If you spend about five minutes getting to know me you'll find out quickly that I have a love for eating good food, but I'm also a creature of habitat. I eat out probably more than I should, but it's always to the same three or four places -- what can I say, I know what I like.
Not too long ago, however, I was getting dinner with some friends and they suggested we go to a place called "So Fresh" here in Tampa, FL. It's sort of like a Chipotle kind of deal where you make your own bowl, but it has a bunch of different ingredients. It's about two minutes from my house, so I thought, what the hell, fine, let's go.
It was so good, and the only thing I could think of the whole time was how this place was right under my nose all along. I passed by it a million times and never even thought to go in. But now, I'm hooked.
That's Florida Gators linebacker Vosean Joseph, for me.
As a UF grad, I've watched every single Florida Gators football game for the last five years. I knew who Joseph was when he was getting recruited to play at UF. I watched him grow into a starting role as still a young player, and I saw some splash plays from him here and there. But I never began to think of him as a true NFL player until this season.
Honestly, I should have much sooner.
Joseph, the 6-foot, 225-pound junior linebacker, plays the position the way you need players to in this age of modern, pass happy football. He's athletic in nature, but turns athleticism into violence at contact. He's a player who preforms his duties with all kinds of heart and emotion, and you can see it out there when the stage is brightest -- Joseph had a career high in tackles (14) and sacks (2) against LSU.
So let's dig into five or so play of Joseph's and see what he's all about, and where he might fit in this linebacker class.
Play No. 1: Jack'd Up Throwback
FIRST OF ALL...
SECOND OF ALL...
Though Joseph is considered a smaller linebacker, he sure packs a punch. We often talk about pass rushers being about to turn speed into power when it comes to pushing and shedding offensive linemen. Joseph turns speed into power, but it's with hitting power.
He's a player who truly yearns for the next big hit. I mean, he even has his own WWE finishing move.
Play No. 2: The Sifter
Playing through traffic -- not playing in traffic -- is a key trait for linebackers. There is often so much chaos going on around them, that they almost have to be able to make it go in slow motion as they weave their way through the offensive linemen to get to the ball carrier. Being able to keep your eyes up, not get caught up in blocks, stay free and make yourself available to make the tackle is important.
Did you ever go to the beach as a kid and use a sifter to find shells through the sand? If you never did, the way it works is that you get a bunch of sand near the water and shake it through this mesh pan so all the sand falls out but the bigger shells stay in. I think that's a pretty good representation of what it takes for linebackers to find ball carriers, and that's something Joseph does well.
His eye discipline for where the ball is and where it is going is consistently spot on. He doesn't get fooled often, and he has the ability to move off blocks, change direction and hit a ball carrier. He's a sifter, in that regard.
Play No. 3: Impact Player
Joseph also understands the importance and has the eye for making impact plays, specifically in the backfield.
Even when in a zone assignment or covering a running back, being a player in defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's system makes Joseph an attacking player by nature.
This is a good thing.
Joseph's quickness in and around the line of scrimmage often catches both blockers and quarterbacks by surprise.
Joseph, though he doesn't have many sacks to his name, is also good off the blitz, mainly due to attributes mentioned above. Though he was unblocked on the play above, he was able to get into the quarterback before he could even get the ball out of his hands quickly or gain momentum to safely scramble away.
Joseph seems to be one of the faster linebackers in the country, and he turns that into impact plays on a weekly basis. He proves it on plays in the backfield.
Play No. 4: Untested, But Reliable Coverage
Due to Florida's system, Joseph isn't asked to do too much in coverage. The Gators play what the NFL would call a "big nickel" with a safety as their "third linebacker" in what is called the "STAR" position. It's basically a nickel player who is bigger than a corner yet not a linebacker so it's technically still a nickel formation.
When he has been in coverage, minus when Georgia completed four straight passes to their tight end because Florida's defense couldn't get an adjustment in there, Joseph's been pretty good.
He's the player covering the tight end to the top of your screen in the play above.
In zone coverage, much like Joseph has good eye discipline when going to tackle a running back, he has the the same when dropping back. Joseph is able to keep his eyes on the ball while having good awareness of what receivers are in his zone and moving laterally with them.
I would guess he'll struggle with coverages early on in his NFL due to the fact that he's not asked to much now, but he has the ability to be a decent coverage player at the next level -- or at least one that isn't a liability.
Play No. 5: Relentless Pursuit
Florida head coach Dan Mullen has used the phrase "relentless effort" as his team's motto for 2018, and Joseph is a good embodiment of that phrase. When Joseph sees he has the chance to impact the play, he does it at full speed. He's a violent hitter at contact and he closes gaps quickly. When it comes to motor, Joseph has it.
Joseph is an interesting case for this linebacker class because he's likely one of the best smaller linebacker the draft will have to offer. Bigger bodies can give him trouble, at times, just due to the nature of bigger is better -- see his tape versus Kentucky RB Benny Snell. But, even with bigger assignment, he's never too overwhelmed.
It may appear as though Joseph runs like a mad man, but his tape, as a whole, suggests that he is in control, he just does his job with energy, effort, eye discipline and impact. As long as he can get the concept of coverages down at the next level, Joseph could be a nice starter in the NFL.