Considering the praise surrounding Florida’s youth-laden defense, it’s easy to forget about the veteran talent playing critical roles this season.
Defensive end Jordan Sherit is a prime example.
Sherit, a redshirt senior, started seven games in 2016 despite battling through a knee injury, and he later missed the SEC Championship Game with a right leg injury. He finished last season with 38 tackles, and Sherit’s 3.5 sacks put him second on the Gators behind defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga’s five. Although Sherit hasn’t been featured on any recent highlight reels like his fellow linemen, he’s continuing to make plays that often go unnoticed.
In the season opener against Michigan, Sherit recorded the first sack of the season when he blew past Wolverines right tackle Nolan Ulizio and drove Wilton Speight into the Cowboys Stadium turf.
Then, against Tennessee, Sherit repeatedly brought pressure when facing Volunteers right tackle Brett Kendrick, helping force quarterback Quinten Dormady into making poor decisions.
While it would be easy for Sherit to seek more playing time, considering he continues to show big-play ability when on the field, he’s not focused on having a defined role. Sherit’s only hope is for the defensive line, one of UF’s deepest units, to keep improving. Because he doesn’t believe they’re at the level they should be at.
“I think we’re playing OK. Our standards are much higher than what we’re at right now,” Sherit said. “We’ve made plays here and there, but we also feel the rushing yard total we can help a lot in that regard as far as tackling, like I said, gaps have been a big thing for us, just staying disciplined and staying in our gaps.”
Considering the Gators defense is averaging nearly eight tackles for loss per game and currently leads the SEC in sacks per game (3.33), it’s hard to fault the line for any defensive lapses. But Sherit said the Gators need to improve in ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet, and that’s just something that comes with the high expectations.
“Our expectation in that room is sky high, so we need to up our level of play. Myself, I think I need to up my level of play a lot. I think I had my worst game of the season this last game,” Sherit said. “Expectations in that room are so high, (but) it’s good because it pushes all of us to be great.”
If Sherit and the defensive line hope to continue trending upward, they’ll need to stop Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb come Saturday.
Webb, a Gainesville native and former standout at Gainesville High School, is already the Commodores’ all-time leading rusher, and he’s had no shortage of success when facing the program that overlooked him during his recruitment. Although he hasn’t had a run longer than nine yards this season, Webb has rushed for more than 100 yards in 13 games for Vanderbilt, with two of those coming against the Gators.
“I’ve had the opportunity to play him four years in a row now. He’s a great running back and he makes you have to dial down and play your gaps. He will find that one gap, if someone gets out of their gap he will find it,” Sherit said of Webb. “They have a well-coached offensive line. So we’re going to have be on our toes for that, like always. It’s a well-coached football team.”