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PFF ranks Jordan Castell among SEC's highest-graded returning safeties

On3 imageby:Zach Abolverdi06/24/24


Jordan Castell | 2024 Florida Gators Spring Camp

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Another Florida Gators defender has been ranked as one of the top 10 returning players at his position in the SEC by Pro Football Focus. This time, it’s sophomore safety Jordan Castell.

According to PFF, Castell is the ninth highest-graded returning safety in the SEC this year. He had a PFF grade of 75.6 in 2023, which ranked fifth among FBS true freshmen safeties and second in the SEC behind Alabama’s Caleb Downs, who is now at Ohio State.

Castell was a bright spot in Florida’s secondary last season, earning Freshman All-SEC and All-American honors by ESPN and CFN. He led the team in tackles (60) and solo tackles (30) with 1.5 tackles for loss, three pass breakups and an interception.

Castell appeared in all 12 games and started the last 11, playing the most defensive snaps with 660. He only missed 51 defensive snaps on the season and was one of two Gators (Jason Marshall Jr. / 651) to play 600-plus snaps.

“It’s a blessing for sure,” Castell said of starting as a freshman. “It kind of slowed the game down for me. I feel way more comfortable out there now, so it was a great experience.

“That first game it was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m here.’ Other than that though, I felt really comfortable. I didn’t really let the moment get too big for me. Just focused on doing my job, that’s all I can control.”

Castell’s week three performance (10 tackles and a pass breakup) in the 29-16 victory over No. 11 Tennessee earned him a pair of weekly honors in SEC Freshman of the Week and Shaun Alexander National Freshman of the Week.

Castell also recorded a career-high 11 tackles and his first career interception in the overtime loss to Arkansas. He played special teams for the Gators as well and was the only defensive player to accumulate 700-plus snaps last season.

Castell was non-contact this spring following offseason shoulder surgery but played in the Orange & Blue Game and also made an interception in the second scrimmage. Being limited allowed him to have more of a leadership role.

“I had to take the rehab very seriously. And I wasn’t playing that much spring, I just wanted to be a leader,” Castell said. “A lot of new guys have come in. I just want to coach them up because I know how they feel. I was just in that position last year. So, I’m meeting with them after practice before practice, going over film, seeing things I see and just breaking it down.”

Florida now has nine players ranked top 10 in the SEC at their position by PFF. The others are quarterback Graham Mertz, receivers Eugene Wilson III and Elijhah Badger and offensive linemen Jake Slaughter, Austin Barber, Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson and Devon Manuel and defensive lineman Joey Slackman.

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