During the beginning weeks of the off-season, Inside the Gators will take an in-depth look at how last season went for Florida's 2020 signees and transfers. Normally, the focus is on those who redshirted, but since the NCAA mandated that the 2020 season was 'uncounted' as far as eligibility is concerned, essentially every player redshirted.
Up next on our Redshirt Report series, today, we focus on how this past season went for safety Rashad Torrence II.
It takes a special combination of talent and drive to start a game in the SEC as a true freshman – that is evident in the case of Rashad Torrence II.
Enrolling early in the spring of 2020 after signing with Florida as a four-star prospect out of Marietta High School, one of eight Power 5 commits from his high school, that included the likes of BJ Ojulari (LSU), Arik Gilbert (LSU), and Harrison Bailey (Tennessee).
Like those three, Torrence saw plenty of playing time as a freshman.
He was able to be thrown into the fire early on due in part because of the training and guidance he received from former Clemson defensive back Justin Miller, who played for the Tigers under Tommy Bowden, before moving on to a seven-year career in the National Football League.
Miller said the two have worked together since Torrence was in eighth grade. The best parts of working with someone like Torrence are his intensity and desire to get better. He won’t stop until he does something the correct way.
“If he messes up in the drills, he’s going to go back and repeat the drill before everyone else does,” Miller said. “…And he’s going to ask the questions. He’s going to make sure what he’s doing (and) what we’re doing in the drill is getting accomplished. There’s no point in him going through the motions and he’s always been one of those kids.”
Torrence didn’t have much of a problem getting acclimated to college life, in part because after making an early commitment, he spent the rest of his high school career learning all he could about the Gators.
During the recruiting process, Miller said they sat down and weighed the pros and cons of each school that offered him. To Miller, Florida seemed like a great fit. And Torrence didn’t waiver once he committed.
“Once he made his decision that he was going to the University of Florida he did everything he could to prepare himself to get to this point and become acclimated with UF, and his teammates and coaches,” Miller said.
Despite missing the last few games with an injury, he appeared in nine games in 2020, including three starts at safety.
Torrence tallied 15 tackles as a freshman.
Miller explained that tackling is a significant part of his game and what he excelled at his freshman season. Playing full-speed is always a strength for Torrence.
Miller used one of the age-old phrases to describe Torrence’s game: “See ball, get ball. See player, tackle player.”
“He loves the physicality part of the game,” Miller said. “And I think he takes pride in tackling because tackling is a lost art. These days, I think it's more about kind of just covering and stuff like that. But you also got to get a man to the ground.”
Miller knows what it’s like to come in and contribute early on. As a Clemson true freshman, he tied a season record with eight interceptions in 2002. He believes it does a lot for a young player. It makes him comfortable heading into next year because he knows what to expect, how to study and prepare and he just understands the game better.
He really saw a change in Torrence during his season on campus both mentally and physically.
“He’s all rocked up,” Miller said. “He definitely looks the part. He looks like an SEC safety. A guy who’s going to come out there, play, and be physical at all times. Mentally he continues to push the envelope for himself. I can see his maturation process and where he wants to go.”
He’ll face a new challenge though after the Gators let go safeties coach Ron English to begin the offseason.
But Miller thinks that shouldn’t play that much of a role. He mentioned the two sat down and spoke about how cutthroat the coaching business is. Coaches will come and go. Sometimes a new coach can even be refreshing.
Of course, this spring is pivotal for Torrence to make that jump. It’s big for any freshman going into his sophomore year.
“It’s a maturity thing and you actually get more comfortable,” Miller said. “You’re around your guys, everybody knows you, they expect different things. You become the focal point of your crew. I think being around those guys a little longer is going to help.”
For Torrence to get better it’s about working to understand the safety position more. Whether it’s learning leverage, film study, understanding the playbook and knowing what’s expected of him.
And he already expects plenty of himself.
“Rashad is one of those kids who sets the bar high,” Miller said. “If you talk to him, he wants to be the team leader in tackles, interceptions (and) the main guy on special teams making tackles. If there's anything that he can do, he wants to do it and he wants to lead the team in it. He's going to be a guy who wants to contribute to the team and help out in any way possible.”
For Miller, that level of expectation is a testament to him wanting to play football and loving the game he plays.
“I think that he's going to continue to mature and the game is going to continue to develop for him,” he said. “I think he's going to continue to get better. And it's just something that like, kind of the sky's the limit for.”
As a freshman, the mentality is usually “Don’t mess up.” Now, going into his second year the mentality is “Don’t let up.”