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Q&A: Florida safety Marcus Maye

Florida lost three of its top defensive players as early entrants into the NFL draft. But the Gators got a big victory when safety Marcus Maye announced he would return to school for his senior year.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Maye about his decision to stay, his goals for 2016 and how Florida can keep playing up to its high defensive standards. Here is a little of what he had to say.

What went into your decision to return to school?

MM: Just coming back for my last year, to just be a more complete player as far as knowing the coverages, just the small things, just so I could help myself in the long run. To be one of the leaders on the defense on the team, be one of the guys that players look up to and look at to be there when they need him to. I am set to graduate coming back, so there were a lot of things that went into play. Just more so I can help myself and help the team in the long run.

Linebacker Jarrad Davis also made the choice to return. Did you discuss your decisions?

MM: When the season was over with, we talked a lot, just what did he want to do, what did I want to do? We both talked to our families, so to have him back with me this last year is definitely a big thing because he can be one of the top linebackers in the country this year. Having us back together is definitely a good thing.

Where can you improve?

MM: Just everywhere for the most part. One thing I can focus on is more recognition of what’s going to happen before it happens. Making more plays on the ball, just being the guy that makes plays here, makes plays there, wherever the team needs me. Just putting myself in the right situations.

There are three early enrollees on defense. What are your early impressions?

MM: Chauncey (Gardner)’s from Cocoa [Florida] and I’m from Melbourne, about 10 to 15 minutes away from each other. Every time he’d come, we’d always hang out with each other, knowing him from back home also helped. We have a good relationship. McArthur Burnett, he’s doing well, too. He’s long, he’s physical, he’s real competitive. He’s been doing well in the workouts, been up in the coaches' offices trying to learn the playbook. We’ve got Jordan Smith, the defensive end. He’s putting on weight right away. We can see he has the length and ability to be a great pass-rusher. All the early enrollees are doing well so far.

You were not an early enrollee. Now that you see these guys already working out, what are the benefits?

MM: You can tell when the rest of their class gets here, they’re already used to the pace, they’re already used to the schedule. The workouts, they’ve been through a semester already. It definitely benefits [them]. They’re ahead in the playbook, so it all benefits coming in early.

What is it going to be like taking the field in September without Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal in the secondary?

MM: It’s going to be different. You knew when you stepped on the field, you’re going to have Hargreaves out wide. You know he’s going to be there ready to play whenever we need him, but now we have Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson, those guys will fit right in there just as much as Hargreaves did and now that Keanu is gone we’re looking for Nick Washington and Marcell (Harris) to make plays. Duke Dawson [is] at the nickel position now that (Brian) Poole’s gone. We had a second unit that’s just as good as the first unit, so once we get together in the summer, we’re working out with each other now, when that time comes we don’t miss a beat with each other.