- Jeff Barlis, College Football
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- When asked for his early concerns in spring practice, Florida head coach Will Muschamp didn't have a long list. But the safety position, his position as a college football player and the one he personally coaches, was on it.
"We need to continue to improve there," Muschamp said on Tuesday. "I think the ability is there. We need to continue to be more productive."
One player, however, was spared his coach's ire -- Jabari Gorman -- and it's no coincidence he's the only senior in Florida's secondary.
“He has done a nice job," Muschamp said. "The others, I can’t say that. But he has done a nice job. He understands the importance of communication on the back end. We've just got to do a better job at understanding that a mistake there is normally not good for the Gators. That’s where we’ve got to tie some things up."
Understandably, Muschamp can be tough on his safeties. He holds them to a high standard, one that has been achieved in recent years.
Florida's starters two seasons ago, Matt Elam and Josh Evans, are playing in the NFL. Jaylen Watkins, one of UF's starling safeties last season, expects to follow their footsteps in the NFL draft this May.
The Gators lost their other starting safety from 2013, Cody Riggs, who is transferring to Notre Dame after he graduates this spring. That's a clean sweep of starting safeties from Florida's secondary in back-to-back season.
To Gorman, it's an opportunity. His time has come.
"Especially at the safety position, you've got to grow up," Gorman said. "You've got to be able to be vocal. In that position you have to develop into a leader because so much is needed from you. You're the quarterback of the defense.
"What I do, I try to let these kids know that it's never personal with Coach. It's always for the better, to make you a better player, make you faster and more instinctive."
Getting better is what Gorman has done in three years at UF. He had a breakout season last year with 48 tackles (sixth most on the team), seven pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble.
"Jabari’s very smart, he’s a guy that gets it," Muschamp said. "He understands and learns well. He’s seen the game. It’s slowed down tremendously for him over the years. He’s played a lot of football for us, played well for us last year. I’ve been very pleased with his spring to his point through four days and the offseason program."
After playing right away on special teams and as a reserve in 2011, Gorman's time at Florida has grown short.
"Yeah man, I say it's the blink of an eye," he said. "I still remember the first day I came to campus. What I want to do is help my team to go out with a bang, be the best we can be."
Gorman easily lists the names of his classmates, fellow seniors who want badly to erase the blemish of last year's 4-8 record.
"We've got a lot of seniors that have been here, gone through a process," he said. "We went through struggles at times, went through the good times, and we just want to leave on a good note. I think it's more important to us than anybody to go out and win."
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