All it took was ten snaps before Rashad Torrence II got thrown into action.
The Florida Gators freshman safety, who had received some hype throughout the fall for a good showing in camp, got his college football career off to a fast start on Saturday. The No. 2 free safety on Florida's depth chart, Torrence was tasked with filling in for starter Shawn Davis against the Ole Miss Rebels, as Davis was ejected for a targeting penalty on the first drive.
“We lost a starter, No. 1," defensive coordinator Todd Grantham spoke of the sequence of events, via Zoom with media on Tuesday. "But at the end of the day, it gave us an opportunity to play a true freshman in an SEC game for 60-plus snaps."
Torrence wasn't an X-factor for Florida when he stepped onto the field. In fact, Florida's secondary was its weakest unit on the field against the Rebels when the game was all said and done. However, Torrence performed well considering the circumstances and his youth and gave Grantham some to build off of.
The 6-foot, 205-pound Marietta (Ga.) native tallied eight tackles, including five solo, in his first career game. He played in deep coverage as well as in the box and lower levels of the field throughout the game, and according to Pro Football Focus, allowed just one catch on three targets for eight yards, albeit that one reception by tight end Kenny Yeboah went for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Florida had lined up late on that play and appeared to have issues communicating the coverage call, as Torrence began to blitz which opened up the flats as the two receivers to Yeboah's side took other defensive backs into the endzone on routes. It's tough to tell via broadcast footage if the score falls solely on Torrence's shoulders or if miscommunication is what caused the issue.
Otherwise, it was a solid day for the rookie, which gives the team some optimism about the impact he'll make moving forward.
"It probably gave us some growing pains," said Grantham "But at the end of the day, Rashad is going to be a really good player and he’s going to make a lot of plays for us around here."
Torrence was one of three true freshmen to earn playing time against Ole Miss, joined by wide receiver Xzavier Henderson (35 snaps - one catch for nine yards) and defensive tackle Gervon Dexter (12 snaps - one tackle for loss and one interception).
"I always say injury creates depth," said Grantham. "At some point, we’re going to need all of those guys to play... So, being able to get a guy like that those kind of quality reps and still win the game, then I look at it can help us moving forward.”
Davis will return to play this week against South Carolina, which should take some stress off of Torrence's plate while also improving the unit as a whole. Davis, a senior, recorded three interceptions a year ago, allowing a passer rating of 37.8 in coverage last year, per PFF. For reference, a quarterback's passer rating would be 39.6 if they spiked the ball into the dirt at every snap.
With Davis back in the fold, Torrence's playing time can become a bit more situational, as the secondary's communication and general pass defense should surely improve from the 443 yards allowed last Saturday.
“I think anytime you can add a guy like Shawn to the backend, you’ve gotten a guy that’s played two years for us in our system," said Grantham. He understands what we want, he’s seen a lot of football, he’s seen a lot of formations, he understands what to do.
"So, I think that helps your communication and makes things cleaner, because a lot of times a younger guy may know what to do, but somebody’s got to maybe tell him, or it’s got to get relayed quicker, and that kind of thing, so when you get a guy that’s got some leadership to him and can do those kinds of things, it really helps.”