Junior safety Brian Poole joins Matt Jones as excellent players to wear 24 for the Gators. Poole is a player I’ve become very familiar with over the years (I’ve covered high school football in the Sarasota/Bradenton area for several years now) as he traded his high school orange and blue jersey for a college jersey of the same ilk. And now he’s primed for a big season as looks for an expanded role on Florida’s defense.
Southeast High School’s nickname may be the Seminoles, but Poole became accustomed to wearing the Orange and Blue during his time there. He and former Florida defensive back Jonathan Dowling formed one of the most feared secondaries in all of high school football for a season before Dowling graduated. But Poole may have thrived even more once his former teammate left. His senior season saw Poole playing a variety of positions, including cornerback, safety, running back, receiver and quarterback, as well as punt returner. He returned punts of 92 and 90 yards for touchdowns, rushed for 439 yards at 5.9 yards per carry and seven touchdowns, threw a touchdown, and also caught a TD. But it was in the secondary where Poole made his mark over his career. With the Seminoles, Poole had 12 interceptions, three of which he returned to the house. His versatility and ball skills made him one of the top recruits in the country.
Poole’s senior season at Southeast resulted in a number of accolades for the multifaceted defensive back. He was named to the AP Class 5A All-State First Team, the 2012 Under Armour All-American game, and the Florida Times-Union’s Super75 list. He set the record for the longest interception return in the history of the Under Armour All-American game, breaking teammate Andre Debose‘s record. Scout ranked him as a five-star prospect and the second-ranked cornerback of the class. 247Sports composite ratings also looked highly upon Poole, rating him as a four-star recruit ranked as the third-best safety, 12th player in Florida, and 57th player in the country. He had a slew of offers, including ones from Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame, Auburn, Miami, and Western Kentucky, but chose Florida over all of the other schools.
Even though Poole was one of two cornerbacks signed in the 2012 class, Will Muschamp decided to move him to safety during fall camp of his freshman year. His flexibility in high school likely contributed to the success he’s seen since the transition. Poole played in 12 of 13 games in his freshman season and managed to notch three tackles on the campaign.
Last season, however, Poole had somewhat of a breakout season. He played in 11 games, starting six at nickel back, missing only the Kentucky game due to a targeting call against Tennessee. Before he was ejected from the game, Poole nabbed his first interception against the Volunteers. He got his second one and a 30-yard return at Missouri which coincided with a career-high eight tackles. For the year, Poole racked up 32 tackles, including two tackles-for-loss, and three pass breakups.
As Poole prepares for the upcoming season, he’ll likely see an expanded role in all aspects of the game. His versatility makes him a threat to opposing quarterbacks, be it at cornerback, nickel back, or safety. Now Poole could be a dangerous option as a punt returner. Judging by his work at Southeast, he can certainly be a big-time playmaker. The best part is we won’t have to wait too long to see Poole and the Gators back on the field. Kickoff is just 24 days away.