Unexpectedly losing your best defensive player is never a good thing. But there actually is a positive aspect to Florida’s situation with All-SEC cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was thrown off the team last week following his second marijuana arrest in three months.

The Gators already know how to play without him. They did it the entire spring, while Jenkins was sidelined after undergoing surgery. So the transition in the secondary this summer and early fall should be relatively seamless.

“We’ll be fine (at cornerback),” UF coach Will Muschamp said in Orlando on Tuesday night. “I’ll take the guys we’ve got.”

With Jenkins sitting out the spring, it gave UF’s young cornerbacks a chance to get more reps and more involved in the defense.

That extra practice time could turn out to be invaluable come next fall.

With Jenkins out of the mix, here’s how the Gators are looking at cornerback: senior Jeremy Brown (provided his back holds up) has nailed down one starting role, while senior Moses Jenkins and true sophomore Cody Riggs likely will compete for starting honors at the other corner. Depth comes from Jaylen Watkins, De’Ante “Pop” Saunders and incoming true freshmen Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Valdez Showers.

The Gators certainly appear to have the numbers to adequately cover, so to speak, for the loss of Jenkins.

“Obviously, the freshmen will always get an opportunity,” Muschamp said. “If they’re good enough and if they can help us win football games, they’ll have that opportunity. But Jeremy Brown, Moses Jenkins, Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins are the four guys. And Pop Saunders did a nice job in the spring.”

Saunders, an early enrollee, turned out to be one of the big surprises of the spring. Getting plenty of reps with Jenkins out of the mix, Sauders, who played quarterback and defensive back at DeLand High School, drew praise from Muschamp late in the spring. Muschamp said Saunders has a chance to be a big-time corner for the Gators, and that might happen fairly soon.

At the corner opposite Brown, Jenkins and Riggs were in a close battle throughout the spring.
Muschamp said Jenkins needed to continue to improve his consistency.

Riggs saw considerable playing time as a true freshman last season and ended the year on a high note with an interception in the Outback Bowl.

Watkins appears to be one of the most versatile players in the UF secondary — capable of playing safety and cornerback.

It’s tough when you unexpectedly lose your best defensive player, but it appears the Gators have a chance to overcome the loss of Janoris Jenkins.