It could not have been better.
True freshmen cornerbacks Chester Kimbrough, Jaydon Hill and Kaiir Elam played about as well as any Gator fan could have hoped for against UT Martin when they went in. We likely will not see C.J. Henderson suit up against Kentucky this Saturday in Lexington, which means more opportunities for these three.
Let's break down some plays of their's against the Skyhawks, to get an idea of how they may fare against the Wildcats.
It's too bad we don't have access to the all-22 film here, but clearly Kimbrough gets back up the field to get back in the action. The tackle is obviously the most important part here, but the most impressive part is the true freshman knowing where the first down line is so that he can get in front of it and get UT Martin off the field. That is indicative of a young guy that is well-coached. This has Gators cornerbacks coach Torrian Gray written all over it.
One word for this play: toughness. Kimbrough is noticeably skinny on the field, but the 172-pounder plays like he is 200 plus. Other than reaction skills, there's not a lot to analyze here other than just being impressed that such a small guy shows no fear and helps drive the running back backwards and stop an almost guaranteed first down.
The angle cuts it off, but Hill lines up 12 yards off here and backpedals to about 15. He shows his exceptional athleticism here and why he was so highly recruited. Stopping on a dime and coming up to break that really well-thrown ball up is very hard to do at any level. As Hill gets bigger and more experienced, his play tells me he'll have many quiet games in the future much like CJ Henderson, because QB's will watch his film and decide to not throw at his side altogether.
When I broke down Marco Wilson's film against Miami, I discussed a good play and a bad play from Wilson in defending WR screens. Hill plays this one extremely well. He lines up 7 yards off and by the time the receiver catches it, he is engaged with his blocker 1 yard past the line of scrimmage and more importantly, right at the numbers. The reason that you need to be at the numbers or close to it as a corner defending a screen is you make the runner cut inside where you have help and don't necessarily have to get off your block. Well done.
WE LOVE TURNOVERS BABY. Kaiir Elam is in perfect position here and leaves the QB with no ideal throwing option. Elam is freakishly athletic and shows it here, but that is not to say the technique isn't there either. His positioning was perfect and he made it easy on himself. Torrian Gray's coaching showing up here as well.
A 5-yard gain here could have been ten if Elam didn't come up and get in position. I love this break down before the tackle from young DB's. Immature DB's love kill shots. They want to launch a shoulder into people and make a highlight (just watch UF's safeties against Miami). A DB that's smart breaks down like Elam does here and stops the runner for as few yards as possible. This is a corner that is playing beyond his age.
Obviously, the play was encouraging and Kentucky QB Terry Wilson is done for the year. The young guys get to go against someone who is also inexperienced in transfer QB Sawyer Smith. Not having to defend Wilson's mobility is a huge advantage but truthfully we have no idea how good Smith is. For all we know he could come in and light it up. Nevertheless, UF has to feel good about to young corners filling in while Henderson rehabs.