HOOVER, Ala. -- Vernon Hargreaves isn't ready to call himself the best cornerback in college football just yet, but the Florida Gators' budding star at least identifies with one of the best in the pro ranks.
"I think I can definitely get better. I don't think I'm close to where I need to be, but you have to be confident at corner. I love Richard Sherman," he said. "I love how he plays, how he talks, I love everything about him, really. You just have to be confident playing corner."
With Sherman standing 6-foot-3 and Hargreaves at just 5-11, the physical comparison between the two doesn't really hold up. But performance-wise, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more effective cover man in the college game than Hargreaves.
And he's already has caught the eye of NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah:
A year ago, Hargreaves stepped onto a college field for the first time and carved out a full-time role in one of the SEC's most talented secondaries. Now, he's the leader of the entire unit. That's how UF coach Will Muschamp described his terrifically talented true sophomore.
"He had an outstanding freshman year. He came in and earned his opportunity. He was a joy to recruit -- never asked me about depth charts, all he asked for was an opportunity to play, and his first two games in the Southeastern Conference, he had two interceptions. That tells you a lot about the kind of player he is," Muschamp said.
Hargreaves led UF in interceptions (three) and pass breakups (11) last season in a secondary that included veteran cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson. The season, and subsequently, the NFL draft, didn't turn out nearly as well for Purifoy and Roberson, but Hargreaves established himself as one of college football's most exciting young talents. His toughest assignment? He readily admits it was LSU's Odell Beckham, whom he drew in coverage for LSU's 17-6 win over the Gators. Beckham, the No. 12 overall pick of the New York Giants in the NFL draft, caught just two passes.
"He's great, obviously, a first-round draft pick. He talked to me after the game, and I was kind of nervous covering him. He told me to keep my head up," Hargreaves said.
Muschamp said Hargreaves has instincts and an understanding of the game that transcend his youth.
"His dad's a coach, but it doesn't always equate with your dad being a coach, and you understanding football," Muschamp said. "I've coached coaches' kids who didn't grasp the game as well as others. But he grasps the game extremely well."
Hargreaves is too young for the 2015 NFL Draft, but could be eligible for the 2016 draft if he chooses to declare early eligibility.