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Florida football position preview: Linebacker Vosean Joseph primed for more big hits

Florida fans still remember the play.

LSU quarterback Danny Etling rolled to his right and started scrambling toward the end zone.

Vosean Joseph had other plans.

Joseph, a freshman who had minimal playing time up until that game, pulverized Etling and forced him out of bounds. Two plays later, the Tigers missed a field goal. One play after that, UF’s Austin Appleby hit receiver Tyrie Cleveland for a 98-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the eventual 16-10 win.

But as Joseph heads into his second year with the program, he’s confident that play is just the tip of the iceberg.

“They ain’t seen nothing yet,” the Miami Norland High alumnus said. “Trust me.”

He’s in a prime position to make a major impact this season.

Joseph played in all 13 games as a freshman. Most of his early contributions were on special teams until veterans Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis suffered injuries midway through the year.

From there, he moved up the depth chart and made his first career start in the Outback Bowl. He ended the season with 13 total tackles, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.

“When you ask me what I look for in a linebacker — tough, hard-nosed, physical — he is that. Every day,” linebackers coach Tim Skipper said. “He will hit you. … He loves that part of the game.”

Now, Joseph needs to prioritize the game plan and memorize the schemes. With the Gators fielding a young linebacker corps next season -- Florida’s most veteran scholarship linebacker is rising redshirt sophomore Kylan Johnson -- any mental lapse will be magnified.

The hits will come, he said, but when they come matters just as much.

“I have to take a step back,” he said. “Us linebackers, young linebackers, we have to just try to make plays, focus on making plays, we weren’t focusing on the system or coaching. We were just trying to make plays to get our name.

“As long as we play within the defense, we’re gonna make plays regardless.”

 

LINEBACKER ROOM

Key returners: David Reese, Vosean Joseph, Kylan Johnson, Jeremiah Moon, Cristian Garcia

Key departures: Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis

Additions for 2017: James Houston (early enrollee), Ventrell Miller, Nick Smith, Lacedrick Brunson

Evaluation: Youth, health and, at least for the spring, lack of depth are the biggest issue for Florida’s linebackers. David Reese, Florida’s projected starting middle linebacker, is out for spring camp with a wrist injury. Early enrollee James Houston is limited while recovering from a high school ACL injury. Second-year linebacker Jeremiah Moon is also coming back from a foot injury that kept him on the sideline for his freshman season. That leaves Florida with just three options this spring who have valuable experience in senior walk-on Cristian Garcia, rising sophomore Vosean Joseph and redshirt sophomore Kylan Johnson. Head coach Jim McElwain even moved tight end Camrin Knight to linebacker for the spring to have another body there. Once Reese is healthy and Moon gets up to speed -- and when Florida three other freshman linebackers get to campus in the summer -- the depth chart will start sorting itself out. Until then, though, linebackers coach Tim Skipper is working with what he has at his disposal.

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