CUTLER BAY, Fla. — Fresh off a state championship and helping elevate his high school back to glory, Shawn Davis is ready for his next challenge.
As a Florida early enrollee, he plans to move to Gainesville in the first week of January while turning his focus to what he hopes will be an impact freshman season.
Initially pegged as a future cornerback for Florida by the various recruiting services, Davis said he expects to play more safety while potentially rotating through the defensive backfield.
“People see me more as a safety because I can cover the whole field,” he said during a conversation in his home Saturday. “To me, I feel like safety comes easier to me because I can cover the whole field, I jump high, I’ve got good ball skills and I just can’t let nothing get past me. … They already told me I’m going to be rotating at nickel, corner and safety, but more safety.”
WATCH: Get to know Gators safety commit Shawn Davis. Send in questions.
Posted by Florida Gators Insiders on Saturday, December 17, 2016
The Gators are losing standout senior safety Marcus Maye while returning rising fifth-year seniors Marcell Harris and Nick Washington at that spot. But with cornerbacks Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson expected to leave for the NFL, Florida may be thin at safety and nickel if it sees rising sophomore Chauncey Gardner Jr. and incumbent nickel Duke Dawson as the best options at corner.
Whatever opening the Gators give him to make an early impact, Davis is intent on seizing it.
A bruising tackler with good ball skills, he’s stocked with confidence and eager to make his name as the next in the pipeline of great defensive backs at “DBU.”
“My range to cover the field,” he said when asked for his most underrated strength. “People don’t underestimate me, but they just try to take their shot to see if they can get it, but nah. … I just believe in myself. I feel I’m the best safety that can play football, period.”
Again, Davis has every reason to be oozing confidence after what his Miami Southridge High School team pulled off this season. Playing safety and corner this fall, he was a key contributor to a defense that racked up eight shutouts (including a run of seven in a row) on the way to winning the Florida Class 8A state title.
It was the first state championship since 1993 for Miami Southridge.
“It meant a lot for me because my four years, I had never made it past like the second or third round. And our team bringing back history, we didn’t win in 23 years, so (we) brought back history,” Davis said.
Davis, who is rated as a 3-star recruit by the 247Sports composite, ended up with 35 scholarship offers and ultimately chose Florida over hometown Miami. The Hurricanes never relented in their pursuit of the talented defensive back, but Davis has remained set on the Gators, all the while envisioning the impact he hopes to make for the program very soon.
“I made it to all the home games and I watched all the away games on TV, and those are pretty good DBs. I look up to them,” he said of the guys he’ll help replace. “When they make a pick or a pick six, I just imagine, I get that rush in my body, to feel like I’m going to be that person next, doing this and making this happen at Florida.”
While he had been to Gainesville plenty already, Davis made his official visit to Florida last weekend. He appreciated that the visit focused a lot on academics as well — he intends to major in business.
As for the coaching staff, Davis says the departure last week of defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, who became the head coach at Temple, did not change his thoughts on joining the Gators.
He and Collins developed a bond through the recruiting process, but he also has that connection with defensive backs coach Torrian Gray, head coach Jim McElwain and the staff in general.
“It really doesn’t scare me because me talking to coach Gray and all the other coaches, I already know what I’m about to go out here and do,” Davis said. “But me and coach Collins, we had a tight bond. We used to DM each other like every day on Twitter.”
Again, though, his comfort with the Gators starts at the top.
Davis appreciates the way McElwain has communicated with him throughout the process and the genuineness he sees in his future head coach.
A future that begins very soon.
“His vibe. He has a real good vibe. He’s a humble coach and he’s going to stand up for his team,” Davis said. “I really like his vibe. He’s an honest coach and he gives everybody a chance to prove what they can do on the field. I talk to coach Mac a lot, and he tells me the truth. Before I even committed, he told me, ‘I’m going to make you a Gator.’ Before I even had the offer, he was like, ‘You’re going to be a Gator.’ He want(s) me to come in and play right away.”
Given his high school track record and the determination and focus he projects, it’s easy to see why.