Many predicted at the 2019 season’s outset that the Florida Gators would lose both starting corners to the NFL Draft. But while CJ Henderson is making an early entry to the professional ranks — despite his younger brother Xzavier now being set to join the Gators — the Florida cornerback who already was part of a sibling tandem of Gators, Marco Wilson, is set to stay in Gainesville in 2020, having made that announcement with his first tweet in months on Monday.
I will be returning to the University of Florida for another year. Our team has a lot of goals that we are still working to accomplish and I would love to be a part of that experience. I cannot wait to get back to work with my brothers for this upcoming season. Jeremiah 29:11 pic.twitter.com/mluvlsarps— Marco Wilson (@MJW_era) January 6, 2020
Wilson citing goals that the Gators have yet to accomplish — notably, Florida has not won an SEC title in more than a decade, and has yet to make a College Football Playoff — instead of his own NFL prospects is in keeping with the call made by Trevon Grimes, who announced his own return to Florida last week and specified that he wanted to compete for a championship.
But while Grimes was coming off a decent season that could have been better, Wilson was arguably coming off one that saw him regress from his last healthy campaign.
After recording 34 tackles and 10 passes broken up in 11 games as a freshman in 2017 and missing almost all of the 2018 season due to a torn ACL, Wilson recorded 36 tackles, three picks, and two passes broken up in 2019, and generally seemed a half-step slower after his ACL injury — one that followed a similar injury in high school — than he did in his debut season for Florida.
While he did benefit slightly from a late-season secondary shakeup that got him more time at Star, Florida’s nickel corner spot, and also had four or more tackles in four of the Gators’ final six games, Wilson was unlikely to be an early-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and is likely doing the smart thing by staying in school and trying to continue to recover from injury and improve as a player.
And that decision is a boon for Florida. While the Gators seemed to have one side of the field locked down even before Wilson’s call, thanks to the emergence of freshman Kaiir Elam, Wilson now gives them experienced options at both outside corner positions — and more flexibility in the secondary, something that could be useful if Trey Dean, the incumbent at Star whose rocky 2019 forced that late-season shuffling of roles, continues to be a weakness on the field in 2020.
There might also be a path worth exploring if Wilson cannot regain the athleticism that helped him effectively guard wideouts as a freshman: His physicality, which has never been in question, would make him a decent fit at safety, should he consent to cross-training or changing positions altogether.
But the Wilson family — and, fairly, this applies more to Marco’s elder brother Quincy, now an NFL corner — has been insistent their technically sound sons are best used as corners despite foot speed that does not match elite players at the position. A swap to safety this late in the game seems like a remote possibility in reality, even if it’s theoretically tantalizing.
More likely? Marco Wilson simply wasn’t the athlete he was as a freshman just one year removed from another major injury, and more time helps heal him more significantly. That isn’t hard to hope on for Florida in 2020, now that it knows it has him in the fold.