GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s Vosean Joseph has the makeup to be a top-tier linebacker.
He has the size at 6-foot-1 and 226 pounds. He also has the knowledge of the playbook after a year with the Gators.
Oh, and he has no problem getting scrappy.
“[He’s a] headhunter,” teammate and fellow linebacker Jeremiah Moon said. “Vo [is] always trying to hit somebody hard. He’s just a physical guy.
“He’s just made to hit.”
As Joseph heads into his sophomore year at Florida, he’ll have plenty of chances to do just that. Joseph is projected to start at weakside linebacker when the Gators open their season against Michigan on Sept. 2 as part of a young linebacker group that’s also headlined by sophomore David Reese and redshirt sophomore Kylan Johnson.
That’s a big jump considering where he was at this point last year.
Joseph spent the majority of his freshman year playing on special teams and learning the game under veterans Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone.
The game took a while to slow down as he adjusted to playing in the SEC. In the interim, he worked to learn everything he could from Davis and Anzalone.
One message always kept popping through.
“Just fight. Just keep going and keep pushing yourself,” Joseph said. “Those boys did that a lot. They did that a lot.”
And then when Davis and Anzalone went down with injuries during the back half of the season, Joseph and the rest of Florida’s young linebackers had the chance to do that as well.
At times, he flourished. Ten of his 13 tackles came in the final four games of the season, with a career-high 6 coming in Florida’s Outback Bowl win against Iowa.
“We were going to wait our turn,” Joseph said of the younger linebackers. “When our turn came, we just had to show up.”
But the biggest hit on his resume so far came against LSU quarterback Danny Etling during the Gators’ 16-10 road win in Baton Rouge, La.
It was the third quarter, second-and goal with Florida down 7-3. Etling faked a handoff to running back Leonard Fournette and rolled to his right.
Joseph pushed off Fournette’s block and was in hot pursuit of Etling, who kept running until he ran out of room. The quarterback turned upfield and headed for the end zone. Joseph lowered his shoulder, ready for the collision. And when they met, Joseph forcefully knocked Etling out of bounds.
LSU turned the ball over on downs two plays later.
“It was just a normal play to me,” Joseph said. “I didn’t think I hit him that hard at all until I saw it on Twitter and what not.”
Now, Joseph’s goal is to be more consistent and to improve his pass coverage skills, even though his priority is stopping the run and blitzing. With Randy Shannon serving as Florida’s defensive coordinator, he believes he can get there.
Joseph said Shannon take an individualistic approach with each player on the defense, helping them learn the system in whatever way suits them best.
For some, that’s drawing the X’s and O’s on a whiteboard. For others, that’s hands-on instruction on the field. And for others, that’s shouting instructions and audibles.
“I’m happy I really didn’t have to expect someone new coming in and having to go under a whole new defense,” Joseph said. “Coach Shannon basically kept it simple.”
And Shannon is making sure the young players on the team — Joseph included — are ready to take their game to the next level.
“A lot of playmaking,” Joseph said. “Simple as that.”