Notebook: Majority of UF’s upperclassmen participating in Orange Bowl

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Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson runs with the ball during practice Thursday in Miami Shores. Florida plays Virginia in the Orange Bowl on M9onday. (AP Photo/Mario Houben)

 FORT LAUDERDALE — Seniors and draft-eligible underclassmen skipping the bowl game to prepare for the NFL has been trending in recent years in college football. But it hasn’t had much of an impact on Florida.

 Only one player — junior cornerback CJ Henderson — is sitting out the Orange Bowl to ensure that he’s healthy and ready for the draft in the spring.

 “Yeah, mostly everybody did (stick with the team),” senior running back Lamical Perine said. “CJ, unfortunately. I wish he would have played, but he has a goal. Everybody has a dream and aspiration of going to the NFL, so I totally understand that.”

 One standout Gator senior who never even considered skipping out for the bowl game is wide receiver Van Jefferson, UF’s second-leading receiver. He never even brought up the subject to his father, former star NFL receiver Shawn Jefferson.

 “No, I didn’t have a discussion with my dad,” he said. “I was going to play regardless. I know some guys do it for other reasons and that’s them and I wish the best for them, but I came in with these guys, they accepted me, and so I can’t just wait to get out there one last time, man. That’s pretty much it.”

Coach Nuss in touch

 Former UF offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who gave quarterback Kyle Trask the scholarship offer that led him to Florida, obviously has been keeping up with what Trask has been accomplishing this season.

 “Yeah, Coach Ness has shot me a couple texts,” Trask said. “I’m very appreciative of him and the opportunity he’s given me to come to a school like Florida. Yeah, he’s shot me a couple texts to just let me know that he’s proud of me and things like that throughout the season.”

Hammond at home

 Senior wide receiver Josh Hammond, who is from nearby Hallandale, is cherishing this opportunity to conclude his UF career back where it started.

  “Yesterday when I was practicing, my mom and a couple of my family members came to practice,” he said. “It felt good to be back in south Florida for that one last time, getting back used to the heat, and just having fun out here, enjoying every moment, and I’m excited to be with my team in the Orange Bowl.

 “Oh, it’s fun. I think a lot of guys have enjoyed the first couple days of being here. Excited to get back practicing. Had a couple days off, and I think we’re just excited to get one last game together and go out there and execute and try to put on a show for all our fans.” 

 Hammond said he’s secured 10 tickets for family members and friends.

Senior sendoff

 The Gators usually hold their senior tackle day at the conclusion of the final bowl practice at the bowl site. This year, they held it in Gainesville, after the final practice there last week.

 “We call it a senior tackle,” Hammond said. “Every senior has to get up and speak and talk about what it meant for them to be a Florida Gator, and you get that one last tackle on the bag before you depart with that last practice in Gainesville.”

 Hammond said he kept his remarks brief because everybody, including himself, was eager to head off for the Christmas break.

 “I think a lot of guys probably were just ready to go home,” he said. “It kind of went a little faster than it probably should have. But everybody cherishes that moment.

 “It’s exciting to finally move on and excited to take that next step and see what the future has for you. I think a lot of guys take advantage of it. I think a lot of people listened to what the seniors had to say. I think we mean a lot to the people on this team, and we’re just excited to do the things we did for this team and come out here and play for each other.”

Fast and physical Cavs

 The Florida offense, and the line in particular, is bracing for a physical assault from a Virginia defense that blitzes often, and from all different angles, and is sixth in the nation in sacks.

 “Big, fast, physical, aggressive. Going to come and hit you in the mouth,” senior UF center Nick Buchanan said. “They play extremely hard, so we’ve got to come out there ready because they’re going to come out here ready.

 “Every week our game plan is kind of take it to the defense. So we put emphasis on whatever they do to make sure that we know what they’re doing. They blitz, I think 90 percent of the time or something like that, so yeah, we’ve definitely been doing a lot of blitz pickup drills and stuff like that.”

 

8 COMMENTS

  1. This is type of culture CDM is building at UF where the team is the focus and not the individual players. We saw that with the abundant talent the Gators had at receivers this year rotating in and out to allow for maximum efficiency with fresh players. Likewise we saw this on the D-line and edge rushers this year but not as much due to lack of depth. Even at quarterback thought Trask was needing a lot of reps due to very little previous playing experience. This is how CDM was able to do a lot with a little in various positions, allowing a lot of players to contribute and be a part of a unit instead of a couple dominate players. Building a program and not a bunch of Prima Donnas that are just focused on their career but being a part of the Gator Nation and playing for each other.

  2. Ness gambled and picked a very good QB, but one with minimal experience and training. It took Coach Mullen to cultivate Trask into the highly productive QB he has become. This will only continue, and hopefully Kyle will get his shot at the NFL. SAY ITS GREAT, TO BE, A FLORIDA GATOR!!!

  3. Good for the veteran players who are sticking it out with the team! For all the handwringing that some of the virtue signallers do here about how certain (ahem) projected high-draft players need to look out for themselves, there are a lot of very dedicated players who won’t have the shot at the mega-millions, and this game probably means a lot to them. They too deserve the best shot at a great send off.

    • It’s hard to discount the value of loyalty when the chips are really down, and starting the precedent early in life to do just that is not the pathway I would want to choose knowing what I know now. That said, a college bowl game is not included in those situations where any chips are down at all — those seem reserved for other field of honor. At the end of the day a comment to the contrary is about all that is warranted…….I’ll save my “handwringing” for something more serious.