Asked at UF’s Media Day on Thursday if any player had “surprised him” with their dedication to improving, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham singled out seldom-used linebacker Lacedrick Brunson.
“The one guy that’s impressed me is Brunson,” said Grantham. “I think he’s made the biggest jump since we have been here, from being a guy that wasn’t quite with it.
“He kept working hard and he got into special teams and was making plays. And now he’s a part of our rotation with our inside linebackers, and he’s a guy that we’re going to count on to give us some snaps at some point this year.”
The concept of Brunson contributing to one of the SEC’s top defenses seemed implausible before last season. A former two-star prospect in the 2017 class out of Miami Jackson, Brunson took an official visit to Florida just four days before Signing Day, and he would ultimately round out UF’s class by committing just prior to putting pen to paper.
“I was excited, because that was my biggest offer, and I knew I was coming to Florida,” Brunson said, “so I was just trying to make the best out of my opportunities, and I’m blessed to be here.”
Now poised to play a role in Grantham’s defense in 2019, Brunson reflected on his path to Gainesville — a path that likely wouldn’t have been possible without UF’s former defensive coordinator, Randy Shannon.
“It was at an American Heritage game, he was out there watching, and he noticed that I was out there making plays, always at the ball, tackling at the ball,” Brunson said of being recruited by Shannon. “Even though we lost, he noticed me and saw that I was a ball hawk, and he liked that. Then the next day told me I had the offer, and I was happy about it.”
Yet after arriving on campus, some thought he wouldn’t have an opportunity to contribute at the Power Five level. When mentioning Florida’s linebackers with potential, Brunson’s name is often left out of the conversation.
He’s ready to stake his claim for playing time.
“I always got a chip on my shoulder, because I know what I’m capable of,” Brunson said, “and now I’m just ready to show everybody what I’m capable of.”
After arriving on campus with the label of “project,” Brunson got to work. Soon he was up nearly 30 pounds after weighing in at 210 prior to enrolling at UF. Now in his second year of Florida’s overhauled strength and conditioning plan, Brunson has leaned out, and it’s showing in his play.
“I was a little bigger, I was like 240, now I’m 230-something. But I lost fat — I was like 16 percent, now I’m 12 percent body fat. I wanted to feel lighter on the field, but stronger at the same time,” Brunson said. “I feel lighter on my feet. After practice I feel better, just like, less weight on my body. I feel great out there.”
In the age of the NCAA transfer portal, Brunson’s path to playing time may be an important one to remember. With highly recruited prospects often expecting to play immediately at the collegiate level, it’s easy to forget about the players who arrive without a lofty recruiting profile to verify their potential. Brunson seems to hope his story — and his upcoming season — can serve as a reminder for those growing impatient with waiting for an opportunity.
“Trust the process knowing all the hard work is going to pay off. Keep grinding every day, because somebody is going to find you,” he said. “I always let (freshmen) know that they’ve got to be patient, because your time’s going to come. And don’t think that just because you’re not playing right now that you’re never going to play. Your time will come, just keep working hard and coaches will notice it. Like Coach Grantham noticed my work.”