Grantham Preparing to Widen Florida Gators' Nickel Cornerback Competition

If you play defensive back at Florida, chances are Todd Grantham will want to see what you're capable of at STAR nickel cornerback.
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Florida is preparing to retool its defense this offseason, and is utilizing its spring camp to do so. 

One unit in need of a makeover is the secondary, which saw four players leave in pursuit of an NFL career and another couple of depth pieces transfer away from the program over the past few months. Namely, with Brad Stewart Jr. and Marco Wilson departing from the program, Florida's STAR nickel cornerback spot is up for grabs.

"Well I think that if you play DB, you could be there," defensive coordinator Todd Grantham mentioned about the STAR position on Wednesday.

"At the end of the day, you're basically aligning to the slot and you're matching either 2 or 3 relative to routes or coverage. You're really doing the same thing as a safety, so if you can play safety, you can really play nickel from a learning standpoint," Grantham explained. "Then there gets to be a little more coverage element, that's where the guys that have played corner before can come in and play and give you some relief that way."

Florida has similarly moved players around in the secondary to mend the STAR position over the past two years, as it has yet to house a consistent playmaker since Chauncey Gardner-Johnson's departure to the NFL. 

Wilson often flexed in between STAR and outside cornerback, to varying results. Senior defensive back Trey Dean III, now a safety and formerly an outside cornerback, also has previous experience at the position and has exhuded confidence in his ability to play all three positions if need be.

Grantham acknowledged that two of UF's incoming freshmen will receive looks in the slot, along with other younger members of the secondary.

Although he has yet to enroll, Winter Park (Fla.) defensive back and 2021 signee Dakota Mitchell projects to play the position. Florida will have a better opportunity to examine his skill-set come fall, but the 5-foot-11, 185-pound defensive back filled a similar role in high school and extended it as a rover defender during his senior season.

Grantham also hinted that early enrollee Jordan Young was capable of playing STAR, along with rising sophomore Kamar Wilcoxson. Tre'Vez Johnson played in 12 games and spent 245 snaps at nickel corner during his true freshman season, perhaps providing him with a leg up on his young competition.

New safeties coach Wesley McGriff, who is responsible with developing and game-planning the slot cornerback position, will have sebral options to choose from as Florida's secondary is stabilized for the future. A staple of Grantham's philosophy is versatility, and he expects his defensive backs young and old - to be able to handle the responsibilities of the nickel role.

"We're going to continue to work and develop guys and kind of see how it shakes out," Grantham said.