The defensive difference

UF redshirt sophomore defensive end Derrick Harvey, left, ahs emerged as a playmaker on a veteran defensive line and leads the SEC with seven sacks.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.



  • When: Saturday,
    12:30 p.m.
  • TV: Fox, WJXT

  • He was one of those can't-miss guys coming out of high school.
    Everybody's All-American, a five-star recruit, the player of the year in his state and one of the nation's top two or three defensive ends after recording a remarkable 31 sacks his senior season.
    But lost in this glowing recruiting resume was one simple truth about Derrick Harvey. He was still just a newcomer to the game.
    He didn't put pads on for the first time until his junior season, when he gave up a promising basketball career to pursue football at Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Md.
    "Basketball wasn't that fun to me anymore," he said. "So, I went out for football. I always loved football. I'd just never played it before."
    With such a limited background, Harvey came to Florida as more of a project than a prospect. It was going to take some time, some work, for him to develop.
    Now, in his third year at UF, the project has become a player. The potential is turning into plays.
    "It doesn't surprise me at all," fellow UF defensive end Jarvis Moss said. "I saw it coming the whole time. It might have caught some by surprise, but it's not a surprise to any of us."
    On a Florida defense with a wealth of talent up front, Harvey has become one of the Gators' biggest playmakers. Even though he's started only one game, he's started playing at an All-SEC level. He leads the conference in sacks with seven and he's forced one fumble and recovered two. In the win over Georgia last Saturday, he had a sack and caused the fumble that defensive lineman Ray McDonald returned for a touchdown on the first offensive play of the second half.
    All this from a player who had only six tackles last season and had many wondering if he might be turning out to be one of those big-time recruiting busts.
    Harvey said he was never worried about that.
    "I knew I'd work to get to my potential," he said. "I had no problem with that."
    His teammates said they expected it to eventually happen, too.
    "We always knew D-Harvey was a good player," junior middle linebacker Brandon Siler said. "He hasn't surprised us. He's real good."
    Harvey credits co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Greg Mattison with helping him start turning his potential into production.
    "The breakthrough came when Coach Mattison and these coaches came in (two years ago)," Harvey said. "He's a great coach. He helped me with my technique. The real breakthrough came last spring. That's when I started bringing out the potential.
    "When I first came here, I knew I had a lot to learn. When I redshirted (my freshman season in 2004), it was all good. I had to learn. I'm still learning. I'm playing and trying to get better every day."
    While impatient UF recruitniks likely were disappointed Harvey didn't turn into a player sooner, Mattison said Harvey has come along at just the right pace.
    "In a really good program like this one, what should happen is young guys show signs and then they start to come on," Mattison said. "He's done what you'd expect any young guy to do. I saw it in the spring. He was more consistent.
    "One thing Derrick Harvey has done that is a great example to all football players is he practices extremely hard. He never misses a beat. He goes really, really hard. That shows on how he's playing in games. That's what has to happen. He's really been a valuable part of our defense."
    Harvey said his strong work ethic can be traced to early childhood.
    "Since I was a little baby," he said. "I learned how to talk real early. Things like that."
    Harvey said he's still pushing hard to bring out his potential on the football field.
    "I'm learning every day," he said. "I've still got a lot to learn."
    Given his late start in football, Harvey has a considerable upside.
    And it's starting to show. "Derrick Harvey is playing as good a football as he's ever played in his career," UF coach Urban Meyer said. "The correlation of taking a guy with high character who comes from a great family and is blessed and you stick him with a guy like Greg Mattison, he's going to be a player. That took the chance right out of that one.
    "Derrick Harvey is right on schedule to become a great player here at Florida. I love the way he plays."
    Robbie Andreu can be reached at 352-374-5022 or

    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