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NCAA Football Florida GatorsSEC Football

Vernon Hargreaves is a Future Thorpe Award Winner for Florida

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida got the top player in the Sunshine State when Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, Fl. Wharton) signed on to play for coach Will Muschamp and wear the Gators uniform next fall and I think he’ll be starting in Gainesville as a true freshman.

Hargreaves has the potential to be a Thorpe award winner as the nation’s top defensive back and would be the first Florida player to win the award since Joe Haden took home the award in 2009 before heading to the draft and being a high first round draft pick. The two are very similar players and Hargreaves could be following the same path as that of Haden provided he can stay healthy.

With Hargreaves locking down one side of the field, that allows the defense to free up a safety to come down into the box for run support or to allow a linebacker to blitz off the edge, which would make an already elite Florida defense even better.

Certainly there will be some growing pains for Hargreaves and starting in the SEC is no small order, but Hargreaves has the awareness and football intelligence of a player much older than him because his father is a football coach at South Florida.

While he is mentally prepared to handle the challenges of immediate playing time, he is also blessed with prototypical size and speed for a cornerback. At 5-11 and 185-pounds, he has good height to defend taller receivers and uses his strength to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and helps him in run support, something not many corners are willing or able to do.

Hargreaves has all the makings of an elite shutdown corner and Florida got themselves a rare breed that will be a captain of that defense in short order.

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Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” on Sportstownchicago.com airing Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.