the intangibles are there."
Easley is projected most often as a second- or third-round pick in the NFL draft, which is May 8-10.
"I don't really pay attention to that," he said. "Everybody knows how I play. Everybody sees my love for the game. So that stuff doesn't matter to me."
He'll visit NFL teams for seven straight days starting on Sunday.
- After a frustrating 2013, Alabama wide receiver Chris Black is embracing his changing role under Lane Kiffin.
- Arkansas' secondary is moving on from last fall's struggles.
- Auburn coach Gus Malzahn wraps up the Tigers' final scrimmage and previews Saturday's A-Day.
- Florida defensive end/linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. is searching for consistency in 2014.
- Former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was pleased with his pro day workout.
- Quarterback Jalen Whitlow decided to transfer from Kentucky after being asked if he had any interest in moving to wide receiver.
- Missouri's trip to the AT&T Cotton Bowl last season cost $1.83 million.
- Former South Carolina cornerback Victor Hampton was arrested earlier this month for an alleged dispute with his sister.
- Athlon Sports wonders how many SEC games Texas A&M will win in 2014.
- Running backs and linebackers will be key to Vanderbilt's success this fall.
DESOTO, Texas -- With all the multiple camps, combines and special events happening each spring, DaMarkus Lodge chooses not to be a regular on the circuit.
It’s not that Lodge is against them, or that he thinks he’s above them. The ESPN 300 receiver has simply prioritized his life as a student-athlete. The camp circuit happens to be a middle-of-the-pack priority.
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- Well and ready, Alabama wide receiver Chris Black has another opportunity to compete for playing time this spring.
- Auburn running back Peyton Barber was recently diagnosed with dyslexia, but he’s not letting that or his ADHD slow him down.
- The Bowden Triangle (Tuscaloosa to Auburn to Tallahassee) owns college football.
- Former Arkansas quarterback A.J. Derby has adjusted well to his new position with the Razorbacks this spring, catching a touchdown in Saturday’s scrimmage.
- Now that the spring game is over, the real offseason begins for Florida.
- With more and more up-tempo offenses in college football, new Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt wants a leaner, faster defense.
- The quarterback competition at Kentucky is beginning to take shape after the school announced Wednesday that former starter Jalen Whitlow is planning to transfer.
- The new NCAA rule allowing unlimited meals and snacks for college athletes was given a thumbs up by Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who called it common sense.
- Dan Mullen’s job was safe regardless of the outcome against Ole Miss, but a last-second win over an in-state rival certainly made life easier in Starkville.
- Fresh off winning a Super Bowl, former Texas A&M running back Christine Michael recently attended prom with an autistic teen.
Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
TBD Temple Vanderbilt TBD Texas A&M South Carolina 8:00 PM ET Boise State Ole Miss
TBD Arkansas Auburn TBD Idaho Florida TBD Clemson Georgia TBD Tennessee-Martin Kentucky TBD South Dakota State Missouri TBD Southern Miss Mississippi State 3:30 PM ET West Virginia Alabama 9:00 PM ET LSU Wisconsin