Jalen Tabor is the centerpiece of Florida’s stacked secondary, but the Gators’ junior cornerback still practices every day like he’s fighting for a scholarship.
The All-SEC standout delivered another highlight-filled workout Tuesday, picking off the first pass of the day by prospective starting quarterback Luke Del Rio.
“I’m kind of used to that,” Tabor said, grinning. “I had two picks today. I got my hands on a lot of balls today, should have had more [interceptions]. Pretty good day, but got beat at the end. Me and the safety had a miscommunication. We’ll get that cleaned up.”
Tabor never lacks any confidence, and for good reason.
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Last year, he emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the country, as the 6-foot-1, 199-pound playmaker led the SEC in passes defended with 18 — 10 more than All-American teammate Vernon Hargreaves III. Tabor added four interceptions, too, returning a pair for touchdowns.
“Here’s a guy who really loves playing the game,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said.
“There’s something to be said about really loving football, and this guy loves it. The way he practices and goes about his business is something you wish everybody would do.”
Tabor could be a future first round NFL Draft pick, and the former five-star recruit has focused this spring on becoming the best cornerback in the nation. Period.
He’s worked on his tackling and pre-snap reads. He’s also improved his down-to-down focus, nutrition and his vocal leadership.
“I just want to show everybody that I’m a complete corner,” he said, adding that he has no specific personal goals for 2016.
“If we win as a team I’ll probably get a lot of accolades. But as long as we win, I’ll be happy.”
Tabor, who intercepted four balls at a recent practice, plays with a certain swagger and he’s attacking the offseason with the same fearlessness as he plays with every Saturday in the fall.
“He has that savvy, that cockiness, arrogance or competitiveness that you’ve got to have to be a top-flight corner,” said UF’s new secondary coach Torrian Gray, who coached future NFL standouts Brandon Flowers, Kam Chancellor and Kyle Fuller at Virginia Tech.
“They all have got an ‘it’ factor. They’ve all got a high football IQ. He’s right there along with those guys.”
SPRING GAME FORMAT
Florida still hasn’t announced an exact format for Friday’s Orange & Blue Debut, but McElwain said, “It will be football. Fans will enjoy it.”
The Gators are hosting their annual spring scrimmage at night for the first time in school history, hoping to provide a different experience for fans and recruits.