GAINESVILLE -- How many people can make this claim? Two national championships in Miami's Land Shark Stadium highlighted by two game-winning defensive plays.
Only one person has accomplished such a feat: Florida Gators safety Ahmad Black. He might be smaller than the prototypical safety and others might be faster, but Black's body of work is proof that, at this point in his career, he is one of the best defensive backs this state has produced when it comes to timing, tackling and big plays on the grand stage. Black did not start in the Gators' season opener last Saturday against Charleston Southern but that should not be the case this week when UF plays its first Football Bowl Subdivision opponent, the Troy Trojans. UF's coaches can't afford to keep him off the field. Expect Black [PICTURED] to return to his starting position at strong safety this Saturday.
Now, before you flood this blog post's comments field with insults, let me clarify a portion of that last paragraph. I'm not saying Ahmad Black can be compared to Bennie Blades, Lawrence Wright, Deion Sanders, Reggie Nelson, Louis Oliver, Sean Taylor, Phillip Buchanon, Lito Sheppard, Antonio Cromartie, all the Rolles (Antrel, Myron, Samari) ... That's not what I'm claiming. I'm crazy but not THAT crazy. I'm simply stating a fact: Ahmad Black's football resume -- high school and one season of college football -- can be compared to any of those Florida-born players' accomplishments at that point in their careers. (And, yes, I'm fully aware some of the those players are cornerbacks.)
Consider this when Black starts ahead of UF sophomore Will Hill on Saturday: Since high school, Black has only lost one game in which he was a starter. (Ole Miss 31, Florida 30/2008.) He was a starter for three state championship football teams at Lakeland High School. The Dreadnaughts never lost a game and defeated Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas in 2006 at Land Shark Stadium (then Dolphin Stadium) to earn a mythical high school football national championship. It was an epic game, highlighted by Black's game-saving tackle on the goal line in double overtime. Black had 20 interceptions in three years at Lakeland.
As a freshman at UF, Black was a third-string cornerback in 2007 but in 2008 he emerged as one of the most accomplished defensive backs in the nation. He was a co-leader nationally with seven interceptions. It can be argued that his final interception of the season -- in the fourth quarter against a driving Oklahoma Sooners offense -- essentially won the game for the Gators.
Now, as for UF sophomore Will Hill, he is a fine player -- and maybe he'll end up being one of UF's greatest defenders of all time -- but he's just not ready to play safety in the Southeastern Conference. (At least, he's not ready to play safety in the SEC while Black and Major Wright are on the same roster.) I'm not a coach, but I've watched the UF-Charleston Southern game three times and Hill played out of position, occasionally looked confused and missed a few tackles. Physically, Hill has a better body than Black but that does not mean Hill is the better football player. Not yet, anyway.
Upon further review, Florida's experiment with rotating safeties should be scrapped. Start Black and Wright at the safety positions and let Hill play nickelback. If Black makes mistakes and becomes a liability, then give Hill another shot. Until then, go with the proven winner.