UF | Defensive backs

Gators have impressive pair of Freshman in Hargreaves III and Neal

 

Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal have stood out amongst UF’s freshmen in training camp and could receive significant playing time once the season starts.

Miami Herald Writer

Freshmen defensive backs Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal haven’t preformed like newcomers during training camp, and both appear ready to be impact players for the Gators.

Hargreaves and Neal are two of Florida’s most heralded freshmen from its 2013 recruiting class, and in just two weeks of practice the pair has already made steady strides to compete for immediate playing time.

Hargreaves, a former five-star cornerback and No. 2 recruit in the nation, is exceeding already lofty preseason expectations, turning heads in a talented and crowded unit.

“He’ll have every opportunity in the world to play early,” coach Will Muschamp said.

“He is mature. He understands the game, is very cerebral in his approach. He’s got great instincts. … Good ball skills down the field and is outstanding in man coverage.”

Despite boasting a deep cornerback unit that includes NFL-caliber talent Louchiez Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins, defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin echoed Muschamp’s sentiment, saying, “Vernon will play for us this year.”

Durkin also raved about Hargreaves’ potential, saying, “You see him out there. I can’t say he’s a pleasant surprise to us. That was our plan with him going in. ...We think he’s a phenomenal player.”

Durkin called Hargreaves, who is currently hampered by a mild shoulder sprain, a very intelligent player, something Purifoy also highlighted.

“He just came in smart,” Florida’s junior cornerback said. “He knows a lot. He has good technique. Just got to work on communicating. … But when I came in I didn’t know as much as he knows. He’s a good kid.”

Meanwhile, Neal’s rapid emergence has been a little more unanticipated. The 6-1, 204-pound safety wasn’t actually the top safety prospect in Florida’s most recent recruiting class.

Marcell Harris, a 6-2, 220-pound battering ram, came to UF as the more hyped recruit and the one many presumed would play right away.

But while Harris has struggled with the traditional freshman learning curve, it’s Neal who is competing for a starting spot and has quickly inserted himself into the rotation.

During Thursday’s open practice, Neal delivered a crushing hit on freshman running back Adam Lane, and the large crowd erupted in delight.

“He’s a young guy that can do some things,” Durkin said. “He is a very physical player. He plays fast, reacts fast. That guy has all the things you want a safety to have. We’re thrilled to have him.”

Although redshirt junior Cody Riggs has had a strong camp, distancing himself as one of Florida’s prospective starting safeties, even Riggs is impressed with the freshmen’s promise.

“They look good,” he said. “They’re still young, so they’re learning the defense, but they’re going to be really good players in the future.”

Read more UF stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Leaping for more: </span>Florida running back Matt Jones jumps over teammate Clay Burton during the second quarter of Saturday’s game. Jones scored the game-winning touchdown in the third overtime.

    UF 36, Kentucky 30 (3OT)

    UF narrowly escapes at home as Gators struggle with Kentucky Wildcats

    Kentucky — losers of 28 in a row against UF — nearly stunned the Gators, but Florida’s electric sophomore receiver Demarcus Robinson single-handily shredded the Wildcats’ secondary for 15 catches, 216 yards and two touchdowns as UF escaped 36-30 in triple overtime Saturday night in The Swamp.

  •  
Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators yells during the second half of the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Gainesville, Florida.

    UF football

    Florida Gators’ tough win reveals problems in defensive backfield

    Florida’s inexperienced defensive backfield was shaky, getting burned repeatedly during a triple-overtime victory against Kentucky.

  • Recap: Florida vs. Kentucky

    Matt Jones scored on a one-yard touchdown run in triple-overtime to lift the Florida Gators to a 36-30 win over the Kentucky Wildcats in a SEC thriller at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category