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Senior Bowl player to watch- DB Duke Dawson of Gators

Olivia Stacey

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Duke Dawson had big shoes to fill while at Florida. His predecessors included the likes of Keanu Neal, Vernon Hargreaves III, Marcus Maye, Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor, just to name a few. A group touted as “DBU,” who later became NFL defensive backs.

With the departure of both Tabor and Wilson last year, Dawson moved to corner this year — which showed his versatility as a defensive back. He started 18 games at nickel and cornerback over his last two years in Gainesville.

Although Dawson has played his last game in the Swamp, he’s following in the footsteps of former Florida cornerbacks.

Dawson will be taking the field in Saturday’s Senior Bowl to try to set himself apart from the rest of the cornerback field in the NFL draft. The last three days of workouts have also provided valuable evaluation time.

Most draft analysts have pegged him as a nickel defender. Despite being undersized at 5-foot-10, he’s shown he has solid instincts, speed and awareness as a zone defender.

Some of his weaknesses were exposed when playing man coverage — the ball often went over his head in the red zone when matched up against bigger receivers. The main criticism is that Dawson needs to time attack, jump, and turn better when playing man coverage.

Dawson said his experience playing with a strong core of defensive backs at Florida helped him prepare for the next level.

“We always competed with each other, no matter what we did — 5-yard sprints, shuffle drills,” Dawson told SEC Country. “We were always competing with each other. That was the love we had for one another. We were there to work. Those guys ahead of me, if I needed anything, they were always there for me on and off the field.”

Now, Dawson hopes to either be reunited with them or compete against them in the NFL.

Olivia is a multi-faceted sports reporter based in Tampa Bay where she has covered events from the College Football National Championship to the Stanley Cup Final. A native Floridian, she grew up rooting for Tampa’s sports teams, and graduated from East Lake High in Tarpon Springs. Olivia continued her education at the University of Florida where she received her broadcast journalism degree.

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