Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gators' Defensive Backs Inexperienced but Athletic; Bailey Has 12 Starts, but He's UF's Veteran in Today's Annual Orange & Blue Football Game

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gators' Defensive Backs Inexperienced but Athletic; Bailey Has 12 Starts, but He's UF's Veteran in Today's Annual Orange & Blue Football Game

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, The Times-Union

GAINESVILLE -- Cory Bailey groaned when somebody brought it up last week.

He is the most experienced player in the Florida secondary, with 12 starts in his career. None of the other defensive backs -- except for cornerback Reynaldo Hill, who started the Outback Bowl because Keiwan Ratliff was suspended -- has started a game, and most have little or no experience.

That makes Bailey the old man of the secondary.

"Yeah," he said with disdain. "I guess I am."

It also makes him the group's unofficial spokesman, and in that role he pronounced the inexperienced group fit for today's annual Orange & Blue spring football game (1 p.m., Florida Field) and the 2004 season.

"I'm real confident in all those guys," Bailey said. "During the spring, everybody got a chance to learn. Last year Reynaldo and Dee [Webb] didn't really get a chance to learn because they got here in the summer, so they had to learn on the fly. I'm real confident with both those guys. I'll go to war with either one of them."

Hill and Webb, a former White High star -- are UF's starting corners, for now, though former receiver Vernell Brown has made a push for one of the jobs. None played much more than special teams last season.

Bailey inherits the starting job at strong safety, and Jarvis Herring will be the starting free safety. Herring is suspended for today's game because he did not meet all his academic responsibilities, UF coach Ron Zook said.

It's a group that will try to replace a 2003 unit that returned a school-record four interceptions for touchdowns and helped the Gators rank fourth in the Southeastern Conference and 22nd in the NCAA in pass efficiency defense.

Not an easy task, but Zook isn't that worried.

"I'm not as concerned about our secondary as I was about our front seven last year," Zook said. …

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