Florida Gators football: Early enrollees who could emerge

More than a month removed from National Signing Day and less than a week away from that start of spring practice, what better time than now to look at which early enrollees could make an immediate impact for the Florida Gators?

Florida had nine early enrollees from its class of 2014. Here are a couple of players that could emerge for the Gators with a strong showing this spring.

Cornerback Jalen Tabor

Florida will be looking to replace four starters from last year’s secondary. Some highly regarded and talented prospects will be fighting for spots, but perhaps none more talented than true freshman Jalen Tabor.

After a stellar freshman season, rising sophomore Vernon Hargreaves III is firmly entrenched as one of Florida’s starting cornerbacks. That means Tabor will likely be battling it out with junior Brian Poole and redshirt freshman Nick Washington for the other starting job.

At 6-foot-1, 188 pounds, Tabor is a physical corner that can use his length to disrupt wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. His strength is in press coverage and he could be the perfect compliment to start opposite Hargreaves.

Tight end DeAndre Goolsby

The Gators signed three tight ends in this year’s recruiting class, with Goolsby being the only early enrollee. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Goolsby was a three-star recruit and the No. 9 ranked tight end prospect in the nation.

There is no doubt that Florida is in dire need of some help at the tight end position. In 2013, Florida’s tight ends combined for just four receptions. Given the state of the position, Goolsby will have as good a chance as any early enrollee to step in and play immediately.

His main competition will come from last year’s incumbents — Clay Burton, Tevin Westbrook and Colin Thompson. Westbrook led Florida tight ends in receiving last season with three catches for 30 yards. Both he and Burton are converted defensive ends and are better suited as blockers. Thompson was highly regarded coming out of high school, but injuries have derailed his development. The two other tight ends Florida signed this year – C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens — won’t arrive on campus until this summer.

If he hopes to play a big role as a true freshman, it will be pretty simple for Goolsby. He will have to prove himself as a reliable playmaker and pass catcher to differentiate himself from the rest of the bunch.

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