Five Play Prospect: Gators Safety Mordecai McDaniel Scouting Report
The Gators very badly needed safety help in the 2020 class.
Therefore, the Gators alotted three spots to the safety position in the 2020 recruiting class. One was left unfilled by Avantae Williams, who made a surprising choice to attend Miami over Florida on National Signing Day. Though, the other two were filled by Mordecai McDaniel and Rashad Torrence II.
In today's "Five Play Prospect", a scouting report series covering Florida's 2020 signing class, we'll cover McDaniel's strengths at safety and what he can provide Florida with on the backend of their defense.
The 6-1, 195 lb. defensive back has an SEC-ready frame which could give him an upper-hand to play early, after Florida's was inconsistent at the position in 2019 and lost part-time starter Jeawon Taylor to graduation. A track star as well, McDaniel has posted personal records of 6.48 seconds in the 55-meter and 10.81 seconds in the 100-meter dash.
Considering his frame, I want to see McDaniel get stronger, but there's no denying that he can and wants to play physical.
Pressing above at cornerback, which he played the majority of his freshman season, you see McDaniel step into his press at the line of scrimmage to slow down the release of his receiver.
Now, McDaniel won't be asked to press much at all at safety, but it's great to see his willingness to play physically at the line to delay the wide receiver's route. From his press, McDaniel puts himself in a position to play the ball on a target to the slot receiver.
McDaniel's physicality opens up the box safety role in Florida's defense, primarily utilized in Cover 3 packages and requiring a physical safety with a nose for the football.
Hovering the line of scrimmage in a blitz package, McDaniel acts as a spy to sniff out a run or play action to the middle of the field. With patience, vision, and leverage to get off of his block, McDaniel crosses gaps to make a stop on the running back's second effort to clear the goal-line.
When was the last time a Florida safety was capable of playing the box like that? Certainly not in 2019.
Reading and reacting
McDaniel starts this play at single-high safety, but switches roles with his fellow safety at the snap and dives down towards the tackle box to adjust to the pre-snap motion.
As McDaniel makes the sudden transition, his vision picks up on a developing swing pass to the motioning receiver, and closes a 15 yard gap from his initial starting point to the receivers catch point and makes a tackle for loss.
McDaniel's read-and-react skills, paired with elite closing speed and physicality to beat and maneuver blocks, should lead to blowing short plays up more consistently than UF's safety group has done as of late.
Back at cornerback, we get to see more of McDaniel in coverage. Getting taken deep at the boundary, McDaniel's track speed keeps him hip-to-hip with his man.
He throws in a little nudge to the receiver's core with his right elbow, as the pass is underthrown inside, in order to keep his position and make a play on the ball. That move won't get called, and is another testament to McDaniel's physicality. McDaniel ends this play with yet another PBU.
With his eyes looking away from the quarterback in man coverage here, McDaniel can only predict a pass is coming his way by reading his receiver's body movement and mirroring it.
He just does that, never overpursuing and breaking down as the receiver does in order to maintain good positioning to play the ball. The receiver runs a curl, turning his body towards McDaniel, which makes it even easier for McDaniel to breakup the pass, but McDaniel was in prime position to defend any breaking route, inside or out.
With a frame ready to play SEC football now, track speed to pair with that stature, and polished coverage technique and physicality, McDaniel is in prime position to take advantage of Florida's inconsistencies at safety and turn it into early playing time.
McDaniel will need to get stronger as he goes along. His frame and willingness to play physically will start him off on the right foot, but as a tackler and if McDaniel is to play any press, added strength will be necessary.
Though, McDaniel is a relatively high-floor safety prospect who could play either strong or free safety, as he has traits and intangibles that fit well at either position.