Florida won't be getting over the loss of All-SEC cornerback Janoris Jenkins anytime soon. His speed, athleticism, game knowledge and field range were too much to replace.
But new coach Will Muschamp, who made the terribly difficult decision to cut ties with Jenkins, is letting on that he's not concerned about the bodies he'll be putting out on the field at the position this season. While there might be internal hysteria for Muschamp, he's been pretty calm and collected about the subject while on the road for his many Gator Club meetings.
Muschamp hasn't shied away from the issue, but he meets each question about Jenkins and the other corners with pretty much the same response.
"We’ll be fine," Muschamp said at the Central Florida Gator Club in Orlando. "I’ll take the guys we’ve got."
The guys he's referring to are redshirt junior Jeremy Brown, sophomores Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins, fifth-year senior Moses Jenkins, and freshman De'Ante "Pop" Saunders.
Muschamp might be OK with the players looking to fill Jenkins' void, but that's a pretty big void. And while he might have a handful of athletes to pick from, experience isn't a main attribute for them.
Riggs appeared in 13 games last fall, starting three. He made significant improvements, but at 5-foot-9, 166 pounds, can he start an entire season having to play opposite bigger, more physical receivers?
Brown missed his first two seasons at Florida because of a severe back injury. Before his injury, Brown was actually ahead of Jenkins on the depth chart.
Brown started 10 of the 11 games he played in last season and had three interceptions. However, he did get picked on at times, which could have been a sign that his body might not have been completely ready for a full season of football yet.
"We have to manage Jeremy and be very smart in training camp," Muschamp said. "He’s got a chronic back deal and that’s something we can manage him through, make sure that he gets good tackling work and still not put him at risk to injuring his back."
Moses Jenkins has the most years to his name, but has never been a true impact player for the Gators on defense. He's only started three of the 29 games he's played in and injuries cut his past two seasons short.
Watkins played mostly on special teams last season, while Saunders enrolled this spring. Muschamp said Watkins should be valuable to the position because of his knowledge of both corner spots. Saunders has very raw corner skills and he still has some learning to do in the coverage department.
This leaves Florida's new defensive staff with the task of getting a handful of incoming freshmen ready. The top prospect should be Fort Lauderdale, Fla., St. Thomas Aquinas' Marcus Roberson. While he looks like he'll eventually develop into a safety, Roberson will start off at corner this summer. He was No. 112 on the ESPNU 150 and was rated the ninth-best safety.
The Gators also brought in Loucheiz Purifoy and Valdez Showers to play corner. Both are extremely athletic, but also have raw corner skills.
Muschamp hasn't named starters and plans to work everyone out equally before the fall. He doesn't seem concerned with youth. He just wants to put the right players out on the field.
"Obviously, the freshmen will always get an opportunity if they’re good enough," he said. "If they can help us win football games they’ll have that opportunity."