UF's early enrollees get a leg up


Florida football players run sprints during the Gators first practice on Wednesday.

Aaron Daye/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 25, 2008 at 8:32 p.m.

It’s simple: The faster a player gets into school and onto the practice field, the quicker he adapts to taking the next step.

Florida coach Urban Meyer and his staff pride themselves on getting a significant number of early entrees each year. Last season, UF had nine players enroll early. This year there are eight (six freshman and two junior college transfers).

It’s definitely an advantage for players to see the playbook and the practice

atmosphere as soon as possible, but naturally, it takes time to adjust.

“The mental stress put on you and the speed just rocks people’s worlds when they

first get into college football,” Meyer said after a practice last week. “That’s been that way for a while.”

Of the early enrollees, former Pahokee standout cornerback Janoris Jenkins figures to be examined the most. With the uncertainty at corner, he arrived in Gainesville just in time.

“It is kind of exciting (to compete early) because when I looked at that team on TV and how they would cover in the secondary I thought, ‘Well, maybe I can go in and compete very hard and come out hopefully with a starting position,’ " the 5-foot-10, 177-pound freshman said.

Jenkins made his presence known during offseason conditioning drills and has been one of Meyer’s favorites because of his effort in the weight room and also his commitment to his school work.

However, the first day was “frustrating” for Jenkins as he was picked apart by the Gator receivers during 1-on-1 drills and looked lost in most of the defensive formations run against the offense.

“I really didn’t know the plays,” he said. “No one never went over the plays with me so that’s why I feel I’ve got to take matters into my own hands and go in the film room and study. But when I get my plays down to where I know them, I’ll be better.”

Jenkins isn’t alone.

Former Gainesville High defensive end Earl Okine said it has been challenging to come to grips with the fact that he is no longer part of the elites on the field.

“Coming here, you’re a freshman, so no body’s really looking at you like that anymore,” Okine said, who stands at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. “You just got to prove yourself.”

Okine’s transformation has him learning at a faster pace than he is used to, but he said it’s better to do it now than wait until fall.

“Oh, it was real important because I couldn’t imagine coming here and going straight into the regular season,” he said of enrolling early. “This is gonna be a big help for me.”

While Okine and Jenkins were shy about their first practice at UF, former Seffner Armwood offensive tackle Matt Patchan is fired up about taking on UF’s exceptionally fast defensive ends.

“I’m more of a speed guy myself, so I’m well suited for a speed defensive end as opposed to the 350-pound defensive tackles,” said Patchan, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. “Playing in Tampa, we had a lot of fast guys at Armwood, too. I got to go up against fast guys since I was a freshman in high school too.”

Essentially, these players are starting over and taking those necessary baby steps this spring. But Okine said he isn’t expecting the coaches to slow the pace down just because these freshmen decided to show up early.

“It’s like the first time I played varsity football,” he said. “Just a big change and you just got to work as hard as you can or he’s (Meyer) going to put you on your back.”

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top