Athletic D-lineman Slaton sets sights on UF sack record

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TJ Slaton answers questions during Florida's media day in the Touchdown Terrace on August 2. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 349 pounds, Florida sophomore defensive lineman Tedarrell “T.J.” Slaton can dunk a basketball.

Slaton also used to be able to do a standing backflip.

“Not now,” Slaton said. “I need a running start.”

Slaton possesses plenty of natural athletic gifts — size, speed, agility and nimble feet. Honing those gifts was a process last season, as he transitioned from the offensive line to the defensive line as a true freshman. But Slaton said he feels more comfortable and confident as a defensive tackle heading into his sophomore season. With that confidence, Slaton has set a lofty goal.

“I’m trying to get the UF sack record,” Slaton said.

The record, 13 sacks in a season, was set by Alex Brown in 1999. To accomplish that goal, Slaton will first need to prove he can stay on the field for more plays. Slaton said at Florida football media day he’s at 340 pounds, down from 373 pounds last season. He’s consulting regularly with Florida head nutritionist Collier Perno, who had Slaton on a strict offseason plan. Slaton said he’s still allowed to order his favorite food, pizza, on occasion, but is limited to three slices per serving.

“It was really my weight that was holding me back,” Slaton said. “I couldn’t play at the end of the season because my weight had really went up a lot.”

In limited action, though, Slaton made his presence known as a freshman, recording 11 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. The tackles for loss came against a pair of SEC opponents — Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Slaton has all of the size and measurables a coach looks for in a dominant defensive lineman.

“T.J. is a young player that has embraced the things we’ve asked him to do,” Grantham said. “He’s obviously a talented guy that can play multiple things for us. He’s what I consider a three-down player from the sense that he has the ability to stop the run on early downs, first and second, but he also has some pass rush ability, ability to push the pocket.”

Basketball was Slaton’s first love. He began playing at local gyms in Fort Lauderdale in seventh grade and at 6-3 and 280 pounds could dunk back then. Slaton went on to play basketball at American Heritage High School, where the sight of the 6-foot-5, 300-plus pound player driving in the lane at full speed scared more than a few would-be defenders.

“I wouldn’t want to get in front of that,” said former high school and current UF football teammate Marco Wilson.

Slaton said he had a few offers to play Division II and junior college basketball, but as one of the top recruited offensive tackles in the country from American Heritage, chose to play football at Florida. The Gators were contemplating moving Slaton from tackle to guard, but Slaton only wanted to play tackle on the offensive line.

“I had confidence that I would be a good tackle and they didn’t want to play me there so I kind of just went back to my (defensive) roots, because when I first started playing football I was a nose guard,” Slaton said.

Slaton said he learned a great deal last season from former Gator teammate Taven Bryan, another highly athletic defensive tackle who declared for the NFL draft and was picked late in the first round by the Jacksonville Jaguars last April. Bryan nicknamed Slaton “Baby Shrek.”

“What I took from Taven is getting your hands up quick and really getting off the ball and really being physical with guys,” Slaton said. “He was quick and his speed was unbelievable for how fast he moves and he was strong. Like really strong.”

This season, Slaton could see some time up front with redshirt senior defensive tackle Khairi Clark in some 4-3 formations and at the nose in some 3-4 formations. Slaton said his goal is to be on the field for about half of a game’s average 70 snaps on the defensive side of the ball.

“He’s got everything he needs just being a young guy right now, he’s just got to keep following in the right direction,” Clark said. “He’ll be fine and I feel like with him learning by me, I feel I can teach him different things that will help him in the long run since I’ve been here for so long.”

 

31 COMMENTS

  1. He learned from Taven Bryan?? Hope he didn’t learn how to be an underachiever. Taven should’ve dominated every game, all game long. I’m sure he’ll do very well as a pro, but I wasn’t impressed with him while he was here. He didn’t leave it all on the field as a Gator, could’ve done so much more.

    • Agreed. That south Carolina game last year…I think I saw better effort on the 0-10-1 gators in 1979.
      Odds are against this kid due to his bulk wearing down his motor and causing injury risk. Let’s hope he proves me wrong.

    • joe may. I think the strength and conditioning program under McElwain was a main reason for inconsistent play of all the defensive lineman at UF being “trained” by Kent. They simply did not have the conditioning and strength to be consistent on every play. They wore down because they were not properly conditioned. Even Taven’s father said so. You saw the DL start to fold in in the second half in almost every game last year. It was very noticeable vs. A&M and LSU in The Swamp and Georgia’s OL manhandled the Florida DL from the first snap because the Georgia OL was quicker, stronger, and better conditioned that the Florida DL. But there is no doubt that Bryan was the best DL on the team last year and why he was taken so high in the NFL draft.

        • With all due respect, being picked in the first round by a team in the NFL is a really big accomplishment. And Florida was 4 and 7. Not much better, but better. And nothing we are currently talking about has anything to do with last year’s Florida team or last year’s coaches.

    • What are you talking about????? Raven Bryan was a heck of a presence on the interior. Why do you think he went in the first round of the draft??? Give me a Taven Bryan any day of the week!

    • The kid played hard and was doubled teamed on almost every play!!! Makes a very big difference being doubled team… and still made plays, one reason he was a first round pick…You can’t blame him because he was doubled teamed.

  2. Mveal2006. Actually, sir, the effort by the Florida team was not bad vs. South Carolina and they played them tough, even with all their injuries, suspensions, and after just being drubbed by Georgia and losing heartbreaking games to LSU and Texas A&M. I was proud of their effort in that game. And it was the offense that cost the Gators the game in Columbia, not the defense. But it did wear down, as usual, in the fourth quarter.

    • Clearly, their conditioning was poor and they did wear down late in the games but to be fair they were on the field, every game, way too long and all defenses wear down, thats why most of the points are scored in the 4th Qtr. If the offense had stayed on the field a decent amount of time they would have done a much better job! All the conditioning in the world wont help a defense that spends most of the game on the field.

  3. You have to love his attitude and his lofty goal. Men this size should always be hungry during a game because it will make them meaner when they play. If he could get to around 310 he would probably become a beast. GO GATORS!!!

  4. And Mveal, Slaton is not all fat this year. Compare the photo with this article with any photo of Slaton from last year. Huge difference. The man in this photo is big, but he is also lean and mean looking. I expect he is going to be a terror on the Florida defensive line this year, and his inside play is going to open lanes for the defensive ends and linebackers to create havoc; as well as from the blitzing defensive backs in Grantham’s scheme. Just a more positive view of the real situation.

  5. Ed. He was decent last year at 360. But inconsistent due to poor conditioning. He will most likely be that “beast” this year at around 330. He already looks to have very little body fat at 330. 310 would probably be too much weight off his frame and limit his play inside when he plays nose guard.

  6. Is this supposed to be a serious article? Maybe dabbling in comedy these days? Oh, by the way, I’m setting my sights on sleeping with the most Victoria’s Secret models in history. Can someone please write an article about it?

  7. ‘Listed at 6-foot-4 and 349 pounds, Florida sophomore defensive lineman Tedarrell “T.J.” Slaton can dunk a basketball.

    Slaton also used to be able to od a standing backflip.

    “Not now,” Slaton said. “I need a running start.”’

    Need a running start to do a standing backflip? “…od a standing backflip” . This is how you start an article? I guess we can’t really expect too much from the players mouths if the professional writers make errors like this.

  8. I second that emotion ! How about getting a sack or two before we decide were going to break Alex Browns record? I like the confidence and all, but really??

    • I agree with that. With a record of 11 total tackles as a freshman, it’s a pipe dream to even talk about setting the sack record. We’ve heard this smack talk so many times before from the DL, the OL, the QBS, that it’s getting to be boring.

      • They should have ran this story in the comics between snuffy smith and dagwood. Sort of deflating for me from the viewpoint of understanding how much more maturing this young man has left to do. Very rarely have I ever seen a player that makes those kinds of statements do much of anything on the field. Not that there’s anything wrong with having that as a goal and maybe after a 5-8 sack season, saying that would be ok. At this point in his career though it comes off to me more as pure delusion. I sincerely hope that I’m wrong and will be the first to congratulate him if he does get the record this year.

  9. BTW, I have to agree with Joe and Tampa Gator in that Taven was a very good player that had the tools to be a great player, maybe one of the best ever at UF, but never learned the secret of consistency. As a Jag fan also, I have to be honest that I wasn’t thrilled with the pick like I was with DFJ a couple years ago, but here’s to hoping he learns that in the league you can’t take any plays off..

  10. Getting the sack record is almost impossible from his position, the outside guys are the only ones with a chance. If he gets into great shape he has a future as a nose tackle both here and in the NFL. He must be in great condition, nothing less will suffice.

    • True vulcan and he needs to remember that although getting sacks is great, he just needs to do his job and complete his assignments on every play. That means staying in his gap and taking up two olineman in the middle to free up the linebackers to make stops.

  11. I hope Slaton actually watches some tape of Alex Brown.

    I remember offenses running a lot at where Alex Brown was *supposed* to be. He wouldn’t have gotten that record if he’d held his gap.

  12. I look forward to watching this kid play. Sounds like he’s put in some hard work with Savage and I believe it’ll pay off. Who am I kidding. I want to watch ALL of them play. GO GATORS!!!!!

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