Updated: Sep 16, 2021
In the current college football landscape, with so many different variations of the spread and pass happy offenses, the need for quality defensive backs has hit an all-time high. Gone are the days of the 4-3-4 and 3-4-4 defenses that had just two safeties and two corners on the field. Most base defenses these days require a fifth DB, often referred to as a nickel corner or in Florida’s case a STAR.
The STAR position requires a unique skillset; someone that is fast enough and has enough short area quickness to cover speedy slot receivers. But also, someone that is physical enough to battle with tight ends and come downhill to tackle ball carriers in the box. These kinds of DB’s don’t just grow on trees and the Gators have found that out the hard way these last few years.
It’s no secret Florida has had a hard time finding consistent play from the STAR position since the departure of Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to the NFL in 2019. They have tried several different players at the position (Trey Dean, Marco Wilson, and Tre’vez Johnson) all with unique skill sets, but none of them seemed to fill the whole that Chauncey left. However, that could all change for the better with the Gators latest candidate.
Enter Jadarrius Perkins, the transfer from Missouri, if you can even call him that, as he only spent a spring there before deciding to test his talents in Gainesville. Perkins, a product of Hattiesburg, MS, was a low three-star prospect out of high school with no division one offers that decided to bet on himself and go the JUCO route. He made the decision to attend Mississippi Gulf Coast College where he saw his recruitment blossom to the tune of 36 scholarship offers including 21 from Power 5 schools. Perkins had the likes of Alabama, Oregon, Texas A&M, and Florida vying for his commitment after being part of a Junior College National Championship run for the Bulldogs.
How Perkins ended up at Florida is not the important part, what is important is the role he will likely be playing. Perkins has been splitting reps at the STAR position the first couple of weeks with sophomore Tre’vez Johnson. Johnson is someone that many, including myself, hoped would take the reins of that spot and never look back, but it is Perkins who has surprised many and looks to be taking over. About halfway through Florida’s week two matchup with the USF Bulls I noticed that instead of splitting reps like that had for the previous game and a half before, Johnson was seeing more time at safety and Perkins was getting the lion’s share of snaps at STAR.
For someone that has only been on campus and in the playbook for less than three months he plays with a confidence and swagger that you can’t teach. Combine that with his length at 6-foot-1 with long arms and physicality you have a player that is built for the position. But I wanted to go back and rewatch the film from the first two games of the year just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. After doing so it’s safe to say I came away impressed with his coverage ability against his opponent. Regardless of who is lined up across from him, he has been able to stay in their hip pocket with excellent coverage and make plays on the ball, logging several PBU’s over the first couple of games. He also shows great instincts in the run game coming downhill to make tackles in the run game.
I get that the sample size is very small and that the quality of the opponents wasn’t what he is going to see here in the coming weeks. But there is a lot to like about the play of Jadarrius Perkins to this point. Only time will tell if the Gators have finally found their long-awaited missing piece at STAR, but from what I have seen so far, he looks to have all the tools to take hold of the position and make a huge impact for the Gators.