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.
Three state receivers look to make Senior Bowl impression
A trio of Florida collegiate pass catchers will look to make an impact at Saturday’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, and it’s very possible that one will be selected the opening night the NFL Draft in April.
First, the Gators have a duo of receivers working out for the South team in this week. As wideouts, Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland have been going through practices and getting attention this week. Obviously, their experience against SEC competition is a key to helping them prepare to take on the North squad Saturday afternoon on the NFL Network.
Cleveland was a late add to the South roster only being notified on late Monday afternoon about the prospect of joining the senior All-Stars in Mobile.
And, as SI.com profiled earlier this week, both Florida guys are anxious to demonstrate what they can do and are grateful that they have each other in Alabama for the experience.
“I’ve seen Mr. Nagy (director of the Senior Bowl), and I heard him say something about Tyrie, so I was like, I was trying to creep in to see what he was talking about,” Jefferson admitted to the site.
“Then he looked at me and said ‘I invited your boy!’, and I asked who and he said ‘Tyrie!’, and so I went and called Tyrie, I’m like ‘Tyrie, where you at?’, and Tyrie’s already in Mobile, so my man, my dawg is here, so it’s just got the week much better, I’m excited to go out there and practice with him for the last time, play in a game with him for the last time, it’s exciting.”
Jefferson, who’s the son of former NFL receiver Shawn Jefferson, had two solid but not spectacular seasons in Gainesville after transferring from Ole Miss catching for just over 1,100 yards and 12 TDs in 23 games.
Likewise, Cleveland does not have fantastic numbers and some of that had to do with the shaky quarterback play at times during his career at Florida.
Still, they are both large bodied and Cleveland ran a sub 4.4 (unofficial), 40 yard dash this week, too.
Now, the probable first round pick from the state as a receiver is FAU tight end, Harrison Bryant. While he’s not a household name on the national scale, Bryant has outstanding hands and put up monster numbers for a tight end in 2019.
Flourishing and former coach Lane Kiffin’s system Bryant (above) led all tight ends in FBS with 65 catches, 1,004 yards and 7 TDs, as the FAU owls rolled to a second Conference USA championship in 3 years.
Bryant also has some raving about his route running, hands and his blocking from the practices this week in Mobile, too:
I watched this kid, Harrison Bryant that plays Tight End for FAU all day yesterday! He is very very good! I like everything about this kid from his route running, his catching ability and his physicality. Gotta be the 1st Tight End off the board. https://t.co/HwOzymrcMK
— Footwork_King 🤴🏾 (@footwork_king1) January 23, 2020
Sure, there will be a lot more time for scrutiny of these guys after the Senior Bowl is played from the scouting combine to their individual workouts and team interviews. Still, they are three names to keep an eye on Saturday and beyond, as the draft process continues.
Former Gators QB Franks transfers to Arkansas
Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks has decided on a new spot for his final year of eligibility and he won’t even leave the SEC. The Gators starting quarterback on and off for the last three years announced on Monday night that he will be transferring to the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Franks help lead the Gators resurgence two years ago under first-year coach Dan Mullen, including a Peach Bowl New Year’s Six game victory over the Michigan Wolverines. Florida finished 10-3 with momentum headed into this season.
However, with sky high expectations for Franks, Mullen and the Gators this past season (they were a preseason top 10 team) Franks played inconsistently for a lot of the early part of the season. Then, things ended horrifically as Franks suffered a nasty fractured leg at Kentucky ending his season.
The 6’6 Franks finished his Gator career with 28 starts 4,500+ yards passing and 28 TDs. However, his at times poor play, including crucial interceptions enraged Gator fans. Next, he announced December 1st that he would be transferring for one more season, as a graduate to be eligible immediately.
Arkansas is in desperation to rebuild after having fired coach Chad Morris after two horrible seasons. They hired Georgia former offensive line coach Sam Pittman at their head coach and Franks will be playing for new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who spent last season with FSU.
Arkansas is in desperate need of a quality proven quarterback, as they had just three scholarship signal caller options in senior Jack Lindsey, redshirt-sophomore John Stephen Jones and redshirt-freshman K.J. Jefferson. Jones, who is the grandson of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is considered the most experienced of the group. But to show how bad it is, he’s thrown for just 106 yards and 2 touchdowns with 2 interceptions in six career games.
So, clearly Franks, if/when fully healed from the ankle fracture will be heavily counted on for 2020.
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