Gator Great Discusses Why Vernon Hargreaves Is So Good

    Gator great Keiwan Ratliff discusses why superstar junior Vernon Hargreaves III is so good as a cornerback during the weekly Gator Nation Football Podcast.

    October 7, 2015

    There has been a bevy of elite cornerbacks to come through the Florida football program over the years. From Keiwan Ratliff to Joe Haden, the Gators have turned out their fair share of top prospects.

    But one could argue that there’s never been one quite like superstar junior Vernon Hargreaves III.

    Coming out of high school, Hargreaves was ranked the No. 1 cornerback and No. 3 overall player in the country, according to recruiting service 247Sports. He’s lived up to that hype and then some.

    Hargreaves has played well beyond his years since stepping foot on UF’s campus, but that’s nothing new for the First Team All-American. The Tampa native developed skill sets early in life that take some corners years to hone.

    Ratliff, who played for UF from 2000-03 and was named an All-American and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in ’03, says it’s Hargreaves’ technique that makes him so good. 

    “Vernon had the technique that it requires to be a great college corner, or a great NFL corner, or a great corner period at such a young age,” Ratliff stated during this week’s Gator Nation Football Podcast. “I can remember seeing him play as a sophomore in high school and him staying square at the line … no false steps, no crossover steps, it’s small things that most DBs don’t learn until you get to maybe your junior or senior year of college, if you learn it at all in college, and he was doing those types of things as a second year high school player. Things like that is what sets him apart.”

    Hargreaves is widely regarded as the top cornerback in the nation this year, and is projected as a top 10 pick should he declare for the 2016 NFL Draft. He’s been about as lockdown as a corner can get so far this season, helping lead the Gators to a 5-0 start with three interceptions.

    Thus far during his UF career, Hargreaves has pulled in a total of nine interceptions. Ratliff knows a thing or two about picking off the opposing quarterback himself, having recorded 12 during his days as a Gator. He also holds the single-season school record with nine, set in 2003.

    Ratliff discussed why he was able to be so successful in this statistical category, and what other corners, like Hargreaves, might be looking for during a play.

    “The things that I looked for as a player were down and distance tendencies, formation tendencies, and route combination tendencies. For most offensive coordinators, they’ll come out and if it’s 2nd-and-8, if you watch all their second and medium to long situations throughout the season, you’ll start to pick up on a pattern. Some coaches may like to go to this route if it’s 2nd and 6-to-8; some coaches may like to go to this formation if it’s 3rd and medium; some coaches may like to give you this type of motion just to see if you’re in man or zone when they want to run this play. So if you can pick up on those coordinator’s tendencies and on some of their habits, then a lot of times, if you see it, I tell the guys that I work with all the time, don’t wait until the second or third time you see it, trust what you’ve seen on tape, trust what you’ve seen on film, and jump at that first one because you may not get a second or third opportunity.”

    This weekend, the Florida secondary faces a Missouri Tigers team that’s among the worst in the nation in throwing interceptions. The Tigers have tossed five picks through the first five games, which is tied for 76th worst in the FBS. The Gators, on the other hand, are tied for 36th best in the FBS in forcing interceptions.

    Backup quarterback Drew Lock will once again fill in for the suspended Maty Mauk. While there isn’t a ton of film on how Missouri plans to use him, Hargreaves and the Gators defense can look towards tendencies in defensive coordinator Barry Odom’s play calling for opportunities to capitalize on. 


    Gator Nation Football Podcast: Episode 6 – Missouri

    LISTEN: Gator Nation Football Podcast Archive

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