Gators praise Joseph for his recent play, potential at linebacker

Freshman linebacker Vosean Joseph When asked during last year’s bowl practices which freshman he saw elevating his play in practice and that he believed would make an impact in the future, Jalen “Teez” Tabor made a selection that proved to be prophetic.

“I like Jabari Zuniga,” the Florida cornerback said at the time.

Zuniga, who redshirted in 2015, has been a key contributor for the Florida defensive line this season with a team-leading five sacks to go along with nine quarterback hurries, 8.5 TFL, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.

So when the same question was recent posed to Tabor as Florida prepares for its Outback Bowl matchup with Iowa on Jan. 2, everyone awaited whom Tabor would essentially label the next potential breakout player on the Gators roster.

“I would say Vosean (Joseph),” Tabor said of the true freshman linebacker. “I just like the way he plays, for some reason. Once he really understands the defense and gets it all, once it comes together for him, man, he’s going to be a special player. The same thing I said about [Zuniga] last year. I was like, ‘Man, he’s going to be pretty good.’ Some guys just take a little bit longer because college is hard. … Physical, physical, physical. You know, that’s what you want out of a linebacker to be real physical.”

Joseph, a 6-foot-1, 226-pound three-star recruit out of Miami Norland High School, stuck with Florida during his recruitment – despite interest from Alabama late in the recruiting cycle – and has proven to be a promising piece for the future among the crop of linebackers Randy Shannon has assembled.

Although he has just seven tackles and a fumble recovery in 12 appearances on the year and has seen most of his playing time on special teams, Joseph has seen a more active role on defense during the second half of the year with Jarrad Davis (ankle) and Alex Anzalone (broken arm) battling injuries. It’s been a good learning experience for Joseph, who has seen snaps against the likes of LSU, FSU and Alabama down the stretch.

Easily the highlight of Joseph’s season up to this point was his crushing hit on Danny Etling in the LSU game, as the freshman linebacker met Etling as the Tigers signal-caller rushed toward the end zone and prevented him from crossing the plane. After two more stops, Florida would go on to hold LSU scoreless on that drive thanks to that goal-line stand. A number of Joseph’s teammates, including quarterback Austin Appleby, called his hit “the play of the game.”

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* Gators high on what Shannon could bring to table as defensive coordinator * Video: Tabor plans to eventually announce draft decision ‘the right way’ —— That moment was a flash of what Joseph is capable […]