Crouched in his defensive position was the 6-1, 226-pound Vosean Joseph.
Not much has changed about the Florida linebacker. He wore the same No. 11 on his jersey that he had his whole college career. But he has new confidence that even his teammates couldn’t help but notice.
Joseph headlined a defense that held LSU to 29 pass yards in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s battle in the Swamp. He earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week and Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week honors after his team-high 14-tackle, 3.5-tackle-for-loss performance in the 27-19 win.
Nothing about Joseph’s zeal and ability to play quick off the ball is new to his teammates and coaches. It’s the mental changes he’s made in his junior year to which they attribute his recent success.
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“Vosean’s always been an aggressive player,” linebacker David Reese said. “I feel like he’s just thinking more. And when he’s able to be more confident he’s able to play faster. So as long as he’s confident, he can make any play he needs to.”
Reese spoke assuredly when asked about his teammate, saying Joseph’s defensive prowess has always made itself known on the field. But with more confidence for Joseph has come more production.
Through six games this season, Joseph leads the Gators with 42 tackles (6.5 tackles-for-loss). He has also tallied three sacks (third on team), two pass-breakups, one quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery, which he returned 20 yards.
“I feel like Vo’s always been that fast. He’s always been able to move to the ball and get around to the ball,” Reese said. “He’s just confident in what he’s doing, so he’s able to make plays way faster and know where he’s going. Once you tell that guy what to do, he’s gonna get there probably as fast as anybody in the country.”
No aspect of the improvements in his game has shown up more than Joseph’s ability to maneuver his way to the quarterback. The Miami, Florida, native has shown in the past two weeks that he can be anywhere on the field at any given time, slithering between blockers and making guys miss. The technique allowed Joseph to get to LSU quarterback Joe Burrow twice on Saturday and to Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald once when the Gators faced the Bulldogs.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham described Joseph as a conscientious guy focused on perfecting his craft. Someone who has poured a lot of time into watching tape, understanding fits and analyzing what the other team is doing.
That has allowed Joseph to emerge as a star on the Gators’ defense and as someone who will bring the same energy every down, all four quarters.
“I think anytime you close out game it gives you confidence,” Grantham said. “I think the biggest thing is we have to understand that there’s a certain amount of preparation involved every week to play at that level, so we have to continue to work and prepare so that our production on the field matches our performance in practice.”