GAINESVILLE — For weeks Florida coaches and players have been praising the work ethic and game performance of Vernon Hargreaves. Now the freshman CB is starting to garner national attention.
Hargreaves, a Wharton alum, on Monday was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, presented to the nation's top defensive back. Hargreaves is the only freshman among the semifinalists.
He has played in all seven games, with five starts. He leads Florida and is tied for second in the SEC with three interceptions, including a touchdown-saving grab against Kentucky. Hargreaves leads the SEC in passes defended (10) and has 19 tackles.
"He works extremely hard," coach Will Muschamp said. "He's extremely bright. … A really talented player who's having a really good year."
FSU's Lamarcus Joyner is also a Thorpe semifinalist.
TAYLOR TO START: After weeks of talk on Twitter and message boards about wanting to see more of freshman RB Kelvin Taylor, Gators fans will get their wish. Muschamp said Taylor will probably start Saturday against Georgia, and several players said Monday that Taylor has been getting the bulk of practice reps.
In five games, Taylor has 172 rushing yards.
"He's continued to improve throughout the season, week to week," Muschamp said. "He's always been a very instinctive, natural runner. It's very obvious. Again, with assignments and different things, I think he's done a nice job and deserves the opportunity."
Junior FB Hunter Joyer said you can sense a difference in Taylor now that he realizes his role is changing.
"He looks a little more focused than he did early in the year," Joyer said. "He understands that we're kind of relying on him now and he has to grow up and produce for us."
Georgia coach Mark Richt is a big fan of Taylor and his dad, former Gator and NFL RB Fred Taylor.
"Fred Taylor's boy is a special player," Richt said. "I recruited Fred when I was at Florida State, and I thought I had him and Reidel Anthony. And at the very end, they took one last visit, just for fun. And sure enough they visited Florida and that was it, they were going there. Fred was a great player and his son is outstanding."
INJURY UPDATES: Senior LB Ronald Powell's sprained ankle continues to be an issue, and Muschamp said as of Monday he's questionable for Saturday. LB Darrin Kitchens (shoulder) is doubtful along with TE Colin Thompson (foot). QB Tyler Murphy did not throw during any practice of the bye week but is expected to be full speed today.
"I'm pretty healthy, other than the shoulder," said Murphy, who hasn't thrown since the Oct. 19 Missouri game. "It's been fatigued a little but other than that it's fine."
NO CHANGES: The bye week gave the Gators an opportunity to work on a multitude of problems, but don't expect massive changes — especially on defense.
"No changes," sophomore DL Dante Fowler said. "I feel like it's not going to be no changes at all. We're still the same team, we've just got to bounce back. I feel like our defense is still a great defense. Once you lose a game or two you kind of lose your confidence. And all we've got to do is just get our swagger back. I feel like once we get our swagger back, and get our confidence back up, we're going to be back to how we were at the beginning of the season."
DID YOU KNOW: For the first time since 2010, Florida and Georgia are both unranked for their game.